Graham Ritchie

Surveyor of Scotland's ancient monuments
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The Independent Online

The archaeologist Graham Ritchie was one of those rare specialists, equally at home in preparing articles for learned journals and writing books for lay audiences, at undertaking field survey and excavation and interpreting his results in the lecture theatre and on the study tour. His fieldwork and research ranged across the length of Scotland both geographically and chronologically, and resulted in over a hundred publications, several in conjunction with his wife, Anna.

James Neil Graham Ritchie, archaeologist: born Edinburgh 17 September 1942; Field Investigator, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland 1965-91, Depute Curator, National Monuments Record of Scotland 1991-95, Head of Archaeology 1995-98; President, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1999-2002; married 1968 Anna Bachelier (one son, one daughter); died Edinburgh 27 April 2005.

The archaeologist Graham Ritchie was one of those rare specialists, equally at home in preparing articles for learned journals and writing books for lay audiences, at undertaking field survey and excavation and interpreting his results in the lecture theatre and on the study tour. His fieldwork and research ranged across the length of Scotland both geographically and chronologically, and resulted in over a hundred publications, several in conjunction with his wife, Anna.

Born in Edinburgh in 1942 and educated at Daniel Stewart's College and Arbroath High School, where his father, W.F. Ritchie, was Principal Teacher of Classics and latterly Depute Headmaster, Graham Ritchie entered Edinburgh University with the intention of reading English. However, attracted by the teaching of Stuart Piggott, he transferred to Prehistoric Archaeology. Graduating in 1964, he commenced research on Celtic defensive weapons, gaining his PhD in 1968; he was later to write, with his father, the book Celtic Warriors (1985), in the Shire Series.

In 1965 Ritchie joined the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland as a Field Investigator in order to help with the surveys of Lanarkshire and Argyll. An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Lanarkshire was published in 1978, but Ritchie was to spend over 20 years in Argyll, operating as a member of a team recording prehistoric monuments published in seven volumes between 1971 and 1992 (Argyll: an inventory of the monuments). Not only was survey undertaken, but also small-scale excavations intended to elucidate the history of specific sites.

Ritchie concentrated on prehistoric burial cairns and his investigations and reports are models of their type. Moreover, his interests ranged further than burial monuments and he studied and wrote about Roman artefacts on native sites in Argyll. His labours not only contributed to the success of these authoritative inventories, but also to an edited volume in 1997, The Archaeology of Argyll, drawing together the results of research in the county.

In 1977 a team of field surveyors was appointed to the commission with the intention of undertaking rapid surveys leading to the publication of simple lists of sites. Revolutionary, the team reported on all field monuments from early prehistory to the 19th century. Ritchie established the framework for the project and insisted on prompt publication: five lists were produced in the first season.

This experience was of value when Ritchie, in 1989, was given responsibility for developing another initiative, the Afforestable Land Survey. The aim, in the face of a new approach to forestry and archaeology, was to record areas likely to be at risk from tree planting. The survey techniques, often developed in remote areas of Scotland, were of great value to the Royal Commission as it moved into a new age of recording.

In 1991 Ritchie was appointed Depute Curator of the National Monuments Record of Scotland. He was now distanced from fieldwork and less happy, but his time here was significant in helping develop a modern national archive for Scotland with an international reputation. He took on the role of Head of Archaeology in 1995 and, after 33 years of service, retired from the Royal Commission in 1998.

Ritchie enjoyed a harmonious relationship with Historic Scotland, not only in the development of the Field Survey team, but also in excavations which he carried out in a personal capacity. Balbirnie in Fife and the Stones of Stenness in Orkney are two important excavations he undertook and published, the former in The Archaeological Journal in 1974 and the latter in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 1975-76. He also supported Anna in her own excavations in Orkney at Buckquoy, Knap of Howar and Holm of Papa Westray.

For Ritchie, the end result of his research was always publication - or, perhaps, more correctly, the making of work available to as wide a public as possible. His range of outlets included lectures, tour notes and guidebooks, as well as academic papers and popular books. With Anna he wrote the official guidebook to Orkney, The Ancient Monuments of Orkney (1978), Scotland (1998) for the Oxford Archaeological Guides and Scotland: archaeology and early history (1981), while he contributed two volumes to her series "Exploring Scotland's Heritage" (Argyll and the Western Isles, 1985, with Mary Harman, and Fife and Tayside, 1987, with Bruce Walker).

Ritchie was also a co-founder of the Scottish Archaeological Forum in 1968, a vehicle for bringing together the younger members of the archaeological profession in Scotland: it was so successful that the older members soon clamoured to join.

Graham Ritchie was a strong supporter of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, serving as convenor of its Research and then Publications Committees, and as President from 1999 to 2002. In that position he had the rare distinction of delivering two of the Rhind lectures in 2000 on the great figures of Scottish archaeology and history. Many of his publications found their way into the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Equally significant was the help he gave to younger practitioners: many archaeologists owe him a great debt for teaching them how to write excavation reports. No one sought his aid in vain, and many received more than they sought.

Ritchie's knowledge and experience brought him great respect across Scotland; his good- humour and loyalty many friends.

David J. Breeze



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