OBITUARY: Professor Seton Lloyd

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Seton Lloyd's long archaeological career began in 1929 in Egypt, moved to Iraq in 1930 where it continued throughout the Second World War and after, and in 1949 moved again to Turkey for 12 years. From 1962 to 1969 he was Professor of Western Asiatic Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at London University, and in his many years of retirement he remained active and involved until very latterly. His knowledge of Near Eastern archaeology was unrivalled and survives in many meticulous academic publications as well as more readable works for a wider public.

Lloyd was born in 1902 into a substantial Quaker background of well-known names, whose family ramifications gave him widespread circles of kinsmen. He was educated at Uppingham and subsequently studied at the Architectural Association, qualifying in 1928. During this time he worked for two years as assistant to Sir Edwin Lutyens. This architectural training proved an invaluable resource in his subsequent career in archaeology, where his understanding of how buildings work gave him an unusual and special perspective.

His field career spanned a range of archaeological fashions, extending from the lavishly funded American excavations of pre-war days to the shoestring but resourceful British excavations after the war. It reached up to the beginning of modern archaeology, heavily science-based and directed to maximum data retrieval. But Lloyd's style of painstaking and methodical excavation and publication strove towards an understanding of the past which is surely still valid.

In both Iraq and Turkey his name is associated with the breaking of new ground both in the location of sites and in the identification of cultures, and his successors have constantly found themselves walking in his footsteps. Among his contemporaries there were figures more extrovert and flamboyant than he, yet the record of work which he has bequeathed compares favourably with theirs.

The story of his colourful life is best told by himself in his memoirs, The Interval, published by him in retirement in 1986. His switch from architecture to archaeology was entirely fortuitous. In 1929 he replaced at the last minute a friend engaged as architectural advisor on the British excatation at El-Amarna in Egypt. This brought him into contact with Henri Frankfort, whom he always spoke of as a major intellectual influence. Subsequently Frankfort, commissioned by the Oriental Institute, Chicago, to undertake excavations on the Diyala river in Iraq, persuaded Lloyd to join his team. After his initial task of building and equipping the palatial excavation house in the middle of nowhere, Lloyd played a prominent part in those enormously productive operations, running from 1930 to 1937, and in the substantial publications which flowed from them.

Work on John Garstang's excavations at Mersin in 1937 and 1938 gave Lloyd his first taste of Turkey, and he then took the opportunity to make the difficult journey through south-east Turkey to northern Iraq, where he conducted the very important Sinjar survey.

He was then offered the post of Archaeology Adviser to the Directorate of Antiquities in Baghdad, which he took up in 1939. This had the unforseeable consequence that he spent the war largely in Iraq, and was fully caught up in the dramatic political events there, the pro-Nazi coup and the British counterstrike and occupation. In the intervals between these events he was able to conduct some notable research, principally the excavation of the painted temple at Uqair and later of Tell Hassuna, where he identified a new culture - and the earliest known - in Iraq. In 1943 he met Ulrica Hyde ("Hydie"), whom he married the following year.

Continuing in his Baghdad post after the war, Lloyd's main archaeological activity was the excavation of Eridu, an early Sumerian city, in collaboration with Fuad Safar. Also at this time he and Hydie acquired Woolstone Lodge, the house just below the Berkshire White Horse which was to be their family home for the rest of their lives.

Now his links with John Garstang bore fruit, for when the latter succceeded in establishing a new British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, Seton Lloyd was invited to become its first director. He moved to Ankara in 1949 and during the next 12 years acquired that abiding love of Turkey, its people and its past which is amply attested in many of his publications. The relations which he established with Turkish colleagues ensured a successful start to the new enterprise and built up a fund of local good will. Many British archaeologists remember with pleasure the warm family atmosphere which the Lloyds created in the institute.

Adapting well to the parsimonious conditions of British archaeological provisions, Lloyd inaugurated a number of limited but carefully planned operations, which produced valuable and significant results. Among his initial activities were the Polatli sounding, which produced a very important pottery sequence; the Sultantepe excavations, where he had the good luck to hit a major collection of cuneiform tablets forming an Assyrian provincial library; and his survey of Alanya castle.

The major effort of his Ankara tenure was the excavation of Beyce Sultan, six seasons conducted in collaboration with James Mellaart. Though he always confessed himself disappointed with Beyce for its comparative lack of finds, including an absence of written material, the architectural remains which he recovered and interpreted were dramatic enough, and the excavations added a new province to Anatolian archaeology, linking for the first time the interior plateau with the west coast.

By good fortune, about the time that Lloyd and his wife decided that their nomadic expatriate life should cease, the Professorship of Western Asiatic Archaeology in London fell vacant. Seton Lloyd was appointed and took up his post in 1962, not without some diffidence, since he had no experience of teaching. He need not have worried, for he had no difficulty in communicating his deep archaeological knowledge and enthusiasm. His years at the institute, from 1962 to 1969, were a high point in the study of Near Eastern archaeology.

At this time he inaugurated a final project in collaboration with Charles Burney in the form of an expedition to Urartu, the Iron Age kingdom of Ararat centring on Lake Van in eastern Turkey. Though well conceived, the project unfortunately ran into difficulties and, after a very successful first season at the site of Kayalidere in the province of Mus, it was unable to continue. But it did mark the beginning of intensive research in Urartu, which has expanded beyond recognition in the last 30 years.

In his retirement, Lloyd remained very active in the affairs of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq and the Ankara Institute. He served as Honorary Secretary to the latter from 1962 to 1972, and in 1975 was elected President, serving until 1981. He was also President of the Iraq School from 1979 to 1982.

No word on Lloyd would be complete without reference to his publications. Unlike so many of his profession, he never allowed an overwhelming backlog of material to accumulate. Both his regular preliminary reports, latterly mostly in the early numbers of Anatolian Studies, and his prompt final reports were concise, clear and meticulous, illustrated by his own beautifully drawn and instantly recognisable plans and reconstructions. In addition to his professional writing, he also leaves a number of notable and very readable publications for the interested layman, including Foundations in the Dust (1947; revised 1980), Early Anatolia (Pelican Books, 1956), Mounds of the Ancient Near East (1963) and Ancient Turkey (1989).

Seton Lloyd was a tall, imposing figure, who always dressed well. He united an outward reticence, even diffidence, with a pleasing dry humour. In a combination, which today seems curious, he was both a great lover of natural beauty and wild life, and an enthusiastic shot. He was very happy with his wife Hydie, herself an outstandingly lovable personality, and an accomplished artist and sculptor, who enjoyed sharing his archaeological life. Sadly she predeceased him by eight years. The atmosphere which they created in their lovely house, Woolston Lodge, will remain an unforgettable memory to all lucky enough to have known it.

J. D. Hawkins

Seton Howard Frederick Lloyd, archaeologist: born 30 May 1902; FSA 1938; Technical Adviser, Government of Iraq, Directorate-General of Antiquities 1939-49; OBE 1948, CBE 1958; Director, British Institute of Archaeology, Ankara 1949-61; FBA 1955; Professor of Western Asiatic Archaeology, London University 1962-69 (Emeritus); President, British School of Archaeology in Iraq 1979-82; married 1944 Ulrica Hyde (died 1987; two sons, one daughter); died 7 January 1996.