Obituary: Reynold Higgins

Reynold Alleyne Higgins, archaeologist: born Weybridge, Surrey 26 November 1916; Assistant Keeper, Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum 1947, Deputy Keeper 1965-77, Acting Keeper 1976; FBA 1972; married 1947 Patricia Williams (three sons, two daughters); died Dunsfold, Surrey 18 April 1993.

REYNOLD HIGGINS was a scholar and archaeologist of international reputation whose work covered a wide field of prehistoric and later Greek antiquity. He said of himself that he was a 'nine-to-five man', enjoying the regular discipline of office hours, but this was a euphemism for a life of quiet but intensive and well-organised as well as highly productive industry.

Already enlisted in the Territorial Army before the war, Higgins saw active service early and was taken prisoner at Calais. His five years in prisoner of war camps in Germany were traumatic, but he took the opportunity to learn modern Greek from fellow prisoners. His scholarly career afer the war was entirely spent in the Greek and Roman department of the British Museum where he became Deputy and for a time Acting Keeper. His publication of the museum's collection of Greek clay figurines in three volumes between 1954 and 1959 would have served as a respectable life's work. He was to follow this, however, with the definitive text-book on ancient jewellery, Greek and Roman Jewellery (1961), and a standard survey of the prehistoric art of Greece, Minoan and Mycenaean Art (1967), which have both appeared in second editions.

While studying the jewellery in the British Museum he came to realise that the mysterious Aegina Treasure, acquired in 1892 and published the following year by Sir Arthur Evans as late Mycenaean, was in fact much earlier Minoan work, made by Cretan craftsmen in the 17th to 16th centuries BC. This view, which has won general acceptance, has radically affected understanding of the prehistoric jewellery of Greece.

As a scholar Reynold was thorough and reliable, but independent minded. He had a connoisseur's feeling for the clay figurines produced in the region of Tanagra between Athens and Thebes in classical and early Hellenistic times, in the face of prejudice against them owing to the whims of fashion and the alarming number of forgeries.

One of his last books, published in 1986 and very much a labour of love, was the elegant Tanagra and the Figurines. A final book, An Archaeologist's Guide to the Geology of Greece, written in collaboration with his geologist son Michael, is due to appear in the autumn.

Higgins loved Greece and its people, and helped others to share his feelings by regular service each year from 1963 to 1991 as a lecturer on Swan cruises, where he and his wife, Pat, made many friends. He had a special fondness for Crete, however, and for the great prehistoric site of Knossos, where he spent much time working on the publication of clay figurines of all periods of antiquity found in excavations carried out by the British School at Athens in the 1950s. These included the important series from the Greek sanctuary of Demeter, south of the Bronze Age Palace, published in JN Coldstream's The Sanctuary of Demeter (1973). Throughout his life he maintained a close connection with the British School, serving as Chairman of its Managing Committee from 1975 to 1979. The British Academy recognised his achievements as a scholar by electing him a Fellow in 1972. In the following year he served on the Council of the Society of Antiquaries. The American Institue of Archaeology invited him to give the prestigious Norton Lectures in the US and Canada in 1982- 83. The Society of Jewellery Historians, founded in 1967, chose him as their first president, and organised a Festschrift in his honour for his 75th birthday in 1991.

Reynold was a man who enjoyed life and the duties which came his way in the course of it. He was straightforward in his dealings and simple in his tastes; a good friend and a generous and loyal colleague, who was easy and pleasant company. He was exceedingly happy and fortunate in his family life. Just over a year ago he began to feel unwell, but cancer was not diagnosed until three weeks before his death. He is survived by his wife, their three sons and two daughters and seven grandchildren.

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones