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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific