Professor Geraint Dyfed Barri Jones, MA, DPhil
Barri Jones was born on 4 April 1936 in St Helens, Lancashire, to Welsh-speaking parents, both teachers. Much to Jones’ later regret, they stopped speaking Welsh at home when he was born and the family soon moved south to High Wycombe. Jones went to the Royal Grammar School,in High Wycombe, and holidays were spent in Wales where he had already identified Roman roads and a new fort before going up to Oxford to read Greats at Jesus College. An undoubted prodigy, his first article was published at the age of sixteen and the offer of a lectureship in Wales before he took finals was tempting, but he decided to study for a doctorate in archaeology. Under the supervision of Ian Richmond and with the aid of a Rome scholarship, Jones joined John Ward-Perkins’s Southern Etruria excavations, his DPhil being awarded for work on the Ager Capenas part of the project. Jones’s thesis was published in the papers of the British School at Rome and attracted the attention of influential scholars at home and abroad. While at the School from 1959 to 1962 he was able to undertake large-scale fieldwork and to develop his natural gift for reading the landscape. So impressed was A W Lawrence, then Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge, by Jones’s ability and energy that he instructed the Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust to buy him a car to facilitate his phenomenal capacity for work. When his scholarship expired, Jones stayed on in Italy to work on the interpretation of the Bradford collection of aerial photographs taken by a reconnaissance squadron stationed at Foggia at the end of the war. They indicated a large number of sites in the ancient settlement area of Apulia in south-east Italy, ranging from prehistoric to medieval times. In 1949 the Society of Antiquaries, of which John Bradford was a Fellow, had formed the Apulia Committee to organise a programme of trial excavations. Progress was spasmodic, particularly after Bradford’s health began to fail in the late 1950s, but the project was revived in 1964 under the brief presidency of Sir Ian Richmond, when the extent of the Neolithic metropolis was defined. Jones continued his research on the photographs but it was not until 1987 that he published, in the Research Report series, what was envisaged as volume 1: Apulia: Neolithic settlement in the Tavoliere, with contributions by Drs Delano Smith and David Trump. The proposed publication of the Roman and medieval sites did not materialise. It was the Apulia project that brought home to Jones the archaeological potential of aerial photography and he was to fly countless, often hazardous, sorties during his lifetime. Jones returned to England in 1964 to take up an appointment as assistant lecturer in archaeology at Manchester University, where he spent the whole of his career and was awarded a personal chair in 1971 at the age of thirty-five. Jones was a leading advocate of the importance of fieldwork in archaeological studies at a time when a purely academic approach was still favoured. He set a shining example, excavating across the Roman world from Scotland to Africa. In the late 1960s he worked in Libya, first in the Sahara, then at Tocra and Euhesperides (Benghazi). He was involved in the Unesco-sponsored Libyan Valleys Survey, published by the Society for Libyan Studies (of which he was chairman for some years) in 1982, and helped to edit the results of earlier British work there, published as The Severan Buildings at Lepcis Magna, in 1993. He also co-directed the Unesco-sponsored project on the technology of ancient farming in the Libyan pre-desert, resulting in the acclaimed two-volume, Farming the Desert (1996). In Wales Jones dug at the Roman sites of Llanymynech, Caera, Caersws, the Dolcauthi gold mines and the Abernant complex; in Scotland and Cumbria he concentrated on Roman military sites, charted the westward extension of Hadrian’s Wall, investigated settlement on both banks of the Solway and, controversially, followed the tracks of Agricola’s adventures in Scotland. Radical changes were taking place in British archaeology during the 1970s and 80s and Jones played a pivotal role in driving them forward. He was variously a committee member, secretary and trustee of RESCUE and is recognised as one of the founders of public sector archaeology through his energetic campaigning for legislation to safeguard the national heritage. He was instrumental in setting up the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit in 1980 but, strong advocate of statutory backing for a regional service though he was, he went out of his way to encourage the small societies which had dug and published for decades. He spoke on radio, appeared on television, edited popular journals, promoted aerial photography and lectured to passengers on Swan Hellenic Cruises. At the time of his death he was working on a new book on Roman Britain that promised to bring new insights into its economy and social development. For some months Manchester had been planning to mark Jones’s retirement in September 2000, after thirty-five years of service, and had organised a conference at which notable friends and colleagues were to read papers. His sudden death from a massive heart attack on 16 July 1999 happened on the summit of Waun Doch, a long day’s walk from his cottage in Wales.