Archaeology and Heritage in West Africa: Building links and ‘capacity’ as Thurstan Shaw’s Legacy
Cambridge 8th to 11th May 2014
Dr Pamela Jane Smith (Shaw) (

In May 2014, probably the largest ever gathering of West African Traditional Rulers, archaeologists, artists, authors, dignitaries, businessman and women, museum curators and heritage practitioners will converge on Cambridge to honour the life and scholarly contributions of Professor Thurstan Shaw who pioneered the development of universities, archaeology and museums in Anglophone West Africa. Eighty-five African guests are so far seeking visas to attend a University Memorial at Sidney Sussex College on 10th May 2014.

In order to capitalise on this unique gathering of specialists and resources, we are organising a series of related events aimed at creating and strengthening links between UK universities and West African academics and institutions in the fields of archaeology, museums and heritage studies.

The planned memorial is public, though space is limited. For more information about the memorial, please view this invitation.

Individuals who wish to come from Africa should contact Pamela Jane Smith directly at

For more information on the series of events occurring in tandem with the memorial, see the program below. WAC has also established a memorial book to honour the life and work of Thurstan Shaw. We would like to encourage people who knew Thurstan Shaw, or whose life and career was affected by his work, to contribute to this book. View Thurstan Shaw Memorial Book


Thursday 8th May
Afternoon, “Discovery and Encounter” the West African collections of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Time: two sessions at 2pm and 3.30pm

Venue: Keyser Room, MAA

By invitation to our African guests

Teas and juices available in the McDonald Institute, contact Pamela Jane

Tours of the McDonald Institute, Laboratories and the Haddon Library

Time: 2pm to 4pm

Venue: Meet at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research and the Haddon Library

Teas and juices available in the McDonald Institute contact Pamela Jane

Welcome reception
Time: Thursday 8th May, 5pm till 8pm

Venue: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

Welcoming words by:

Professor Graeme Barker, Director, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

Professor Lord Renfrew, Director emeritus

Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman, the Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in Nigeria

Dr Kelcey Wilson-Lee from University of Cambridge Development Office will discuss funding initiatives which link Cambridge and Africa.

Friday 9th May

Practical Workshop: Heritage, Museums and West Africa

Time: Morning 10am to noon and Afternoon 2pm to 3.45pm
Venue: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Morning session: arrival from 9.30am, juices and coffee in the McDonald Institute
Discussion and case studies: Heritage and Museums in West Africa.

10am – noon

about 10am: Opening Words about Heritage, Museums and West Africa from Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman, the Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in Nigeria.

About 10.20am: Dr Zagba Narh Oyortey, the Executive Director of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board and Dr Julie Hudson discussing the British Museum Africa Programme

About 10.20am to 10.40am Discussions

About 10.40am to 10.50am Representatives of Igbo-ukwu Development Union (IDU-USA) Dr and Mrs Okenwa Nwosu and Dr and Mrs Azubuike Ezeife will report on their pilot arts and museum project aimed at training unemployed Igbo youth in Igboukwu.

About 11 to 11.20am. Mr. William Narteh Gblerkpor on Krobo heritage in Ghana.

Question and answer, discussion with guests led by Professor Michael Rowlands Professor Malcolm McLeod.

Friday 9th May; Noon till 2pm Lunch served

Venue: The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

Tour of MAA at 1.30pm; more tours of the McDonald Institute Laboratories and Haddon Library

Contact Pamela

Time: noon till 2pm

Friday 9th May Afternoon

Time: 2pm till 3.45pm

West African material in Cambridge Museums

Venue: Biffen Lecture Theatre

about 2pm to 2.20pm Sally-Ann Ashton and Atta Kwami on “Origins of the Afro Comb:
 6,000 years of culture, politics and identity”


about 2.40 to 3.00 pm Ohioma I. Pogoson on the MAA’s Northcote Thomas Collection


About 3.20 MAA Senior Curator Chris Wingfield on future collaborations with West Africa.

3.45pm to 4.30pm Afternoon tea

Venue: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

Quintana, International Officer (Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Americas) and Dr Pauline Essah from the Cambridge-Africa Programme Coordinator will be available to answer questions.

Friday 9th May 4.30 pm Keynote Public Lecture

Time: 4.30pm to 5.30pm

Venue: Biffen Lecture Theatre

Professor Susan Keech McIntosh, Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Anthropology, Rice University, USA, guest of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research,

Public Lecture

“The Enigma of Igbo Ukwu:  exploring the origins of West African Civilization”

Book tickets

Friday 9th May


Time: 6pm to 8.00pm

Venue: Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA)

Welcoming words

The Honourable Nkanta George Ufot, Federal Director of Culture in Nigeria

Dr Toby Wilkinson, representing the Vice-Chancellor, as Head of the International Strategy Office of the University of Cambridge, will discuss the many projects in the Cambridge Africa Programme

Saturday 10th May 2014

From 2.30 PM

**Thurstan Shaw’s memorial to be held in the manner of Quakers**

Sidney Sussex College

7pm Formal Hall Dinner at St John’s College

Time: 7pm to 10pm

Venue: St John’s College Hall

Prayer: TBC Representative of the Oba of Benin, Omon’Oba N’edo Erediauwa

TBC His Excellency Dr. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, OFR, CFR, MBBS,MRCP, FNMCP, FWACP

Sunday 11th May 2014

Conference ‘West African Archaeology: papers in Honour of Thurstan Shaw’

Time: 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 4.30pm

LUNCH 1pm to 2pm

Venue: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

Programme and order TBA

Dr Derek Watson (on Bosumpra, Ghana), Professor Kevin MacDonald & Dr Nikolas Gestrich (Kri and Do: the origins of the Empire of Mali), Professor Kodzo Gavua (Ghanaian Theme), Professor Caleb Adebayo Folorunso (Nigerian Theme), Professor Ibrahima Thiaw (Senegambia Theme), Dr Keith Ray (Iconography of Facial Scarification at Igbo Ukwu), Dr Sam Nixon and Dr Anne Haour (on Bénin), Dr Paul Basu (on Sierra Leone archaeology) and Dr Cameron Monroe.

Monday 12th May

Heritage Breakfast

Time: 9am to 10.30am informal meeting between African guests involved with Heritage

Venue: home of Heritage Studies Director, Dr Marie Louise Stig Sørensen

Thursday, 8th May through Sunday 11th May 2014

Filming Helen Selka and Lucy Parker, RADA film Team

Interviews Qiu Yu and Helen Taylor

News team Nigerian Television Authority, Kate Adebisi George

Cambridge Communications Team Officer Alex Buxton

Welcome to the Igbo-Ukwu Delegation who will also greet us, HRH, Igwe, Dr Martin N. Ezeh (IDU II of Igbo-Ukwu), HRH, Igwe, Alfred Nnopu Ezeobi Onwuneme, HRH, Eze Dr Alexander Chukwudum Anozie, Chief J C Major-Azike, Chief Dr Michael Nduka (Oji III of Igbo-Ukwu), Chief and Mrs Okeye Sylvester S., Chief and Mrs Anthony Nwagu Okafor, Chief and Mrs Sibastine Umeobi, Chief Iloka Bernard Ejike, Chief and Mrs Onuegbu Ikenna Ferdinard and Chief Adimuo Pius Chibuike Javis. And, we will welcome Professor Kodzo Gavua from the University of Ghana and Dr Ohioma Pogoson, Professor Adebisi Sowunmi and Professor Caleb Adebayo Folorunso from the University of Ibadan, Professor Alex Okpoko and Dr Pamela Eze-Uzomaka from the University of Nigeria at Nsukka. Professor Mrs Ify Emejulu from Awka, Professor Joseph Jemkur and Professor Joseph Mangut from the University of Jos along with Dr Zachariya Gundu, Dr Aliyu and Dr Abubakar Sule Sani from Ahmadu Bello University will attend. Dr Obarè B. Bagodo and the Director of Heritage, Mr Richard Sogan from Université d’Abomey- Calavi, République du Bénin, expect to be present.

APPEAL for small donations for travel for Africans. A gift-aid, tax-deductible account under the charity umbrella of the University of Cambridge is available at this address.

Donations may be made on-line and the University accountant, Laura Cousens, is in charge.


27 June 1914 to 8 March 2013

Born in Devon, England on 27 June 1924, Thurstan Shaw was educated at Blundell’s School, Tiverton, and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge where he read classics in his first year and later changed to archaeology and anthropology.  He took a First Class degree in 1936. In 1937 he went out to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) to teach at Achimota College in Accra which was in those days the most important centre of higher education in black Africa.

In Achimota, Thurstan Shaw was in charge of the Anthropology Museum and he spent virtually all vacations conducting archaeological investigations and organizing and keeping sites and finds register. He conducted his first excavation in Africa in 1937 when he carried out a rescue excavation on the Achimota College farm at a spot where a scatter of iron slag and pieces of furnace wall and tuyeres had been found. In 1940, his excavation at the Bosumpra rockshelter at Abetifi served as a watershed as it marked commencement of the reconstruction of the cultural sequence and chronological framework of West African prehistoric materials. Shaw identified and described the Late Stone Age/Neolithic and the Iron Age levels and these were demonstrated to be present over and over again in West Africa. In 1942, Thurstan Shaw excavated a large mound at Dawu, in north-eastern Akwapem, not far from Achimota, a site with more than eight metres of stratified deposits. For the first time, he demonstrated how locally made smoking pipes could be useful as a dating marker in West Africa.

In 1958, Shaw was invited to direct excavations at site of Igbo Ukwu in southeastern Nigeria. This site featured a royal burial with cast bronzes dated to the tenth century AD. The excavation showed that highly sophisticated indigenous craft traditions existed in the tropical forests during the first millennium AD, long before any Arab or European influence. In 1963, Thurstan Shaw joined the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ibadan as a Research Professor of Archaeology and he created the Archaeology Research Unit of the Institute which initiated the collections for a teaching museum. In 1965, he excavated the Iwo Eleru rockshelter, located at about 24 kilometres from Akure in Ondo State of Nigeria. The excavation produced evidence of human occupation of the forest fringes of West Africa during the Late Stone Age and the skeletal remains which show Negroid characteristics had been dated 11,200 ± 200 BP, the oldest known specimen in the West African region at that time. In 1964, he founded the West African Archaeological Newsletter (WAAN) and he was also the founding editor of the West African Journal of Archaeology (WAJA) which replaced WAAN in 1971.

A teaching Department of Archaeology was created in 1970 in the Faculty of Science of the University and Thurstan Shaw became the founding Head of Department. Thurstan Shaw nurtured the department and was especially proud of the department’s laboratory, photographic and draughting facilities, teaching collections and well-utilised field equipment which made Ibadan one of the best centres for archaeology in Africa. He was instrumental to the design of the Archaeology Department building complex which was commissioned on the occasion of his 75th birthday celebration at Ibadan in 1989. He retired from the University of Ibadan in 1974 and was a visiting professor to the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria from 1975 to 1978. After he left Nigeria, he had always maintained contact and showed interest in the development of archaeology at Ibadan. In 1983, at the conference of the Pan African Association for Prehistory and Related Studies in Jos, Nigeria he was in favour of the academic boycott of apartheid South Africa. It was not by accident that he was also one of the strong forces behind the First World Archaeological Congress (WAC-1), held in 1986 at Southampton, England, which excluded South African participation.

Thurstan Shaw’s wife, Ione whom he married in 1939 died in 1992: they had five children. In 2004, he married Dr Pamela Jane Smith, an historian of archaeology. She, his two sons and three daughters survive him. Thurstan Shaw will be fondly remembered for his gentle kindness, his generosity and his unhindered love for the African peoples. Adieu Thurstan.

Professor Caleb Adebayo Folorunso

University of Ibadan