We regret to inform you that Professor dr. W.J.H. (Willem) Willems passed away on 13th December, 2014, after a brief battle with illness.  Professor Willem was an eminent archaeologist who was recognised globally for his expertise in Roman archaeology and in cultural heritage management. Since 2006, Professor Willem has been Professor of archaeological heritage resource management and Dean of the Faculty of Archaeology at the University of Leiden in The Netherlands.  Prior to this he worked for the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in The Netherlands, firstly as the Director of Archaeological Heritage Management and then as Chief Inspector for archaeology at the State Inspectorate for Cultural Heritage.

Professor Willems was a passionate advocate for the protection of cultural heritage globally. Along with Douglas Comer, he was Co-President of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM). In this role he was able to actively protect cultural heritage of national and international importance. Professor Willems studied archaeology and anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  He was awarded a PhD cum laude by the University of Amsterdam for his dissertation ‘Romans and Batavians’, which undertook an archaeological analysis of interactions between Roman colonizers and native Batavians.

Professor Willems had wide-ranging interests in archaeology, in addition to his core foci on Roman archaeology and cultural heritage management. Geographically, his interests ranged from Europe and South Africa to the Caribbean, Palestine and Mongolia.  Thematically, they ranged from policy making within Europe to archaeological parks, and from early Roman camps to the promotion of European archaeology at a European-wide level.  His scholarly publications include his ground-breaking 2007 book, Quality Management in Archaeology, co-edited by Monique van den Dries, which detailed a range of studies in which showcased how different perspectives on the organization of archaeological heritage management affects quality assurance in public archaeology carried out under government mandates.

Professor Willems has been a member of the World Archaeological Congress since 1999.  The international archaeological community will miss him greatly.

Professor Koji Mizoguchi,

President, for the Council of the World Archaeological Congress

Memories & Condolences Book

Below are a few memories of Willem. If you wish to send memories or condolences please write to inmemoriamwjhwillems@gmail.com.


If you would like your condolences recorded in the WAC condolence book, please email them to timo.bishop@webcreator.com.au



I first met Willem Willems in 2003 when I was helping Joan Gero organise the Fifth World Archaeological Congress in Washington, D.C. Willem was attending the Congress with his family and we needed him to change hotels. While some people might have been annoyed at the inconvenience, Willem was amenable and pleasant, only wanting to help us to make everything work. Since then, I have met Willem many times in many countries. It has always been a pleasure. Willem is recognised globally for his fine, scholarly mind. He has a record of honest and passionate opinions. He has been a wonderful advocate for the protection of cultural heritage, in real world ways that address the deficiencies of policing systems that fail across the world. He had wonderful insights into the workings of policy and of government and shared these with colleagues and friends. Willem had friends in all parts of the world. He was Dutch-direct but polite. He was interested in the world around him. He was supportive of students and colleagues. He was funny and willing to enjoy life. He hated the Diggers program. He made friends with iguanas. This is a terrible loss. Claire Smith

Claire Smith

From the first time I met Willem at a Society for American Archaeology meeting, we were instant friends. I am not sure how such things work but I am glad that it did. Our mutual interest in cultural heritage management, no doubt, was front and center in building a long and productive friendship. I was fortunate to be able to spend time at the University of Leiden as part of the Fulbright program and there saw firsthand the incredible way he related to colleagues and students. I was taught as a very young boy to seek out people who have kind hearts. Willem did indeed have such a heart. I shall miss him and send my best to his family. I am reminded of a quote from Maya Angelou, “A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again.” Willem did and will continue to bring us together.

George S. Smith

Patricia and I were very shocked to hear of Willem’s sudden demise. We shared a very pleasant time with him and his wife in October when were all on a trip to Korea and he was throughout his usual jovial self. We first met Willem at the first annual EAA meeting in Santiago where we remember him greeting all delegates — however lowly in the field of archaeology — with warmth and evident relief that the EAA project was attracting a response.
He is a loss to archaeology globally. On a personal note, we shall miss him greatly and send our warmest condolences to his family

Dr John Carman

Dear colleagues and friends,

This afternoon the EAA Board received news of the death of Prof. Willem J.H. Willems, after a short illness.

A founding member, former Secretary and past-President, he was an inspirational policy leader and advocate for archaeology and archaeological heritage management in Europe. He was also an inspirational teacher, a most generous mentor, a prodigious writer and a highly esteemed colleague. He will be sadly and sorely missed by the EAA, by all its members and by the archaeological profession worldwide.

The Board extends its sincere condolences and heartfelt sympathy to his wife and family and to his closest colleagues.

The European Association of Archaeologists will now take the active steps necessary to ensure that his immense and strategic contribution to all aspects of European archaeology is honoured appropriately.

On behalf of the EAA Executive Board,

Sylvie Kvetinova, Administrator
EAA Secretariat
c/o Institute of Archaeology CAS
Czech Republic



I’m writing this in the Cairo airport. When I saw that there was wifi here, I wanted to email Willem, because for years we have had so much to talk about that I have often used any odd free moment to do that. I fought back the urge to try it.

The first thing that I knew about Willem was that I liked him a lot. We were always laughing about something. Then I realized that he was not just clever, but extraordinarily intelligent, and that the breadth and depth of his knowledge about archaeology and heritage management was enormous. I admired the way he wrote, too. He was direct, he could make a strong argument, he made great use of nuance and context and didn’t waste words. Characteristically, he dismissed my compliments about this, saying that the language he used was Dunglish, not English. Would that we all were fluent in Dunglish.

I wish that I could remember who said this: There is a romantic image of the scientist, scholar, or artist working in splendid isolation, but nothing could be further from the truth. Hence we have schools of thought and art. We advance in these areas through conversation. In our domain of scholarship, Willem’s voice moved us all ahead.

This unique individual saw himself as a part of a larger community. It seems that until the very end, he was most concerned with completing his responsibilities to his family, students, and colleagues. He was a good man and a true friend.

Douglas C. Comer, Ph.D., RPA
Principal, Cultural Site Research and Management
2113 St Paul St.
Baltimore, MD, USA



I am very sad to hear our dear colleague Professor Willem Willems has passed away. I treasure the privilege to have had some valuable conversations with him on the times I have visited the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden University. He has always welcomed me with open arms. I wish his legacy and ethos will continue to inspire generations to come.

Sada Mire


Memories of Willem Willems

I have had a little time now to reflect on Willem’s death, having been in the field in the outer Philippines when it actually happened. Email was patchy there, but the cell phones generally worked. That luck saw us texting until shortly before he died, discussing which of our programs and plans would be able to continue and in what shape after he had gone. He’d called me in late November, just after he found out he didn’t have long to go. He thought he’d make the New Year, but not his mid-year birthday. I wept at the news. In contrast, he was calm and collected and ran through his options as he then understood them, and then we discussed where things might go with our joint projects. The rapidity with which he declined shocked everyone, and once he moved to hospital I knew that the end was very close. His final text, only hours before he went, read ‘Thx Ian. I only have happy memories as well’. And what memories they must have been, if my experiences in Willem’s company are any guide! I had known of him for years, and had met him in passing here and there, but only got to know him well from late in 2009, when I began to work with him and Doug Comer on the Executive of ICOMOS-ICAHM. Taking advantage of our and others’ attendance at the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association Congress that year, Willem and I caught up in a bar in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, the first of many meetings in interesting bars in evocative locations. We wanted to size each other up (which if you know us both is a very funny thought, given the differences in our physical dimensions!) before meeting with Doug and other colleagues to sketch out where ICAHM might head following a big shake-up of the ICOMOS rules. Willem and I really hit it off as friends, as he did with so many others, and we never looked back. He was always making things happen or helping others do the same. He was instrumental in getting ICAHM involved in crucial projects around the planet, tirelessly promoting the importance and special dimensions of archaeological heritage in the larger mix of cultural heritage. Indeed, I will soon be heading to Oman to participate in a meeting about archaeological parks because Willem advanced my case with the organisers, as he had in other similar situations. This is classic Willem, and there are numbers of colleagues out there who would have received the same sort of support over the years. If he thought you were good for archaeology and archaeological heritage, he’d back you to the hilt. I was really looking forward to seeing him in Oman. It will be very sad to be there without him, but I will look at it as an opportunity to help continue his work. While he would definitely not want me to do this out of sentimentality, he made it clear he expected nothing less from me as a professional as well as a friend and colleague. It will be an honour to do so.


Professor Ian Lilley FSA FAHA
ATSIS Unit , Office of the Pro Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Education
The University of Queensland