Peter Stone – Honorary Chief Executive Office (1998-2008); Secretariat (1984-2008)

WAC has only ever had one honorary chief executive officer. The post provided much needed continuity between the original group who formed WAC in the 1980s and the developing structure of a truly democratic international organisation.

Peter Stone started working for WAC in 1984, two years before WAC-1 in Southampton. At this point the Congress was still planned to be the 11th Congress of the International Union of Pre-historic and Proto-historic Sciences (IUSPP). Peter Ucko, the national secretary of the planned IUSPP Congress was adamant that not only established academics should be allowed to take part in discussions but also should those with a legitimate interest in, and knowledge of, the past, such as indigenous leaders (Ucko 1987). Ucko also wanted students, the next generation, to be fully involved and asked Peter Stone, his then PhD student, to become Student Liaison Office for the conference. When Stone asked what a student liaison officer did he got a typical response along the lines of: “I’ve no idea; no-one has ever done this before. Go and make it up… but I want lots of students here and don’t ask for any money!” In the end, over 50, mainly research, students from countries such as Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, and the UK attended and contributed papers.

As the furore over the ban of colleagues from South Africa and Namibia grew in 1985/6, Stone worked more broadly as part of the small team supporting Ucko in Southampton and continued with this role as part of what became known as ‘the Secretariat’. He was also a member of the Steering Committee, created at the Plenary session of WAC-1, that had the task to either negotiate with the UISPP to make it take up the UN’s academic and cultural boycott of South Africa, or to form a new international organisation. The Secretariat supported the organisation of the 1989 first inter-congress in Vermillion and the 1990 WAC-2 in Venezuela. After WAC-2 Stone was asked to continue to support the newly elected officers between meetings and, arriving in New Delhi in 1994, was met at the airport by (then President) Jack Golson who asked him to stand-in as acting secretary as Larry Zimmerman could not attend.

Stone’s role became more central as his ‘institutional memory’ grew with every conference and controversy and he was increasingly being required to represent and sign letters on behalf of the organisation. The suggestion was made therefore by Julian Thomas, then WAC Secretary, at the Executive Committee meeting in 1998 in Croatia, that Stone be given the title of ‘assistant secretary’. This was turned down immediately, with the Executive agreeing unanimously that the title that reflected his central role to the development of WAC, was Honorary Chief Executive Officer, a post that was created with immediate effect.

To our knowledge Stone is one of only two people who have attended every WAC Congress. He helped steer the organisation through the numerous controversies that plagued all of the early meetings (and see Stone 2006) and was for example, responsible, through his UNESCO contacts, for Croatia offering to host the inter-congress on Destruction of Cultural Property in 1998. He stepped down, after 24 years continuous service to WAC, from his role as Honorary CEO at WAC-6 in Dublin (with his wife Genevieve [who herself had worked for WAC-1, WAC-2, and the Vermillion Inter-Congress] attending solely to make sure no-one changed his mind!). His final formal act for WAC after steeping down was to use his contacts to ensure WAC-7 would be held in Jordan. Since then he has, when asked, provided advice to the elected officers on a number of potentially controversial issues facing WAC.

In addition to his administrative roles for WAC Peter also organised numerous academic sessions at Congresses and co-edited four One World Archaeology books (The Excluded Past 1990; The Presented Past, 1994; The Constructed Past, 1999; and The Destruction and Conservation of Cultural Property, 2001). In 2013 Peter was awarded both the Peter Ucko Memorial Award, for a significant contribution to world archaeology and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Archaeological Congress, for services to world archaeology. This followed Peter being made an Officer of the British Empire for services to heritage educatio in 20111. He is currently the UNESCO Chair-holder in Cultural Property Protection and Peace at Newcastle University in the UK.


Stone, P G, 2006. “‘All smoke and mirrors?’… The World Archaeological Congress, 1986-2004.” in R. Layton, S. Shennan and P.G. Stone (eds) A Future for Archaeology, UCL Press, London.

Ucko, P J, 1987. Academic Freedom and Apartheid: the story of the World Archaeological Congress, Duckworth, London (and available as a pdf on the WAC website).