Charles Thurstan Shaw
Charles Thurstan Shaw CBE FBA FSA (27 June 1914 - 8 March 2013)  was an English archaeologist, the first trained specialist to work in what was then British West Africa. He specialized in the ancient cultures of present-day Ghana and Nigeria. He helped establish academic institutions including the Ghana National Museum and the archaeology department at the University of Ghana. He began working with the University of Ibadan in 1960, where he later founded and developed its archeology department, which he led for more than 10 years before his retirement in 1974.
His excavations at Igbo-Ukwu, Nigeria revealed a 9th-century indigenous culture that did highly sophisticated work in bronze metalworking, centuries before other sites that were better known at the time of discovery, and independent of any Arab or European influence. He was awarded the C.B.E. in 1972 for his contributions, and in 1989 was made a tribal chief in Nigeria.
In addition, Shaw worked on expanding communications about African archaeology; in 1964, he founded the West African Archaeological Newsletter, which he edited until 1970; from 1971-1975, he edited the West African Journal of Archaeology.
Early life and education
Born in Plymouth, England, the second son of Reverend John Herbert Shaw, an Anglican priest, and Grace Irene Woollatt, Thurstan Shaw was educated at Blundell's School in Tiverton. He studied Classics at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University, where he added Archeology. He received a B.A (1st class) in 1936 and was awarded an M.A. in 1941.
Shaw was encouraged by Louis Leakey to go to the Gold Coast (later Ghana) to work in archaeology, arriving on 15 September 1937. He started as a tutor and was appointed Curator of the Anthropology Museum at Achimota College, holding that post until 1945. During this time he made the first archaeological excavations in Ghana at Dawu near Accra. He served with the Cambridge Education Committee before becoming a tutor for the Cambridge Institute of Education 1951–1964.
During the 1950s, Shaw helped found and organize the collections of the Ghana National Museum and establish the archaeology department at the University of Ghana. These were part of the national institutions being developed as Ghana moved toward revived independence, and served to study and preserve its rich heritage within its own borders.
In 1959, Shaw was invited by the antiquities department of Nigeria to perform an excavation at Igbo-Ukwu, where numerous ancient bronzes had been found by a villager. Shaw's excavation revealed bronze pieces that were evidence of a sophisticated Igbo civilization from the ninth century, marking the most-developed metalworking culture of the time. They were working centuries before the development of other bronze-working sites in what is now Nigeria.
Shaw returned to the town in 1964 and conducted two more excavations, which also revealed extensive bronzes, as well as thousands of trade beads demonstrating a network extending to Egypt. He also found evidence of ritual practices related to burials and sacred sites.
In 1960 Shaw joined the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, where he in 1963 became Research Professor of Archaeology and established the department, training talented archeologists, and leading it until his retirement in 1974. Based on an assessment of his published work, he was awarded a Ph.D. in 1968 from Cambridge.
From 1964–1970, Shaw was founder and editor of the West African Archaeological Newsletter. He edited the West African Journal of Archaeology, 1971–1975. He writes under the name Thurstan Shaw and the pen name of Peter Woods.
Legacy and honours
- In 1972 he was awarded the C.B.E. for his contributions.
- In 1989, he was made a tribal chief as Onuna Ekwulu Nri and as Onyafuonka of Igboland, at an international conference in Ibadan on his 75th birthday.
- In 2010, he was recognized at the World Archaeological Congress on the occasion of his 96th birthday.
- The Archaeology of Africa: Food, Metals and Towns (1995)
- Unearthing Igbo-Ukwū: Archaeological Discoveries in Eastern Nigeria (1977)
- Discovering Nigeria's Past (1975)
- Igbo-Ukwu : An Account of Archaeological Discoveries in Eastern Nigeria (1970/1977 paperback edition)
- The Study of Africa's Past (1946)
In 1939 he married Ione Magor, and they had two sons and three daughters together. She died in 1992. In 2004 he married Pamela Smith, a historian of archaeology.
Shaw was a pacifist, and in 1960 became an active and widely respected Quaker. He participated in anti-war activities. At the World Archeology Conference in 1986, he took part in a boycott against South African academics as an anti-apartheid measure.
A brief, affectionate and informative account, with photograph, of Shaw as an undergraduate appears in the June 1936 issue of the Sidney Sussex magazine, The Pheon.
- "Professor Thurstan Shaw", The Telegraph (UK), 9 March 2013
- "Supplement". London Gazette. 1 January 1972. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- Tim Murray, ed. (2001). Encyclopedia of Archaeology 1. ABC-Clio. p. 1153. ISBN 1-57607-198-7.
- Andah, Bassey W. (1998). Africa: The Challenge of Archaeology. Igbo Life and Culture Series. Heinemann Educational Books (Nigeria). pp. 7, 14. ISBN 978-129-346-2.
- Jack Rodney Harlan, Jan M. J. De Wet, Ann B. L. Stemler, ed. (1976). Origins of African Plant Domestication. World Anthropology. Mouton. p. 483. ISBN 90-279-7829-8.
- Clark, Grahame (1989). Prehistory at Cambridge and beyond. CUP Archive. pp. 104–106. ISBN 0-521-35031-X.
- Murray, Tim (2007). Milestones in Archaeology: a chronological encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 459. ISBN 1-57607-186-3.
- Thurstan Shaw, "Excavations at Igbo-Ukwu, Eastern Nigeria: An Interim Report," Man, Vol. 60 (November 1960), pp. 161-164
- Thurstan Shaw, "Further Excavations at Igbo-Ukwu, Eastern Nigeria: An Interim Report", Man, Vol. 65 (Nov. - Dec., 1965), pp. 181-184
- "Chinua Achebe in Cambridge". Nigeria Daily News. 11 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- Apley, Alice (2000). "Igbo-Ukwu (ca. 9th century)". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-23.
- "Thurstan Shaw", The Pheon, vol. 15, no. 3, June 1936, pp. 88-90
- "Thurstan Shaw's 96th Birthday". World Archaeological Congress. 6 June 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-12.