This blog provides a forum for presenting and discussing the latest findings relating to the ancient Indian Ocean, from archaeology, molecular genetics, historical linguistics and other disciplines. It takes a long-term view of the Indian Ocean region, exploring the processes that shaped its cultures, societies and environments from the Pleistocene to the historical period.

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Thursday, 1 July 2010

Goodbye to a pioneer and polymath

We note sadly the passing of Dr. Raymond Allchin, who died on 4th June 2010 at the age of 86. Raymond, together with his wife Dr. Bridget Allchin, was a major figure in South Asian archaeology for a half a century. He travelled widely in the Indian subcontinent, exploring, surveying and excavating sites that would become classic type sites, particularly for the south Indian Neolithic, and both together with Bridget and alone, writing major works on Indian culture and archaeology. Raymond’s knowledge of the Indian subcontinent was remarkably broad as well as deep, and reflected a profound passion for the region and its people. He wrote and taught about archaeology, history, art, linguistics, poetry, place-names, and ethnography, leaving a corpus of literature that has stood the test of time. Raymond leaves as a legacy such major institutions as the Ancient India and Iran Trust, of which he was a Founding Trustee, and the European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, of which he was a founding member.

Raymond helped to educate and inspire numerous generations of South Asian archaeologists, including my own. I knew him only late in his career, after his retirement from the University of Cambridge, but was nonetheless struck by his intelligence and warmth. While I lived in Cambridge, our families met occasionally for tea or dinner, and I remember his lively and often humorous stories with great fondness. Also memorable was the grace that he sang at my wedding to a fellow South Asian archaeologist – in Sanskrit and, naturally, without notes. I feel fortunate and grateful to have known Raymond. In his later years he worked closely with Bridget on an autobiography covering some of the early years of their travels in the subcontinent, and I hope we will see published soon the memories of their extraordinary life together.

Obituary in the Times:

Times Higher Education Supplement:

The Hindu:

Society of Antiquaries of London:

Allchin Memorial lecture delivered in Kerala:


  1. Raymond's voluminous works are a testament to legacy, as are the generations of students and scholars he and Bridget have influenced, inspired, supported over the years. For myself he was a sort of intellectual grandfather to my research in South India, revisiting the landscape and sites which he has so aptly described and deeply understood decades earlier. I can recall pleasant afternoons having the Rayalaseema and Bellary areas described as they were in the 1950s and 1960s, when the main form of transport to sites was by cattle cart, and comparing notes on sites I had just been to some decades later. He was always an inspiration.

  2. It was my greatest shock to hear of the sad demise of Professor F. Raymond Allchin, who had been a great mentor of many young and upcoming archaeologists in India.

    He had been a great source of inspiration to all us through his seminal contributions on Indian archaeology and gave us the best possible international exposure through the Ancient India and Iran Trust. Our stay at Cambridge as Fellows of the Trust used to be a turning point in our career and also gave us opportunities to explore the Cambridge University intellectual environment. Your role in this was certainly at par.

    I particularly cherish his kind hospitality and encouragement while I was a fellow of the Trust during 1996 and my subsequent visits to Cambridge. His early work in the region of Karnataka was a great source of inspiration and my work following his footsteps, along with colleagues from England, has produced excellent results and undoubtedly these publications are our humble tribute to him. All his other works put together stand testimony to the fact that he was the last among the greatest British Indologists.

    Ravi Korisettar

  3. India has lost one of its greatest archaeologists of all time, as Nicky, Dorian and Ravi have remarked. I shall never forget my first, rather friendly meeting with Raymond and his wife Bridget at the Ancient India & Iran Trust in the Spring of 2001. This opportunity came during my job interview at Cambridge. Fortunately, I had the chance to wander over to Brooklands House on a rather pleasant and sunny afternoon. There, I sat with Raymond and Bridget for tea on the front lawn of Brooklands House. Sitting with two pioneers of South Asian archaeology was a rather exciting career moment. Luckily, I ended up getting the job at Cambridge, and from that point onwards, we not only became colleagues, but we also thankfully became friends. Together with my wife Nicky, we often got together with Raymond and Bridget over tea or dinner at our homes in Cambridge or Barrington. Nicky and I became increasingly fond of Raymond, enjoying his enchanting stories, including those about famous archaeologists and his trail-blazing fieldwork in India. We sorely miss Raymond, but his memory certainly lives on for those of us engaged in research and archaeological fieldwork in South Asia.