Fonds Alexander - Papers of John Alexander

Identity area

Reference code


Unique identifier

GB 275 Alexander


Papers of John Alexander


  • 1955-1994 (Chiefly 1986-1987.) (Creation)

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Extent and medium

1 file paper

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Archaeologist, teacher. Born 27 January 1922, son of Charles Amyas Alexander and Lily Mary née Blackman of Steyning, Sussex. Fellow of St John's College 1976-2010; Lecturer in Archaeology, St John's College 1978-1986; Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Cambridge 1977-1986. Matriculated Pembroke 1945; BA in History 1948; Diploma in Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, 1956; PhD in Archaeology 1960 (again at Pembroke); ScD 1990. Staff Tutor in Archaeology, Department of Extra-Mural Studies, Cambridge University, 1958-1965; Staff Lecturer in Archaeology, Department of Extra-Mural Studies, University of London, 1965-1974.

On leaving school Alexander volunteered for the Indian Army, learned Urdu, and served with the 14th Army in Burma to 1945. He taught history in the Sudan 1948-1953, where he assisted Peter Shinnie with excavations and compiling schedules of ancient sites during summer holidays, and developed courses and a textbook on Sudanese archaeology for Sudanese pupils. He returned in 1963 to work with Shinnie on rescue excavations at Debeira in advance of the Aswan Dam.

In addition to the important work in the Sudan in the 1960s, Alexander is known especially for his work on the Yugoslav Iron Age (on which he wrote his PhD), at Qasr Ibrim in Lower Nubia (chiefly 1980-1986), and at sites in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire over many decades.

He was a dedicated member and long-serving officer of many societies, ranging from the West Essex Prehistory Society to the European Forum for African Archaeology, and helped to found Rescue, the British Archaeological Trust. Other appointments included Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (1958), Vice-President of both the Council for British Archaeology and the Prehistoric Society, Vice-Chairman of the Sudan Archaeological Research Society, Council member of the Egypt Exploration Society and the British Institute in Eastern Africa and President of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society.

Amongst his numerous publications are 'The Directing of Archaeological Excavations' (1970); 'Yugoslavia Before the Roman Conquest' (1972); and (with Joyce Pullinger) 'Roman Cambridge: Excavations on Castle Hill, 1956-1982', Cambridge Antiquarian Society (2000). He was also the founding editor of the 'Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology' series.

Highly respected as a teacher and a field man, along with recollecting his 'famously chaotic' working life colleagues remember the staunch support and encouragement he gave to young scholars in this country and in Africa, as well as his commitment to adult education, particularly in his development of extramural studies in archaeology, including certificate and diploma courses.

Alexander was awarded the Centenary Medal of the University of Khartoum in 1999 and an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by the same institution in 2000. He was honoured by a festschrift, 'Fifty Years in the Archaeology of Africa', in 'Azania' (Journal of the British Institute in Eastern Africa, Vol. 39, 2004). Alexander died on 17 August 2010.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

L201504-01 - Found in back of cupboard at Oxford Archaeology East office (previously CAM ARCH, Cambridgeshire County Council's archaeology service), not apparently part of a series. Correspondence relating to Cambridgeshire excavations was transferred before deposit to Cambridgeshire Archives to join related file series.

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Scope and content

Correspondence (chiefly professional).

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Arranged chronologically (slightly tidied from order on arrival).

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Related units of description

Further papers of John Alexander are to be found in Cambridgeshire Archives.

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Preferred citation: St John's College Library, Papers of John Alexander

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Dates of creation revision deletion

8 May 2015




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