Skip to content

Professor Stephen Aldhouse Green

March 11, 2016

In Appreciation – Professor Stephen Aldhouse Green



It is with great sadness that I’m writing this appreciation of Stephen who lost his long battle (and it was a battle) with Parkinson’s disease in February. Matt Pope and Rob Dinnis have already written a short obituary for Salon which can be read here, and I know Professor W.H. Manning is writing an obituary for the Cardiff University Alumni magazine which I’ll link to when it’s published. This then is an intermediate account mixing personal reminiscences with some details about Stephen’s life.

Stephen was born in Bristol in 1945, attended grammar school before going to Cardiff University to study archaeology as an undergraduate and later as a postgraduate. After graduation he became a lecturer at the University of Khartoum, then returned to Britain and became a field archaeologist at Milton Keynes, before taking up the post of Assistant Keeper of Archaeology at the National Museum of Wales in 1976. In 1996 Stephen left the National Museum for the University of Wales, College Newport where he joined his wife, Professor Miranda Aldhouse Green, in setting up an archaeology department and degree scheme.

In 1978 Stephen began the Palaeolithic Settlement of Wales Research Project, as Matt Pope and Rob Dinnis have already said ‘Stephen’s work made sense of Palaeolithic archaeology for a region on the edge of the Pleistocene world. His legacy will be to have documented in detail the record of both Neanderthal and early modern human occupation at its absolute limits.’ The primary focus was Pontnewydd Cave, near St Asaph in Denbighshire with excavations taking place between 1978 and 1995, Stephen extended the project by directing excavations in Hoyle’s Mouth and Little Hoyle Caves, near Tenby, Pembrokeshire between 1984 and 1996. In 1995 Stephen drew the previously unpublished work by Professor Charles McBurney at Coygan Cave, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, to publication. In 1997 he undertook the first interdisciplinary study of Paviland Cave where he conducted a major redating programme and between 2005 and 2007 Stephen and Rick excavated the caves and rock shelters of Goldsland Wood.

This work resulted in a host of important publications (see bibliography supplied by Elizabeth Walker below) beginning with his PhD research on Neolithic stone tools Flint Missile Points of the British Isles, published in 1977, and Rick tells me Stephen’s typology is still the standard description for Neolithic arrowheads. Additionally Stephen was a founding member of the Lithic Studies Society.

Stephen had an enormously busy and productive life in archaeology, but I’m sure he would be amused to learn that my first knowledge of him had nothing to do with his academic work, instead it was all about the cats. When I was a child we would set off on holiday with our car piled high with clothes, books and cats. If we went on holiday then the cats (and sometimes the hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs) came too. I first had the idea that this wasn’t what everyone else did when the car broke down and we had to get the train, it was a long way from North Wales to Fareham and felt even longer travelling in the Guard’s van with a howling Siamese cat – we’d started in an ordinary carriage but the other passengers complained about the noise. As I grew older I realised that travelling with cats was not just seen as unusual, in fact, other people saw it as downright eccentric. I would be happily reminiscing and inevitably the listener would stop me and say ‘you went on holiday with your cats?’ as if this was the strangest thing they had ever heard. Vindication came when I was a student at Cardiff University and learnt that the Keeper of Archaeology at the National Museum of Wales was famous for taking his cats with him when he went digging. Naturally this predisposed me in Stephen’s favour before I ever met him.

Unlike many Cardiff undergraduates and graduates I never worked with Stephen: I specialised in later periods before shifting to the history of archaeology so I knew Miranda, who occasionally lectured to us on the Iron Age, but because of the museum and university connection I knew several people who worked with him including Rick who wrote the following:

Stephen gave me my first job in archaeology after I graduated, working as a museum assistant in the National Museum of Wales. Under Stephen’s leadership the museum did a colossal amount of fieldwork. As well as the major research projects such as the Palaeolithic Settlement of Wales, we museum assistants were out in the field regularly throughout the year working on a whole suite of small projects. Some of these led to significant research contributions, such as the publication of the Mesolithic footprint trails at Uskmouth. Others, in the pre-PPG16 era, were small-scale salvage and rescue excavations or, as it was also before the passing of the Treasure Act, evaluations to provide evidence for coroner’s Treasure Trove inquests. One way and another, we spent a lot of time travelling the roads of Wales. These journeys were always to be broken by stops at Little Chef restaurants, Stephen’s love of Little Chef teacakes being gradually diffused amongst all the prehistorians in the museum.

However, the core of all this activity was cave archaeology. When we weren’t in the field we were working on archive material from Charles McBurney’s fieldwork, sorting stalagmite samples and guiding visiting specialists through the various archives. All of this variety stood me in very good stead for the rest of my career, particularly when I came to work with Stephen as his research assistant leading up to the final publication of the Neanderthals in Wales volume. Building on this partnership we started new cave excavations in 2005 at Goldsland Wood in Wenvoe. Because of his illness we had planned that I should lead the excavations, with Stephen on hand to offer advice and direction when required. At Goldsland, as at a lot of cave sites, access is somewhat precarious. Stephen, despite his illness, was everywhere at once. He seemed to move almost more easily around and within the caves than on more even surfaces. A few years earlier, fighting our way along the neglected cliff path to Cefn Caves in North Wales, I remember him bounding along while I crept precariously from ledge to ledge in his wake. At Goldsland, I recall him at George Rock Shelter, deep in an animated conversation with David Case which seemed to be half detailed discussion of the sediment sequence and half competitive recitation of the lyrics of the Wurzels.

It wasn’t until I went to UWC Newport that I really got to know Stephen, I spent five hugely enjoyable years there doing my PhD, years made even happier when Rick joined the department as a research assistant – the first and only time we’ve been employed in the same department. But that’s not the only reason we were happy there, it was a cheerful, easy-going, interesting department and how often can you say that in academia? That it was so enjoyable is entirely down to Stephen and Miranda who ensured there was an encouraging and non-competitive ethos to the department. As a student researching the history of archaeology my main contact with Stephen was occasional coffee breaks, everyone else would be talking non-stop, Stephen by contrast was a much quieter character but his contributions were often hilarious and always informative. It was Stephen who sparked my interest in Quftis telling me how descendants of those trained by Petrie were still working on excavations in Egypt and the Sudan. Having worked with these men, Stephen who explained that archaeological labouring was seen in the same terms as farming, wood or metal working, a particular set of skills passed on from father to son. This is something I still want to investigate further. Stephen also helped to explain the significance of the work done by Dorothy Garrod, Henri Breuil, Nina Frances Layard and other early Palaeolithic specialists I came across in my research. He was always very generous and patient, kindly explaining things I really should have already known.

I could tell you many Stephen or Stephen and Miranda anecdotes, several feature cats, I could tell you about the knitting embargo that was lifted for my viva, the adoption discussions, the obvious love and pride that Stephen and Miranda felt for each other. Instead I’m going to simply tell you that Stephen was a lovely, funny, gentle man, with a wide-ranging knowledge of archaeology, music and cats, that he combatted his illness with an inspiring dignity, courage and strength and that he will be very much missed.

Partial bibliography:

Aldhouse-Green S. 1995. Cueva de Pontnewydd, Gales. Un yacimiento arqueológico con restos humanos del Pleistoceno Medio: revisión de la estratigrafía, dataciones, tafonomía y de su interpretación. In J. M. Bermúdez, J. -L. Arsuaga and E. Carbonell (eds). Evolutión humain en Europa y los yacimientos de la Sierra de Atapuerca, 37–55. Junta de Castilla y León, Actas 1.

Aldhouse-Green, S. 1998. The archaeology of distance: perspectives from the Welsh Palaeolithic. In N. M. Ashton, F. Healy and P. B. Pettitt (eds). Stone Age Archaeology: essays in honour of John Wymer, 137–145. Oxford, Oxbow Monograph 102.

Aldhouse-Green, S. (ed.). 2000. Paviland Cave and the ‘Red Lady’: a definitive report. Bristol, Western Academic and Specialist Press Ltd.

Aldhouse-Green, S. 2001. The colonisations and visitations of Wales by Neanderthals and Modern Humans. In A. Anderson, I. Lilley and S. O’Connor (eds). Histories of Old Ages: essays in honour of Rhys Jones, 225–235Canberra, Coombs Academic Press, Australian National University.

Aldhouse-Green, S.2004. The Palaeolithic. In M. J. Aldhouse-Green and R. Howell (eds). Gwent County History. Volume I. Gwent in Prehistory and Early History, 2–28. Cardiff, University of Wales Press.

Aldhouse-Green, M. and Aldhouse-Green, S. 2005. The Quest for the Shaman: Shape-Shifters, Sorcerers and Spirit-healers of Ancient Europe. London, Thames and Hudson.

Aldhouse-Green, S., Scott, K., Schwarcz, H., Grün, R., Housley, R., Rae, A., Bevins, R. and Redknap, M. 1995. Coygan Cave, Laugharne, South Wales, a Mousterian site and hyena den: a report on the University of Cambridge excavations. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 61, 37–79.

Aldhouse-Green, S., Pettitt, P. and Stringer, C. 1996. Holocene humans at Pontnewydd and Cae Gronw Caves. Antiquity 70 (268), 444–447.

Aldhouse-Green, S., Jackson, H. and Young, T. 2004. Lithics, raw materials and ochre: interrogation of data from the Middle Pleistocene hominid site of Pontnewydd Cave, Wales, Europe. In E. A. Walker, F. Wenban-Smith and F. Healy (eds). Lithics in Action, 93–104. Oxford, Lithic Studies Society Occasional Paper 8 and Oxbow Books.

Green, H.S. 1980. The flint arrowheads of the British Isles: a detailed study of material from England and Wales with comparanda from Scotland and Ireland. British Archaeological Reports British series; 75i and British Archaeological Reports British series; 75ii.

Green, H. S. 1981. The first Welshman: excavations at Pontnewydd. Antiquity 55, 184–195.

Green, H. S. 1983. La Grotte de Pontnewydd, Pays de Galles, Grande-Bretagne: un site du Paléolithique Inférieur avec des restes humains probablement Néandertaliens Archaíques. L’Anthropologie 87 (3), 417–419.

Green, H. S. 1984a. Pontnewydd Cave: a Lower Palaeolithic Hominid Site in Wales: the first report. Cardiff, National Museum of Wales.

Green, H. S. 1986. The Palaeolithic settlement of Wales research project: a review of progress 1978–1985. In S. N. Collcutt (ed.). The Palaeolithic of Britain and its Nearest Neighbours: recent trends, 36–42. Sheffield, University of Sheffield.

Green, H. S. 1988. Pontnewydd Cave: the selection of raw materials for artefact‑manufacture and the question of natural damage. In R. J. MacRae and N. Moloney (eds). Non-Flint Stone Tools and the Palaeolithic Occupation of Britain, 223–232.Oxford, British Archaeological Reports British Series 189.

Green, H. S., Bevins, R. E., Bull, P. A., Currant, A. P., Debenham, N., Embleton, C., Ivanovich, M., Livingston, H., Rae, A. M., Schwarcz, H. P. and Stringer, C. B. 1989. Le site acheuléen de la Grotte de Pontnewydd, Pays de Galles: géomorphologie, stratigraphie, chronologie, faune, hominids fossils, géologie et industrie lithique dans le contexte paléoécologique. L’Anthropologie 93, 15–52.

Green, H. S. and Currant, A. P. 1982. Early man in Wales: Pontnewydd Cave (Clwyd) and its Pleistocene fauna. Nature in Wales 1, 40–43.

Green, H. S., Stringer, C. B., Collcutt, S. N., Currant, A. P., Huxtable, J., Schwarcz, H. P., Debenham, N., Embleton, C., Bull, P., Molleson, T. I. and Bevins, R. E. 1981. Pontnewydd Cave in Wales – a new Middle Pleistocene hominid site. Nature 294, 707–713.

Green, H. S. and Walker, E. 1991. Ice Age Hunters: Neanderthals and Early Modern hunters in Wales. Cardiff, National Museum of Wales.

Green, H.S. 1980. The flint arrowheads of the British Isles: a detailed study of material from England and Wales with comparanda from Scotland and Ireland. British Archaeological Reports British series; 75i and British Archaeological Reports British series; 75ii.

Julia, with contributions by Rick Peterson and Elizabeth Walker


2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2016 9:30 am

    Reblogged this on shelteringmemory.


  1. Whoosh! | HARN Weblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: