First Review for Built on Bones!

So, I spent this week doing a lot of things. One of my favorites was freaking about my photoshopped proximity to lifetime hero author Neil ...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Farewell to Bill. FE cuts mean we may never see his like again.

The Guardian has published the obituary for the inimitable Bill White today. Bill played a major role in my own education and interaction with the bioarchaeology of London, so it was a bit strange to see the life of a man I knew as an institution of the Museum of London laid out with a bit more perspective. While I knew him as the man who rolled his eyes (discreetly, of course) at some of the nonsense that gets put about as science in the world of bioarchaeology, I certainly never knew that he'd gone to school with the Who. I definitely remember his advice about wrapping up in the arctic cold of the (now, off-limits) MoL bone store, but what I never knew, and really wish I had, was that Bill was the product of the UK's now-dying further education system.

Bill had been a successful chemist before he decided to follow his passion into osteoarchaeology. He changed careers and the course of UK bioarchaeology by following the same certificate type programme that my institution is now in danger of dropping completely due to government cutbacks (to be clear, these came in under the last lot--but the situation is certainly Not Improving). There is probably not a single researcher in London bones in the last 25 years who was not at some point gently guided in the right direction by Bill's terribly expressive eyebrows: I know I certainly was. But it really kills me to think that with the short sighted destruction-by-attrition (of staff and of student numbers) of programmes like the post-diploma or certificates in archaeology at Birkbeck, we're preventing an army of enthusiastic, capable people from doing what they love.

I teach at Birkbeck, and I know that the crew there wants desperately to continue providing the sort of opportunities Bill had. What I really don't know is whether it's going to be possible.

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Trivia (personal)

archaeologist. dental anthropologist. yes, that's a real thing. Author of Built on Bones, available in February 2017 (UK), May 2017 (USA) from Bloomsbury.



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