John James Wymer


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(1928–2006) [Bi]

Specialist in the Lower Palaeolithic of northwest Europe. Brought up near Kew Gardens, London, he was introduced to the study of ancient flint implements by his parents. At 27, while searching gravel pits at Swanscombe, Kent, he discovered part of a human cranium that has since proved to be the oldest yet known from the British Isles. It marked a turning point in his professional career, which started in teaching, and he was appointed in 1956 to the staff of Reading Museum. Continued studies of the Palaeolithic implements of the Thames gravels led to the publication of Lower Palaeolithic archaeology in Britain (1968, London: John Baker), which catalogued thousands of discoveries and used them as the basis for a chronology. In 1965 Wymer was recruited by Ronald Singer of the University of Chicago to direct excavations at Palaeolithic sites in South Africa, notably at Klasies River Mouth near Port Elizabeth, where extremely early remains of Homo sapiens sapiens were found. Back in England in 1968 he continued excavations on behalf of the University of Chicago at Clacton, Hoxne, and Ipswich. Following a brief period as Senior Research Associate at the University of East Anglia in 1979–80 he began work with the Norfolk Archaeological Unit, investigating mainly prehistoric sites in the county. In 1991 he began a truly monumental project, to relate every Palaeolithic discovery made in Britain to its relevant geological deposit. He personally visited almost every site and major museum collection, publishing his study as The Lower Palaeolithic occupation of Britain (1999, Salisbury: Wessex Archaeology). Amid all this fieldwork Wymer found time to serve terms as President of the Quaternary Research Association, Chairman of the Lithic Studies Society, and Vice‐President of the Prehistoric Society. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the British Academy, and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Reading in 1993. He was an accomplished musician, interested in blues and jazz, a keen gardener, and a lifelong supporter of the Campaign for Real Ale.


The Telegraph, 18 March 2006

Subjects: Archaeology.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.