Very sadly Albert Hesse has died on 2nd July 2022. He was one of the pioneers of archaeological geophysics and helped to establish the subject as a discipline not only in France but across Europe. He dedicated his engineering doctorate to the early evaluation of various techniques (1966: Prospections géophysiques a faible profondeur. Applications a l’archéologie. Paris: Dunod) and undertook several seasonality tests. He became the director of the CNRS geophysics research centre in Garchy/France in 1982 where experiments on its test site led to further scientific evaluations of various geophysical techniques for archaeology (most notably LFEM). Student exchanges between Garchy and Bradford (UK) led to international collaborations and the exchange of ideas.
With his scientific and engineering background Albert was always driven by the conviction that these methods can help with archaeological enquiries and he undertook surveys not only in France, but also in many other countries, from Mexico to India and often in the Middle East.
Most of all he will be remembered as a great mentor and enabler who inspired younger researchers and helped them to flourish. He was an ISAP Honorary Member since the beginning in 2004. And will be missed by many.
Armin Schmidt (Chair), 3 July 2022
A short CV was published by the LBI-ArchPro as part of the conference ‘Pioneering Archaeological Prospection’ in 2011 (local copy).
The Artistic Albert Hesse
Each Christmas Albert and I exchanged a celebratory photograph and here is his from Christmas 2021. His message with it was an invite to meet up the next time we were in France. Sadly, that will now never happen. He and his photographs will be very much missed each Christmas by me, and he himself will be very much missed by all of us in the wider geophysics community.
The multi-talented Albert Hesse
I first met Albert in Los Angeles 1992. I was presenting my first poster in the ISA meeting and he made very interesting and positive comments about it.
I invited him to participate in field work around 1995 in Zacapu, Michoacan and we spent a couple of weeks working together and doing magnetic gradient and electric resistivity surveys, producing one of our most beautiful maps ever. By that time, he also suggested some modifications in our Bradphys IV equipment that improved its performance.
In the evenings, I remember him inside our mobile lab, preparing pastis with cold water, while we were making comments and were processing data. After finishing everyday work, he used to walk back to our hotel in the town, 2 km away, to take pictures that later, some of them, were transformed into aquarelle paintings. He was fascinated by the volcanic landscape and the violet color of the jacarandas blossom.
As a member of the Standing Committee, he suggested to me to organize the ISA meeting in 2000 in Mexico. He attended it and then he traveled, with his wife Janine, to a variety of places in Mexico afterwards.
I remember him as a rigorous engineer in field work, a pioneer in archaeological prospection that invited me to visit the mythic Garchy testing field. In addition, he was a great photographer and aquarelle painter but even more important, I remember him as a generous person sharing all his knowledge and talents with the people around him.
I will remember Albert with huge fondness. He was always so very welcoming and always gave helpful advice and suggestions, going so far as to track down out of print papers of his for my literature review.
I will miss him at conferences and send my regards and condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
I first met Albert in 1982 when I arrived in Garchy as a 3rd year placement student in Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford. Albert had recently taken over as the Director of the CNRS geophysics research centre there and had limited time for his beloved research. Nevertheless, he was an approachable and supportive individual and we came to know each other well. In the 40 years since Garchy, I saw Albert intermittently, mostly at conferences. One memorable experience was when Albert took Chris Gaffney and I to a Turkish Bath in Ankara during the International Archaeometry Symposium in 1994.
I was invited to dinner at Albert’s just before my placement ended in March 1983. Albert peeled off at the wine label, signed it and presented it to me. I have kept it ever since. It’s a fond memory of his warmth and friendship. He was a true pioneer and passionate about the contribution of geophysics to archaeology.
Albert was special. He was charming, witty and warm while simultaneously being firm in his strive for the best solutions and unrelenting in his insistence that everyone should be doing the best they can to achieve good research outcomes. When he came to Bradford for Arnold Aspinall’s 80th birthday celebrations (see photos; © Armin Schmidt) he presented me with a copy of his PhD thesis and strongly suggested that I should study particularly the section on seasonality tests in earth resistance measurements. The next time we met, at an ICAP conference, he then asked me what I had learned from his work. Unfortunately, I had to admit that due to my limited command of French I had not got very far with it. “You’d better improve your French so that you can read the relevant literature” was his reply, presented with a disarming smile. Who could have argued with that?
I often talked with him about the research facilities he had set up in Garchy (France). Such a dedicated CNRS research centre for archaeological geophysics allowed many of the early breakthroughs in French research, including the work on dual-phase LFEM instruments and on the mobile earth resistance arrays that were tested there. Setting up a student exchange programme with the University of Bradford together with Arnold Aspinall also allowed many British students to experience such French research – and hospitality.
Most of all Albert was the inspiration for many researchers to conduct their work to the highest standards and with a dedication for the subject that he instilled in them. He is much loved by many and dearly missed.
It is very sad to hear the news about Albert Hesse. I first met and got to know Albert at conferences in the 1990s, although I think I first came into contact with him at the ‘Geoprospection in the Archaeological Landscape’ meeting in Bournemouth (1989). Albert was a tour de force at conferences – he was a great listener and a fantastic contributor. He had a terrific knack of treating everyone the same and was always willing to share his vast knowledge. A month or so after seeing him at a conference a selection of off-prints (remember them?!) would arrive to illustrate some point that we had talked about over coffee. In the pre-internet days such help was really important.
His book ‘Prospections géophysique a faible profondeur: applications a l’archéologie’ was published in 1966 and was a revelation to me when I found a copy. That book evidenced him as a true pioneer in archaeological geophysics. Working with him at Wroxeter, 30 years later, I found that he was no less innovative or interested in our discipline than he had been at the start of his career.
Carl Heron mentioned that Albert took us to a Turkish Bath in Ankara. It was probably the same occasion that on the coach back to the hotel from the conference dinner Albert decided that everyone was far too quiet. He broke into song, and entertained everyone to a selection of beautiful French songs all the way back home. A lovely memory of a really nice guy.
When he retired he told me that he was winding down to spend more time with his pipe and his paints. He will be missed by many.
The attached is a photo from Wroxter (and includes Michel Debas, Dean Goodman and Yasushi Nishimura).
I met Albert for the first time in the early 1980s. Albert was the first archaeological geophysicist from Western Europe who started cooperation with us in Poland (then the Geophysical Laboratory of the Institute of the History of Material Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences). His cordiality, directness, curiosity of the unknown country and its inhabitants, and openness to joint research projects were striking. Albert created an invaluable opportunity for us to go on scholarships to Garchy. When I was unable to obtain consent from the Polish authorities for political reasons, Albert funded a private scholarship for me: I lived with him in Saint Satur, and every day I traveled to Garchy with him in a car or on his son’s bicycle, when I wanted to work until late evening. I was very glad to repay him with hospitality in Cairo during his research in Alexandria and Deir El-Bahari.
It was a great pleasure for me to dedicate a volume to him from the ICAP conference in 2003 in Krakow (photo). Not all of us know that Albert painted watercolors. He did it on every occasion – a joint trip to the Tatra Mountains, during a barbecue in Igołomia, after a trip to the salt mine in Wieliczka (also ICAP 2003 – photo). The watercolors he painted in Egypt were later exhibited in Alexandria (e.g. a watercolor with a view of a medieval Coptic monastery in Wadi Natrun – photo)
Albert was a valuable source of information for me during my work on the history of archaeological geophysics. He was patiently revising my article on the history of magnetic methods. It was he who led me to S. Breiner’s research, conducted in Mexico from a …horse. Unfortunately, to the last question – about studying the magnetism of Nile mud – he didn’t give me an answer. First, he asked me to wait quietly, and then – it was too late …
A bibliography and map of sites
Following the Albert Hesse Memorial paper given ICAP2023 in Kiel by Alain Tabbagh, Michel Dabas and Christophe Benech, it is now possible to find through the platform Chronocarto the full recorded powerpoint presentation, the bibliography and interactive maps (places where Albert Hesse has worked and places related to the publications). This can be accessed from https://www.chronocarto.eu/spip.php?article117&lang=en
There is also a short biography and links related to the pioneering work of Albert Hesse in France. The map can be accessed through ‘MAPS’ section.
On the interactive map, you can click on the 3 icons corresponding to the three documents that can be downloaded: a full bibliography, a time-line video and the recorded powerpoint presentation given at ICAP2023, Kiel.