In memory of Arnold
I first met Arnold in Bradford when I came to study for my undergraduate BSc degree in Archaeology but his fame preceded him. I chose Bradford because it was the place to learn more about archaeological geophysical survey, thanks to Arnold. I later returned to Bradford to study for my MSc in Archaeological prospection because, thanks to Arnold, it was still the place to expand one’s knowledge of archaeological geophysics and prospection. By this time Arnold had passed on much of the teaching to Armin Schmidt, whom Arnold respected a great deal, but Arnold still wanted to teach his sciences during practical lectures. Even though he was officially retired Arnold loved experimenting in the geophysics lab and passing on his knowledge and enthusiasm to his students. Some went on to set up specialised geophysical surveys companies on the back of Arnold’s infectious enthusiasm, among them Roger Walker’s Geoscan Instruments (for many years if one was carrying out a geophysical survey one would have been using one of Roger’s instruments) and also Time Team’s very own adopted specialist team, Geophysical Surveys of Bradford or GSB. On television GSB even managed to turn the use a highly technical scientific instruments into a commonly seen and almost understood everyday archaeological occurrence such was Arnold’s legacy. Arnold’s former students appearing on television every week even changed the English language thanks to a new explanation of their activities; thanks to Arnold, they were doing ‘Geofizz’. Google the word ‘Geofizz’ and see how commonly it is now used.
I personally owe Arnold a great deal. When I began the research for my PhD in an attempt to locate evidence of medieval battle and its mass graves using archaeological prospection techniques, it was unfunded and part time. It was the first battlefield survey of its type in Europe and Arnold was one of the very few to completely back this unusual activity. Arnold originally offered to assist me with my geophysical survey and was always joined by John Crummett, or Arnold’s henchman as he was affectionately termed. Eventually Roger Walker joined us on many surveys and we would spend hours criss-crossing the Towton battlefield with numerous surveys. This occurred for over a decade and became a regular occurrence. There was never any funding, but nobody seemed to mind. Some called it the ‘geophysical dream team’ and I was incredibly fortunate to have such assistance and friends. More people joined us including Armin Schmidt and very many students and additional volunteers. Hundreds of people have now worked at Towton, often with Arnold watching over us and helping where possible. We eventually found extensive evidence of battle and additional mass graves. The success of the Towton Battlefield Archaeology Project is down to these early surveys carried out initially with Arnold and John. Like me, countless other individuals, ideas and projects have been inspired by Arnold Aspinall and his dedication to the archaeological sciences. Over the last 15 years Arnold became a close friend. I talked with him a couple of days before he passed away and as usual he was interested to know how certain projects were progressing, but especially how my family was. Because some of my ancestors are called Aspinall I used to tease him about the fact that we might be related. Arnold, however, always made me feel as though we already were. He will be greatly missed and affectionately remembered.