1st November 2013:

Oxford Archaeology celebrated its 40th anniversary on 30th October with a reception, presentations, and a chance for friends, colleagues and guests to catch up and share memories of forty years of archaeological success.

The afternoon began with a reception and buffet. While guests chatted over a glass of wine and plate (or two) of food, they were able to look through a very impressive display of some 180 reports, monographs and booklets that OA has published since 1973 (and get a sneak preview of a few forthcoming titles). Panels of exhibition posters also lined the hall, reminding people not only of some of the remarkable sites and projects OA has been involved with, but also of one of our central, and original, aims – to promote archaeological research and to disseminate it widely through publication and teaching for the benefit of the public.

The reception was followed by a series of presentations. CEO Gill Hey introduced the chair of the Trustees, Professor Chris Gosden, who reflected on importance of the occasion, and introduced the first of the three former directors due to speak.

Tom Hassall, who led the Oxfordshire Archaeological Unit (later the Oxford Archaeological Unit) from 1973 to 1985, spoke about the background to the formation of the Unit, the dedication of its staff, and its significant successes, such as the pioneering of archaeological methods (especially in environmental archaeology) and its publication record. David Miles, who was director from 1988 to 1999, talked about the Unit’s expansion across Britain and abroad (with projects in Greece, Turkey and the Caribbean, for example), how the Unit met - and indeed welcomed - the challenges of a new competitive regime in the late 1980s that heralded PPG16 and its successors, and some of the key projects undertaken as a result. David Jennings, who was Oxford Archaeology’s CEO from 1999 to 2013, spoke about welcoming OA North and OA East into the organisation, the experience of working in France, and what he considered his greatest achievement – successfully steering OA through the worst recession for decades.

Gill Hey then spoke about OA today, and introduced Julian Munby, who, in his own inimitable style, gave a very entertaining talk on the highlights of OA’s work over the past 40 years. This was followed by Gill’s optimistic assessment of OA’s future, and after Chris Gosden’s closing remarks, it was time for tea and a piece of birthday cake.

This was an enjoyable and inspiring afternoon, which not only looked back to past achievements, but forward to exciting challenges and further successes.