Prof David Oates (Biographical details)

Prof David Oates (archaeologist; British; Male; 25 February 1927 - 22 March 2004)

Also known as

Oates, Edward Ernest David Michael


Archaeologist specialising in historical periods of northern Mesopotamia. Born in Stoke Climsland, Cornwall (and he was proud of his Cornish ancestry). Educated at Callington County School, Oundle, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read Classics and in 1954 was elected to a Research Fellowship. From 1957-65 he was Fellow and Lecturer in Archaeology and Ancient History at Trinity, thereafter becoming the Director of the British School of Archaeology [BSAI] in Iraq and resident in Baghdad (1965-69). He began his archaeological fieldwork in Iraq with pioneering excavations at a Roman legionary fort at Ain Sinu, and joined the BSAI excavations at Nimrud, then directed by M.E.L. Mallowan (q.v.), with responsibility for the excavations of the Nabu Temple, Burnt Palace and Hellenistic village on the site of the Assyrian citadel. After succeeding Mallowan as the Field Director in 1958 he switched excavations to the Assyrian arsenal, the so-called "Fort Shalmaneser". Thereafter he excavated at Tell al-Rimah (1964-71) in northern Iraq, and finally Tell Brak in north-east Syria (from 1976). In 1969 he was appointed Professor of Western Asiatic Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology (q.v.), later part of University College London, until his early retirement in 1982. He was also made an FSA (1954), Fellow of the British Academy (1974), Fellow of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge (1997-2004), and elected Chairman (1988-06), Vice-President (1997-2000) and later President of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq (2000-04). He was married in 1956 to Joan Lines; Joan Oates (q.v.) is a prehistoric archaeologist. Their archaeological reference collections of pottery and selected other finds, which were exported with the permission of the Iraqi and Syrian authorities, were presented to the British Museum in 1988 and 1998 in return for financial donations to their archaeological fieldwork at Tell Brak. Died in Cambridge on 22 March 2004.


Obituaries: 'The Independent', 1 April 2004 (by J. Curtis); 'The Times', 7 April 2004; 'British School of Archaeology in Iraq Newsletter' (14), November 2004, pp. 6-9 (by Subhi al-Azzawi); 'Archiv für Orientforschung' 50 (2003/04), pp. 512-13 (by Dominique Collon).