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11.12.2012

Kenneth John Frazer MC FSA (1914-2012)

It is with regret that the Society announces the passing of Kenneth John Frazer, surveyor and draftsman for the EES.  Professor Harry S Smith, who worked with Ken at Saqqara, writes:

 Ken Frazer in 1994 at the Sacred Animal Necropolis, Saqqara. (Photograph: Paul Nicholson)

"Ken Frazer was born on 28 July 1914 in New Zealand, where his father, Sir Francis Frazer, was a judge.  There he worked as a bank clerk and courier, but in 1940 joined New Zealand army and served in North Africa and Italy, rising to Major.  He was awarded the Military Cross for leading allied troops back to safety through lethal desert minefields after the fall of Tobruk.

After the war his adventurous spirit led him to serve as a District Officer in Palestine and in the Gambia for 10 years until its independence; there he even toured with the District Nurse, delivering babies!  Thereafter he settled in Athens on his small pensions, and worked gratis both for the American archaeological mission at Sardis in Turkey and for the EES as a surveyor and draftsman.  He first worked with Jack Plumley at Qasr Ibrim (1963, 1966 and 1969), surveying the fortified citadel and planning the ‘cathedral’ area.  In 1966 he joined Bryan Emery’s team at the Saqqara Sacred Animal Necropolis (soon they were sharing desert-war reminiscences over midnight whiskies!).  To Ken’s intrepid exploration, surveying skills and fine draftsmanship, the Society owes the published plans of the vast and dangerous catacombs of the ibises, falcons, baboons and cows and of the shines outside them.  This he achieved with a pre-war theodolite and tape-measures, while constantly hampered by excavation work, inadequate lighting, bad ventilation and armies of fleas – a colossal achievement.

After Emery’s death in 1971, Ken continued working at Saqqara.  In 1974-6 he helped the writer to complete the Sacred Animal Necropolis excavations and interpret the site’s building history.  From 1975, he worked for many years with Geoffrey Martin and the EES/ Leiden team on the New Kingdom necropolis, undertaking more perilous underground work and producing many of the published tomb-plans.  In 1977 and 1981 he worked at Anubieion, and finally in 1994-6, when over 80, he sportingly returned to the Sacred Animal Necropolis to check and amend his splendid drawings, on which he had worked for years in Athens.

A staunch Kiwi and proud Scot, Ken was interested in and communed amicably with all humankind, whatever their race, faith or status.  His courage, loyalty, endurance and will-power speak for themselves; his trustworthiness and sense of honour were unbreakable.  Whatever the circumstances, he never complained, while his constant optimism, good humour and determination inspired others.  He was generous of spirit and of pocket; in Athens, all unbeknownst, he helped many aged, handicapped and lonely people.  In camp his stories, jokes and unexpected presents made him a legend with staff and workers alike.  He was a wonderful colleague and friend, and an unforgettable human being."

 H.S.S.

Publication date: 07.12.2012
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