Geoffrey John Tassie (1959-2019)
A light went out in Cairo on the night of Thursday 28th March 2019. A light went out in Egyptian archaeology, prehistory and cultural heritage management. Our beloved colleague and dear friend, Dr Geoffrey John Tassie, known by nearly everyone as ‘Tass’, had been most recently working alongside his colleagues at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Here, as was so characteristic of Tass, he had started giving lectures to share his great love and knowledge of prehistoric and early historic Egypt, and had become much respected, admired and loved by his friends there.
Tass had first formally studied Egyptology when he took his Birkbeck certificate in the early 1990s and then at University College London, where he enriched the Institute of Archaeology and staff and students alike as he studied for his BA, MA and PhD. His fieldwork career in Egypt began at Kafr Hassan Dawood in the Delta where he ran the fieldwork and was a major contributor to this first archaeological fieldschool. Here the work always saw Egyptians and non-Egyptians working side by side in the excavation and recording of finds. That was how Tass always loved to work and continued to work throughout his career. His expertise, especially in prehistory resulted in his collaboration on projects in the Fayum, at Sais and at Merimde Beni Salama, and he had been delighted to start a new project at Naqada last summer 2018 which will continue to see his drive and dedication for the protection of the site brought to fruition, and in opening new investigations. He had also just realised a major long term wish to return to complete the research at Kafr Hassan Dawood once more this summer 2019.
His energy and enthusiasm were matched by his huge knowledge – he was a great all-rounder, but also a specialist in ancient Egyptian hair, in lithics, as well as field methods. He was dedicated entirely and tirelessly to the pursuit of our understanding of ancient Egypt, and his integrity in the pursuit of this goal was absolute. He was co-founder of the Egypt Cultural Heritage Organisation, and organised conferences and published widely on heritage as well as his archaeological and Egyptological research. In the past years he had been conducting postdoctoral research in the Topoi Excellence Cluster of the Freie Universitaet Berlin, at the University of Edinburgh, and he was an honorary research fellow in the department of Archaeology at the University of Winchester where he taught fieldwork and cultural heritage management.
Throughout his dynamic career he never wavered in sharing his knowledge. He was endlessly generous and patient in explaining anything from specifics of field methodology, to recording and photography of objects, to fixing technical problems on site. He believed in treating everyone in the same way and was much beloved by the entire Egyptian workforce from his varied excavations and from Quft. With Tass’ energy in the field, the workers could effortlessly move anything. The workers everywhere loved him.
The admiration he had from colleagues has always been clear, but following his most tragic and untimely passing, the messages that have been shared go to show us all how loved and respected he was amongst the archaeological and Egyptological community; his gentle and kind nature are remembered, his integrity, and his absolute devotion to the heritage of his beloved Egypt.
Read about his latest work at Nagada in Egyptain Archaeology 54 here.