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Dr. David Trump, FSA, UOM (1931-2016)

last modified Sep 08, 2016 03:02 PM
Well-known archaeologist David Trump, who led some of the finest explorations in Malta, has died at the age of 85.

We are very sad to report that Dr. David Trump, FSA, UOM (1931-2016) died suddenly on Wednesday 31st August, while many archaeologists were at the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) conference in Vilnius. He had just celebrated his 85th birthday.

David Hilary Trump took his first class BA in Arch and Anth at Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1955, and was a scholar of both the British School at Jerusalem, where he dug with Kathleen Kenyon, and the British School at Rome, where he excavated the key site of La Starza. This site for the first time established a reliable prehistoric sequence in Southern Italy. His 1958 Phd was on the Prehistory of Central and Southern Italy. He is, however, best known for his seminal work on Malta, where the Times of Malta described him on the 1st September 2016 as “an icon”, and in 2004 the nation made him an Honorary Officer of the National Order of Merit, a rare distinction for a non-Maltese, in recognition of his substantial contribution to the island state and Anglo-Maltese relations. For the same reason he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Malta in 2015.

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Dr Trump during his very last visit to a Maltese Neolithic site at Xrobb l-Ghagin, December 2015 (Credit Daniel Cilia)

David Trump first visited Malta in 1954, to assist the late Professor John Evans with excavations at the Ggantija temple on Gozo. From 1958 until 1963, the period leading up until Maltese independence in 1964, he was Curator of Archaeology at the National Museum of Malta. This allowed him to excavate almost every significant site in Malta, supported by Captain Charles Zammit, the director of the Museum, with the primary purpose of establishing the prehistoric sequence. At Skorba temple, the most important site he excavated, he not only uncovered the layout of a small temple, but discovered new unsuspected Neolithic phases named by him after the site, and gave Maltese prehistory, for the first time, a reliable chronology by the earliest deployment of radiocarbon dating. This was a chronology that the father of Maltese archaeology, Themistocles Zammit had suspected, but had never been able to prove in his lifetime, and which Prof. John Evans had begun to work towards.  Much of Colin Renfrew’s recalibration of the central Mediterranean radiocarbon chronology drew on his work to show that these monuments are the oldest free-standing stone monuments in Europe.

After Malta, he held the post of Staff Tutor in Archaeology at the University’s Board of Extra-Mural Studies at Madingley until retirement in 1997, when he was succeeded by Caroline Malone. He not only contributed to the teaching of Mediterranean Prehistory in the Department of Archaeology, but also had a large following in the wider, continuing education community. It was during this period that he made a major contribution to the archaeology of Sardinia, uncovering once again unsuspected phases of prehistory at Grotta Filiestru and completing the survey of Bonu Ighinu. He also worked on the archaeology of the Cambridge region with the late John Alexander. During this period he continued to visit Malta regularly often with his Madingley students. In 1986-1995, he returned as overall director of the team that excavated the Brochtorff Xaghra Circle, working with Anthony Bonanno, Tancred Gouder, Caroline Malone, Anthony Pace and Simon Stoddart, a project that was later published in the McDonald monograph series.

He published widely and rapidly, most recently republishing a fifty year anniversary edition of his 1966 Skorba report and contributing to the festschrift of his friend Joseph Attard FSA. His other books included the Peoples and Places volume on Central and Southern Italy, the Penguin Dictionary of Archaeology (with Warwick Bray), the Prehistory of the Mediterranean, the many editions in various forms of his Archaeological guide to Malta, and fieldwork monographs on Sardinia. In many of these Maltese books he collaborated with the distinguished Gozitan photographer, Daniel Cilia.

He is survived by his widow Bridget, a fellow archaeologist, pupil of Stuart Piggott in Edinburgh and life companion on his many projects, and his sons, Roger, Gavin and Eric.

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Dr Trump holding finds from Skorba, 1963

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