Emeritus Professor Graham Edward Connah passed away on 25 November 2023. He was born in Cheshire, UK on 11 August 1934, and educated at Wirral Grammar School, and Cambridge University, receiving a BA in 1959 and an MA in 1964. He was a research assistant until 1961 when he became an archaeologist in the Department of Antiquities, with the Federal Government of Nigeria. He was subsequently a research fellow and senior research fellow in the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, becoming a senior lecturer, Department of Archaeology, University of Ibadan in 1970.

His main research field was African archaeology, concentrating on the origins of urbanism and state in Nigeria and Uganda over the last 6000 years. From a series of landmark books, African Civilizations is probably his best-known work, updated through several editions and still in press. He was recognised as one of the most important archaeologists working on the Holocene prehistory of the African continent, with a seminar in his honour held in 2008 and a special issue of Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa published in 2012.

In 1971 Connah came to Australia to teach at the University of New England (UNE) becoming head of the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology in 1974. He was awarded a Doctor of Letters from UNE in 1984 on the basis of his several books on African archaeology, and in 1985 he was made foundation professor and Head of the Department of Archaeology and Paleoanthropology at UNE.

Professor Connah turned to local archaeology to provide field-training opportunities for students, including Indigenous shell middens on the NSW coast and historic period sites. He trained many current practitioners in the field of archaeology, also co-directing a joint field training and research excavation project for excavations at Regentville near Sydney, NSW, in 1985 which was attended by both Sydney University and UNE Archaeology students.

His university courses provided meticulous field training for students, with key projects including Captain Richards’ House at Winterbourne (published in 1978) and the long running excavation and survey of Lake Innes House near Port Macquarie. He published on techniques for both Indigenous and historic period sites, and edited what was for two decades the main text on field methods: Australian Field Archaeology: A Guide to Techniques (1983). This was followed by a key foundational textbook Of the Hut I Builded: The Archaeology of Australia’s History in 1988 (revised in later editions to just The Archaeology of Australia’s History).

Emeritus Professor Graham Connah was a very significant figure in Australian Historical Archaeology, and for The Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology (ASHA). Graham was the founding editor of the Journal, Australasian Historical Archaeology from 1983 to 1988 and was also the President of ASHA from 1993 to 1997. Graham’s contribution to historical archaeology and to publishing was honoured by ASHA in 2007 with the establishment of the Graham Connah Monograph Award for the best book in Australasian historical archaeology. The 2009 edition of Australasian Historical Archaeology was a special issue in Graham Connah’s honour.

He was elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1968, Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1988, and Chairperson of the Academy’s Archaeology and Prehistory Electoral Committee in 1993. On his retirement from UNE in 1995 Graham Connah was appointed Emeritus Professor. In 2000 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) ‘For service to the promotion and enhancement of the profile of Australian historical archaeology through the University of New England, as a researcher and author, and to African archaeological research’. He also received the Australian Centenary Medal in 2001 ‘For service to Australian society and the humanities in archaeology and palaeoanthropology’.

Professor Susan Lawrence (past President of ASHA) recalled that:

Graham was a generous mentor and inspiring scholar. His work on Australian settler archaeology provided field training to generations of practitioners and avocational archaeologists, contributed new insights to settler history, set benchmarks for fieldwork and timely publication, and provided an important early synthesis of the field. He established the journal Australasian Historical Archaeology and edited it for many years, ensuring that the results of work on sites of the past 200 years could be published to the highest standard and made available for all.

The discipline of archaeology has lost a great contributor and a significant presence. Graham was farewelled by family and friends at a funeral service held in Canberra on 2 December 2023. He is survived by his beloved wife Beryl, three children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Graham Connah in 2001 at Lake Innes excavations Port Macquarie, photo courtesy of Rob Tickle
Graham Connah at Lake Innes, Port Macquarie, photograph by Rob Tickle