Geoffrey Bushnell F.B.A.

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The death occurred on 26 December 1978, at the age of 75, of Geoffrey Bushnell, Curator of the University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, between 1948 and 1970, and Fellow of Corpus Christi College. Geoffrey Bushnell trained as a geologist and graduated from Downing College, Cambridge. From 1926 until 1938 he was employed by the Anglo- Ecuadorian Oilfields Ltd., and it was in Ecuador that he began the study of American archaeology to which he later made a notable contribution. (His main publications were listed in the last issue of RAIN.)

During his years in Ecuador, Geoffrey Bushnell maintained links with Cambridge, especially with the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, to which, from 1930, he made numerous donations of Ecuadorian objects. In 1947 he was appointed Assistant Curator, and a year later he succeeded T. T. Patterson as Curator. The period was a difficult one. The displays and reserve collections had to be reorganized after the disruptions of wartime. The Museum was already short of space, and although the ultimate intention was to move to a new building, this did not happen. Bushnell effectively held the Museum together, partly because his talents were many-sided. He had a wide knowledge in both archaeology and ethnology, being, for example, a notable medieval archaeologist and ecclesiologist with a special interest in monumental brasses. He will be particularly remembered, however, for his persistent work to build up the American collection so that, although relatively small, it became one of the best and most representative in the United Kingdom.

When the 30th Session of the Inter-national Congress of Americanists was held in Cambridge in 1952, Geoffrey Bushnell was one of the two secretaries of the Organizing Committee. A less onerous occasion, and one which gave him great pleasure, was in 1960, when he was invited to address the 25th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology at New Haven on ‘An Old World View of New World Prehistory’. The doyen of British Americanists, he was honoured on both sides of the Atlantic for his work in American archaeology, being appointed Reader in New World Archaeology in the University in 1966, and, to his delight, Comendador al Merito del Ecuador in 1971. He was twice a member of the Council of the RAI. A man of great geniality and wit, Geoffrey Bushnell was well-known to many visiting scholars for his hospitality and kindness. A devoted Churchman, he was much loved in the University, the City of Cambridge, and the Diocese of Ely, and is now greatly missed by very many colleagues and friends.


This obituary first appeared as: Gathercole, Peter. 1979. ‘Obituary’. RAIN, No. 32, p. 12 Reproduced with permission.


To cite this article:

GATHERCOLE, PETER. 1979. ‘Obituary’. RAIN, No. 32, p. 12 (available on-line:



RAI News. 1979. ‘Obituary’. RAIN, No. 31, p. 17 (available on-line:


Link to relevant records by or concerning the listed person on the RAI’s bibliographic database Anthropological Index Online