Obituary: Ian James Mathieson
Archaeologist who developed sensitive new methods of excavating
Born: 23 May, 1927, in Edinburgh.
Died: 24 June, 2010, in Lauder, aged 83.
Born in Edinburgh, Ian James Mathieson attended Daniel Stewart's College until 1944 when, anxious to join the war effort, he volunteered for the RAF as a pilot/navigator/bomb aimer. He was subsequently transferred to the Armoured Airborne and served with the King's Dragoon Guards until 1947.
After military service he qualified at Edinburgh's Heriot Watt College as a mining surveyor and geologist and served as area surveyor and geologist with the National Coal Board until 1956.
It was then that he joined the staff of Hunting Surveys as a project manager, believing that his first assignment would be to the Antarctic. In fact, he found himself mapping the valley of the Euphrates River in Iraq.
At home and abroad, his work with the Huntings companies included working on the location of the new Tay Road Bridge, the location of the Severn Bridge, the location of the Dez Dam in Iran and the mapping of the Five Rivers Canal System in Pakistan and India. He was a member of the party that make the first crossing of the great Nafud Desert in Saudi Arabia.
An early interest in theatre meant that Ian took time out to be involved with amateur drama in Edinburgh, first with the Edinburgh University Dramatic Society and later with the Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group.
He served on the board of directors of the Festival Fringe Society in the 1970s. Another developing interest was in archaeology. He devised new excavation methods using his experience in geology and civil engineering, visiting nearly every Roman site in Scotland.
In 1972 he extended his work as a partner and technical director of the Scottish firm, Survey and Development Services, establishing offices in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. From that time on Roman archaeology was left behind in favour of the archaeology of Ancient Egypt.
He always maintained a home in Edinburgh and was able to retire from full-time work in 1986. This allowed him to enjoy his hobby of fly-fishing on the rivers and lochs of the Borders and the Highlands and further develop his interest in Egyptian archaeology and to devise methods of surveying and mapping large sites to discover what lay beneath the ground without the expense or intrusion of excavation. He spent the next 20 years refining methods using resistivity, gradiometry and radar.
He worked with parties from the Egypt Exploration Society and Cambridge University before the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt granted him his own site at Saqqara. He was sponsored by Glasgow Museums, as part of Culture and Sport Glasgow, and most recently he founded the Scottish Egyptian Archaeological Trust, a foundation to further work in Egypt. Scotland is one of the smallest countries in the world to have a site as large as the one at Saqqara.
His contribution to Egyptian archaeology is such that since the death of Jean-Phillipe Lauer he had been regarded as the doyen of working archaeologists at Saqqara. His name is inscribed along with Howard Carter and others in the recently completed Imhotep Museum at Saqqara.
When not practising archaeology in Egypt, Ian found time to serve for 20 years as fund-raiser for the Department of Dermatology at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, helping to establish the Foundation for Skin Research.
He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a Fellow of the Institute of Civil Engineering Surveyors and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland.
He is survived by his wife, Padi and three sons.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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