Leyland Hugh Sackett (13 August 1928 – 12 April 2020)
The BSA is very sad to report the death aged 91 early on (western) Easter Day of Hugh Sackett, a pillar of the BSA’s community. Hugh was a major contributor to BSA life for six and a half decades, from his first time as a Student in 1954–55 (on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship), to serving as Assistant Director (1961–63), director — but always as co-director — of BSA excavations and surveys, Visiting Fellow (1968), Vice-President and, finally but not least, founding President of the British School at Athens Foundation in the USA.
From 1955 until 2018 he taught classics and Greek archaeology at Groton School in Massachusetts, on whose website readers can find a warm tribute to him. He introduced these rare subjects in secondary education to generations of students, several of whom have themselves become archaeologists. In 2014 he was honoured with the Gold Medal of the Archaeological Institute of America, the highest award in the USA for Old World archaeology, and the only time it has gone to a schoolteacher.
In the best traditions of the BSA, almost everything he tackled was in partnership with colleagues (including John Ellis Jones, Sandy MacGillivray and Mervyn Popham) and reflected his generosity, his love of Greece of any period from the Stone Age till today, his emphasis on precision (he was a master of the art of excavating) and his readiness to share with others of all ages.
The many BSA excavations he (co-)directed, and the Supplementary Volumes and articles in the Annual of the BSA that have followed them, show a remarkably prescient diachronic approach, and a rare breadth of vision. They range in time and place from Minoan Crete (Palaikastro) through prehistoric and Early Iron Age Euboea (Lefkandi, following survey) to Classical Attica (the Dema House, following survey of the Dema Wall, and the Vari House) and back to Roman Crete (Knossos): an extraordinary list of major contributions.
Palaikastro produced its chryselephantine kouros and a rich report. His masterpiece study of early Roman Knossos a millennium and a half later (after excavating the Unexplored Mansion site) increased understanding of the whole island (and the province of Crete and Cyrene) at that time — and made a valuable counterpoint to Gortyna. Lefkandi was revolutionary for virtually every period from Early Helladic III to the Geometric era of the Lelantine War. And the Dema House, early in Hugh’s BSA career, gives us a snapshot of the state of Attica and Athens around 420 BC (when the house was probably built) and the optimism following the Peace of Nicias of 421. Nobody builds a nice country house unless there is a sense of security.
Hugh Sackett was a quiet, controlled and outstandingly generous person and, for his colleagues, pupils and co-directors, a rock of stability. He had a happy and creative marriage with Eleanor Davis (née Childs), to whom the BSA community sends its deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers.