John Linton Myres (1869-1954) was an archaeologist and historian. He was a fellow at Magdalen between 1892-5, when he travelled a great deal in the Greek Islands and Crete and worked with Arthur Evans. Between 1895 and 1907 he was a University lecturer in classical archaeology, in 1907 he went to Liverpool University as the professor of Greek and lecturer in ancient geography. He stayed there until 1910 when he returned to Oxford as the Wykeham professor in ancient history. He held this chair until his retirement in 1939.

In 1953 the Anthropological Society of Oxford held a special meeting to celebrate anthropology at Oxford. At the meeting John Linton Myres (nearing the end of his very long and active life at Oxford) gave his impressions of Pitt-Rivers and the Museum:

‘When I came into residence in 1888, the Pitt Rivers Museum, acquired by the University in 1883, was nearly ready to be opened. General Pitt Rivers himself came to inaugurate it, with a vivid account of his own introduction to technology, through his membership of the Small Arms Committee after the Crimea War [sic], when he observed that devices not acceptable themselves, became the starting-point of other lines of invention, and so explained the numerous discontinuous series. Lantern-slides were still rather magical, and his lecture was illustrated by large drawings on cartridge paper, which are reproduced in the Oxford edition of his essays.

I met the General again at the first Congress of Archaeological Societies at the Antiquaries, in full Victorian dress; black broad-cloth coat, full cravat, watch and seals, malacca cane, and real beaver hat; breezy and forthright about his Wiltshire excavations. He dated his own trenches by pennies, and later by pewter medallions. [1]

When Edward Harrison exhibited his ‘eoliths’ at the Royal Anthropological Institute, Tylor took me to the meeting as a visitor. We dined with the ‘Pagans’ at Pagani’s in Great Portland Street. Sir John Evans was very scornful of ‘eoliths’: cynical persons said that Harrison had not given him any. Pitt Rivers welcomed them, showing how they were fitted to the hand, and how the flaking resulted from use. His demonstrations were very bad for his malacca cane. Tylor himself was cautious in approval. It was a lively evening.[2]

When the Diploma in Anthropology was established, the Committee naturally prescribed Pitt Rivers’ own lectures for study. But the United Services Journals in which they had been published were quite out of print; so the Clarendon Press agreed to publish a collected edition. Balfour wrote a preface, and I, as Secretary to the Committee, saw them through the press. Pitt Rivers was very careless about his references, but with the help of a lady working in the Bodleian, we recovered them all. He made much use of the works of a German writer Klemm, who had indeed anticipated him on many points. Knowing nothing of Klemm, I consulted Tylor, who had known him, with picturesque details, and had his complete works. In these he showed me the pencil notes which he had written for the use of Pitt Rivers; so the essays were corrected from the identical copy of Klemm. Pitt Rivers’ versions of Klemm’s German were sometimes very odd; and often they only gave the sense of a long passage, with the footnote ‘see Klemm.' As Klemm wrote about twenty thick volumes, this would have meant much labour without Tylor’s clue. The Evolution of Culture appeared only a day or two before Michaelmas Term, 1906. [Myres, 1953: 5-6]

[1] this happened in 1898

[2] this happened in 1891

AP, April 2011, dates of meetings with Pitt-Rivers added in November 2011.


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