Professor Lech Krzyżaniak died on the 10th July 2004, bringing to a premature end his active involvement in the field of archaeology.
Lech Krzyżaniak was born on the 8th February 1940. He graduated in archaeology from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (1962). At the same university he presented his doctoral thesis (1968) and obtained his habilitation (1975). He was nominated a professor in 1992. Lech Krzyżaniak was educated in the field of prehistory. While he was still a student, he began working in the Archaeological Museum in Poznań, where he stayed to the end of his life, spending 22 years as its director.
At the beginning of his career as a researcher he carried out archaeological excavations in Poland. However, in 1966 he developed an interest in the prehistory of north-eastern Africa, and thenceforth remained faithful to these issues to the end of his life.
From the very beginning he was closely associated with the Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology, Warsaw University, commonly known as “the Station”, directed by Professor Kazimierz Michałowski. He began to familiarise himself with research in Africa by participating in excavations of the Roman theatre in Alexandria, and at the medieval Christian site of Old Dongola in Sudan. Soon, however, as an educated and keen prehistorian, he began research into the Khartoum Neolithic at Kadero near Khartoum in co-operation with the Warsaw Station, on a concession received from the Sudan Antiquities Service. There he conducted modern, multidisciplinary excavations of the settlement and adjoining rich cemetery. These ceased only with his death. He also organised an archaeological survey along the Blue Nile up to Roseires, which resulted in the discovery of a rich prehistoric settlement dating to different periods. Systematic excavations that began here were brought to a close as a consequence of the political situation at the time.
Recently, Lech Krzyżaniak was engaged intensively in organising rescue excavations in the Fourth Cataract region, an area that will be flooded as a result of the completion of the Merowe Dam.
The other significant area of Lech’s interest was the study of prehistoric rock art. He undertook research in 1980, in the massif of Tassili in Algeria, but here also research was stopped due to political upheaval in the country. Lech returned to prehistoric art at the beginning of the 1990s, when in co-operation with the Dakhleh Oasis Project, he began studying the rich rock engravings in Dakhleh Oasis in the Egyptian Western Desert.
His research results brought appreciation in the academic milieu; hence, he was invited to participate in various research projects. In 1978, he commenced a perennial co-operation with the expedition from the Egyptian Museum in Munich, first excavating the cemetery in Minshat Abu Omar in the eastern Delta dated to the predynastic and early dynastic periods, and since 1995 excavating the Meroitic site of Naqa near the Sixth Cataract in Sudan, on behalf of the State Museum in Berlin.
Joint research with the German expedition turned out to be of the utmost importance for Lech’s life because it is there that he met his future wife. Karla Kroeper, also an archaeologist, was most dedicated to him, and with her Lech experienced the happiest years of his life.
For a couple of seasons he also participated in the expedition of Washington State University at the Old Kingdom site in Kom el-Hisn in the western Delta.
Although deeply engaged in fieldwork, Lech Krzyżaniak also carried out intensive research. He is the author of an impressive number of papers, more than 200, as well as several books. He also attended many conferences. He was the chief organiser of seven international symposia on the prehistory of north-eastern Africa, recognised in the archaeological milieu as the “Dymaczewo Conferences”. He was invited to deliver lectures in a number of countries in both the old and new world. Having great experience of museum issues, gained during many years of activity in that field, he was appointed as an UNESCO expert on the Nubia Museum in Aswan and the future Museum of the Egyptian Civilisation in Cairo.
His activity was widely acknowledged, as witnessed by invitations to become a member of different institutions and scientific bodies, the most important being membership of the Executive Committee and Permanent Committee of the International Union for Pre- and Protohistorical Sciences (UISPP). He was chairman of its 24th Scientific Committee. He was also a member of the International Society for Nubian Studies, a member and for many years chairman of the Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology, Warsaw University, and a member of the Committee for Pre-and Protohistoric Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences.
In recognition of his merits, he was awarded a number of decorations, among which he especially appreciated the Order of the Two Niles – the highest decoration awarded to foreigners by the government of Sudan.
Throughout his life Lech Krzyżaniak endeavoured to create an important centre of African prehistory studies in Poznań, and he succeeded. He left behind him numerous collaborators and students and his goals will certainly be pursued.
He treated his service for science as a duty, but also as a great adventure. He was most happy when faced with a difficult challenge. He was a kind of romantic, albeit he would probably not have agreed with such a view. It may be that these traits, along with his kindness, sociability, modesty and sense of humour, attracted to him people who formed a group marked by its team spirit.
He departed this life too early. It is a great loss for science and also for his family, friends and colleagues. His work and our remembrance of him will last for a long time.
Non omnis moriar.
by Michał Kobusiewicz
Sudan & Nubia. The Sudan Archaeological Research Society, Bulletin No. 9:2005, pp. 85-86.