Obituary for Dr Mark Pluciennik

Posted by pt91 at May 20, 2016 11:52 AM |

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our former colleague and friend to many, Dr Mark Pluciennik, who passed away after a long illness on Saturday, 7 May.

Mark was born in Enfield in 1953. His early careers were as a youth worker and journalist in London, Cornwall, Yorkshire, South Wales, and elsewhere. He studied at the University of Sheffield where he completed his PhD on the later prehistoric landscape of South Italy and Sicily (1990-1994). Fellow postgraduate student, Dr Chris Cumberpatch remembers Mark as ‘one of the leading thinkers in the Department of Archaeology and Prehistory in the late 1980s and early 1990s … His clarity of thought and expression enabled him not only to enter into and often lead debates but also to render complex issues accessible to those where were less familiar with the concepts involved.’  Mary Ann Owoc, who studied with Mark throughtout his undergraduate and postgraduate studies remembers Mark’s combination of an ‘incredibly serious approach to archaeology, politics, and life with a lighthearted, contagious sense of humor, excellent taste, and the highest standards in literature.’  Mark was a Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome (1992-1993). He threw himself into the intellectual life of this city, combining his own research with explorations of Baroque architecture and sculpture and the architectural legacy of fascism, as well as visits to rural churches in his far-from-pristine Lada car.

Mark was appointed as a lecturer the Department of Archaeology at the University of Wales, Lampeter, in 1996 and joined the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester in 2003, as Director of Distance Learning and Lecturer in Archaeology. Under Mark’s leadership the scope of the Distance Learning programme expanded rapidly, both in terms of the provision and student numbers, and the BA Archaeology degree came to fruition. Mark had a very hands-on approach as director of Distance Learning, making sure he got to know the student cohort, who found his positivity and commitment inspiring. His best efforts were devoted to making sure that things worked out for them, whatever their ambitions; and that the institution valued them appropriately.  Years after he retired, many remember their encounters with him as highly motivating, sometimes life changing. His colleagues in the Distance Learning team also knew that he was more than prepared to put his head above the parapet when necessary, whether in defence of good policy and practice or in support of individual staff.  Mark also made a major contribution to archaeology distance learning pedagogy and innovation nationally through his membership of the editorial board of Research in Archaeological Education and the Standing Committee on Archaeology and Continuing Education. He was in regular demand as a speaker at national and international conferences on e-learning developments as well as for his research. The School owes him an immense debt for his strong commitment to distance learning and widening participation in archaeology and his energy and persistence in making sure things happened.

Mark’s research interests were wide-ranging, particularly on the European scale. These include the transition to farming in Europe, including the genetic dimensions; Mediterranean landscapes; archaeological theory and philosophy including politics and ethics; the European dimension to contemporary archaeology; the historiography of social evolution especially in relation to hunter-gatherer societies, the subject of his internationally acclaimed 2005 book Social Evolution; and pedagogy and archaeology. As well as being a renowned archaeological theoretician Mark was committed to fieldwork, particularly in Sicily. Notably, he co-directed The Archaeology of the Torcicoda Valley, a British Academy-funded field and excavation project in the area of Enna, central Sicily, which identified sites from the Neolithic to post-medieval period. This multi-period survey includes post-unification mills and their associated buildings; agricultural and pastoral landscapes and those of recent land reform, in conjunction with archival and ethnohistoric work. Mark also worked with Richard Hodges' on the archaeology in Albania after Kosovo.

In retirement and in keeping with his political perspectives, Mark joined the Green Party and in spite of his increasing ill health acted as a party agent in the 2015 elections. His love of good food, and concern for the lack of a readily available source of good quality sausages also led him, after retirement, into the world of dry-cured meat and sausage manufacture, providing many of his friends and colleagues with his delicious and diverse range of salamis.

Mark has left an important legacy of ‘energetic kindness’ that we hope will long remain with us. Above all, he was someone who ‘gave a damn’ and made a difference.

Our thoughts remain with his partner, Sarah Tarlow, and their children, Adam, Gregory and Rachel.

Written by the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, and former fellow students from the University of Sheffield

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