Professor Simon Keay, 1954-2021

The BSR is profoundly sad to announce the passing of one of its most esteemed members, Simon Keay, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at the University of Southampton, on 7 April, after a long illness. 

Many colleagues and friends of the BSR will be familiar with Simon’s work from his enduring study and classification of Roman Amphorae. It was through this research, which involved a close study of trade in the Mediterranean, that he became fascinated by ports and commerce. It was this that brought him to Rome and began his long and close relationship with the BSR. In 1997, following his commencement of work at Falerii Novi, Simon was invited by Italian colleagues to begin research at Portus, the Imperial port of Rome. Commencing with a major geophysical survey in 1998, Simon spent the following 23 years investigating aspects of the port, beginning major excavations at the site in 2007. In 2018 he was appointed to the scientific advisory committee of the Parco Archeologico di Ostia on which he served with great enthusiasm and scholarship. More recently, Simon opened out his study to ports across the whole of the Mediterranean Sea, and the books on this, mostly published in the BSR archaeology series, are still coming out. Together with a wide network of colleagues and friends he pioneered the practice of geophysical research as a non-invasive method of investigating sites in Italy on a wide scale, and his legacy at the BSR is now a highly specialised group regularly applying these techniques throughout Italy and the Mediterranean. 

Simon was a kind and generous man, full of life and energy. He was active, despite his illness, in helping us, until a few days before his death. The School owes him an incalculable amount. We send our deeply-felt condolences to Nina, James and Leo, and we are getting messages from all over demonstrating the high regard in which he was held. We will commemorate him properly, once we have got over the shock of his passing. 

Stephen Kay, Chris Wickham.

Photo by Antonio Palmieri