Dr. Wailes, Anthropology and the Penn Museum

Dr. Bernard Wailes, associate professor emeritus of anthropology and associate curator emeritus of European archaeology at the Penn Museum, passed away March 30, 2012, in London, England. He would have turned 78 on April 3.

Dr. Wailes was director of excavations at the major Iron Age "royal" site of Dun Ailinne in Co. Kildare, Ireland, from 1968 to 1975 but will be best remembered for his lasting influence on European archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania and in the United States.

Born in St. Mawgan, Cornwall, he attended the University of Cambridge (St. Catharine's College) where he received his BA (1957), MA (1961), and PhD (1964). Although his areas of expertise spanned later prehistoric to early historic Europe, Ireland in particular, he maintained a profound interest in the entire field of archaeology throughout his life.

His breadth of knowledge served him well when he came to Penn in 1961 where he initiated the University's distinctive interdisciplinary program in European archaeology and field methods. This program took many forms over the years, with Dr. Wailes serving as chair at various times for the graduate groups of classical archaeology, ancient history, and art and archaeology of the Mediterranean World. He was also involved in curriculum committees on such varied subjects as medieval studies, environmental studies and radiocarbon dating.

Dr. Wailes became associate curator of the European archaeology section of the Penn Museum in 1970 after this collection was made separate from the Mediterranean section. He also served as editor of the Museum's magazine, Expedition, from 1978 to 1987. He was one of the first Senior Fellows of the Louis J. Kolb Society, which supports the research of promising Penn graduate students in academic disciplines related to the museum's mission.

In 1996, he edited a volume on Craft Specialization and Social Evolution in memory of the archaeological giant V. Gordon Childe, from whom he traced his intellectual lineage. Many former students of Dr. Wailes - themselves now prominent scholars of ancient Europe in the US and abroad - came together in 2000 for a symposium at the Penn Museum in honor of their mentor, attesting to his enduring legacy and contributions to the discipline.

Dr. Wailes received a distinguished teaching award from the College of General Studies in 1996 and retired officially in 1999, but continued to advise students, write and travel. In 2007, he co-authored Don Ailinne: Excavations at an Irish Royal Site 1968-1975 (with Dr. Susan Johnston from George Washington University), the definitive monograph on his work at Don Ailinne, and was guest of honor at the dedication of a new interpretive park at the site in 2008.

“He will be deeply missed by his family and innumerable friends, students and colleagues,” said Dr. Robert Preucel, Sally and Alvin V. Shoemaker Professor and chair of anthropology.

Dr. Wailes is survived by his sons, Matthew, Thomas and William.

A memorial service will be held at the Penn Museum, details pending.