Universiteit Leiden

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In memoriam: Professor David Fontijn (1971-2023)

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our colleague, mentor, and friend prof. David Fontijn this Monday, May 1st, 2023. As he shared with us in October 2022, his health had been deteriorating the last couple of years. While his mind was still sharp as ever, his body struggled to keep up. With his passing, our faculty has lost one of its finest. Our hearts are heavy with grief, and we struggle to find the right words to express the depth of our loss.

David Fontijn (1971-2023)

David was one of the great thinkers in European Prehistory, and his views on Bronze Age depositions have become canonical. He was invited across the world to discuss his ideas and he spearheaded several groundbreaking research projects that have since set the tone and the agenda in this domain. His passion and drive made him a great and creative researcher. Everyone who knew David would instantly recognize the spark in his eyes when he discussed his passion for European Prehistory, particularly the Bronze Age. His passion never left him, and even only a few weeks ago he was still putting the final touches on his book “How the Bronze Age Shaped Europe”.

And it is with this passion that the faculty now loses one of its greatest teachers. Teaching was his calling and he inspired generations of students to think critically about Archaeology, European prehistory, but also their own role in modern society. His skill to inspire entire classrooms of young students to think on why archaeology mattered was a joy to watch. He taught with equal passion whether out in the field, analyzing the intricacies of soil formation processes, or raising some of the fundamental questions, who we are, where we come from and where we are headed.

But perhaps his greatest quality as a teacher was his ability to elevate others and to encourage them to surpass their own expectations. He was a mentor to many, with his door always open and always ready to lend a helping hand. There are likely few individuals who could listen as attentively as David did; and after a brief pause, he always had a knack for asking precisely the right question. David genuinely cared about the people he worked with and those for whom he was responsible. Many of us will recall leaving his office after an intense discussion clearly seeing the solution to a problem they had attempted to crack for weeks. Although it will be challenging, we hope to carry forward his remarkable legacy.

His passions not only limited themselves to archaeology. David was an avid reader and music enthusiast, and he would often engage in conversations about songs, delving into topics like obscure punk bands from the ‘80s, a David Bowie or Radiohead song, modern history, or the streets of Berlin. A talented musician he made one of his final public appearances with his band, rocking on stage with his daughter and surrounded by his bandmates, family, and friends. Perhaps in these difficult times we suggest putting on a song that reminds them of David and cherish his passion.

While we remember David as a great researcher and teacher, we cannot forget that he was simply a genuinely kind man. He brought a positive spirit wherever he went, always amicable, supportive, and thoughtful. He was a fantastic colleague, mentor, and friend.

He will be deeply missed

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