In Memory of Ross Thomas

We were deeply saddened to learn that Ross Thomas (curator in the department of Greece and Rome and long-time ITP departmental representative and Object in focus mentor) passed away unexpectedly on 14 November 2022.

Ross was a stalwart archaeologist specialising in ancient maritime networks and technologies (University of Southampton PhD 2009). A leading specialist in Roman Eastern Mediterranean and Red Sea port communities, he also published widely on the Hellenistic and Nubian worlds, having undertaken fieldwork on land in the UK, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan and the UAE and underwater in Israel and Egypt. He led fieldwork at several sites, including as Co-Director of the Red Sea Wrecks Survey (2010-2011) and Director of the British Museum Naukratis Fieldwork Project (2012-present).

Ross joined the Museum in 2011 as a Project Curator on the Naukratis Project, before becoming a Curator of Roman Collections in 2016. He was committed to public and professional service. Ross was a keen supporter of students, especially those from less privileged backgrounds, organising annual Museum placements. He also served on the boards of several grant-giving bodies and as a trustee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, Roman Society and, most recently, the Brading Roman Villa, on the Isle of Wight, a site perched above the family home where he grew up and an inspiration for his future career.

Ross standing with ITP colleagues

Many of our ITP fellows will have worked with Ross over the years – either in the department of Greece and Rome or on their Object in focus projects.  He was a passionate supporter of the ITP and always wanted to give colleagues coming to the Museum as enriching and fulfilling experience of the Museum and its collections as possible.  Ross gave great thought and consideration to the departmental programmes he put together – ensuring they were a platform for discussion and potential future collaboration.  He was always keen that part of his programme was fellow-led and thought creatively to ensure sessions met fellows wants and needs, leaving latter parts of the programme flexible to give the delegates access to specific collections that were aligned with their interests and expertise.  This was greatly appreciated by our fellows who always agreed that their department time was a highlight of their programme.

Ross also wanted his programme to include time for fascinating and fun visits outside of the museum.  Whether that was taking the fellows to Portsmouth to visit the historic naval dockyards to compare the different display strategies and narratives within the Mary Rose and HMS Victory or to the William Morris Gallery to consider new approaches to interpretation, design and display which were guided by their audiences.

ITP group stand in front of the Mary Rose

Ross was wonderful to work with on the ITP Annual Programmes.  He was always happy to share his considerable skills and knowledge with our fellows and to support the team in any way he could.  He found the programme both stimulating and inspiring and worked hard to ensure it continued to have a positive impact on maintaining good relations with his fellows, their museums and various antiquities services across the world.

Ross was just 44 years old and is survived by his two children, 7 and 4, his wife, parents and brother.  He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.

Below are just some of the many messages and memories we received from our ITP global network.  Messages came from across the world which I think shows the wide impact that Ross had on our ITP family and the esteem in which he was held.

Ross stands next to a one object museum display proposal and ITP colleague

I’ve just heard the sad news about Ross. I am so sorry. I remember that we had a wonderful trip to William Morris Museum and then had an amazing pizza lunch all together. During my ITP time, he was so kind and supportive. He was not only a museum curator but also a teacher to me at that time.

Irem Yildiz, DPhil Student, University of Oxford

So sad and shocked when I knew about the passing of Ross.

My relationship with Ross hadn’t started with the ITP but before that since 2008 when we worked together in excavation at Kom Firin and at Naucratis in Egypt.

Ross was a dear friend and I have never seen like him.  He was so helpful, generous and a brilliant archaeologist. He was one of the best supporters for me during my masters and he was so happy for me when I got it.

We always met when he came to Egypt for excavation and he visited me at my home many times.

He hosted me in the British Museum two years ago during the exhibition of TUTANKHAMEN in London and I hosted him in the exhibition.

Ross is a person you will never meet like him.  In the last email between us he was so happy that he almost finished the book and publication of Naucratis project which I had contributed to.

Ross was the right person in the right place always.

My sincere condolences for his family, loved-ones and friends.  We will miss a great archaeologist and a polite person.

But it is the life we must leave

Rest in peace my dear friend.

Mohamed Aly, Inspector: Archaeology, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Egypt

I feel very sad and shocked at the same time and I don’t want to believe that this is true. He was an amazing person with exceptional knowledge of archaeology, true friend, best host for ITP ever and his sense of humor will not be forgotten! My sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. I will miss him so much.

Aleksandra Chevreska, Senior Curator of Iron Age Collection, National Archaeological Museum of Republic of North Macedonia

Ross standing with ITP colleagues

So very very sad to hear about Ross. He was incredibly knowledgeable and generous with his time when he mentored us during the ITP 2018. Such a nice man who I am sure he will be missed by many.  My thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues. May his memory be eternal.

Amalia Kakissis, Archivist, British School of Athens, Greece

I am so sorry and shocked to hear this news! We appreciated so much Ross during the ITP 2017! Always kind and knowledgeable! My sincere condolences to his family, his wife and young children!

Lena Lambrinou , Architect – Archaeologist, The Acropolis Monuments Restoration Service, Greece

I am so sorry. I don’t want to believe this. Just last spring we had a great one-month with Ross in the BM. I will miss him so much.

Emrah Kahraman, Curator, Istanbul Archaeological Museum, Turkey