Wilkes Owen

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Owen Wilkes 1940-2005

Owen Wilkes

Owen was born and raised in Christchurch and studied Geology at Canterbury University. He did not complete a degree. Never the less he had gained through that a strong commitment to objective science that he displayed throughout his life. He had a strong outdoor bent and it was through this that he took up an interest in archaeology. An early associate was Tony Fomison. In 1963 he joined Canterbury Museum as a field archaeologist. Excavations at Wairau Bar and Heaphy River resulted. At this time and later he was filekeeper for the site recording scheme for Canterbury, Nelson / Marlborough and Westland.

He fell out with museum director Roger Duff in the course of archaeological work in the Cook Islands in 1964 and left the museum.

Periods as a field researcher in entomology followed, as well as other field roles mostly outside archaeology but then a major shift to peace and environmental activisim in New Zealand and for a period in Scandanavia. He was a formidable researcher often finding material that Governments thought they had kept secret. He can be credited with a material part of New Zealand shifting to an anti-nuclear stance. He is also credited as the author of The First New Zealand Whole Earth Catalogue (Published Alister Taylor 1972).

From 1995 onwards he returned to archaeology working for a period for the Department of Conservation in Hamilton and filled the role of Waikato filekeeper. His passion for fieldwork was unabated and many new and updated records resulted in this period.

Owen was a passionate individualist, but never egotistical. He was generous with his time and knowledge in helping others where he thought it worthwhile.

He was at times afflicted with depression and this with the onset of some physical disabilities is believed to be what made him take his own life.

He was awarded the inaugural NZAA fieldwork award in 1998.


Ritchie, N. 2005 "Better To Go Now": Owen Wilkes 1940-2005. Archaeology in New Zealand 48(3):221-241.

Gordon Campbell 2005 Listener May 28-June 3 2005 Vol 198 No 3394. Online

Obituary: Owen Wilkes By Phoebe Falconer New Zealand Herald 11 May 2005 Online.




1959 Wairau Bar. New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter 3(l):3-4.

1960 Site survey of west Nelson. New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter 4(1):22-31.

1962 Notes from Canterbury. New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter 5(2):110-111.

1964 Further work at South Bay. New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter 1(3):129-132,128.

1995 Site recording, site types and site distribution on the King Country coastline. Archaeology in New Zealand 38(4): 236-256.

1996 Review of F.L. Philips, Nga Tohu a Tainui: Landmarks of Tainui, Vol.2. Tohu Publishers, Otorohonga, 1995. Archaeology in New Zealand 39(2): 149-152.

1997a The Waikato site file: A stocktaking. Archaeology in New Zealand 40(1):33-39.

1997b. Archaeology in the Waikato: Some history. Archaeology in New Zealand, 40(2):143-158.

1998 Another look at stone structures near Mount Karioi. Archaeology in New Zealand 41(1): 65-74.

2000a. Excavation of a pa, R14/52 near Raglan: A Belated Report. Archaeology in New Zealand 43(1): 49-72.

2002b. Were moas really hunted to extinction in less than 100 years? Archaeology in New Zealand 43 (2): 112-120.

- and R J Scarlett

1964 Further Heaphy River excavations. New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter 1(3):1128.

1967 Excavation of a moa-hunter site at the mouth of the Heaphy River. Records of the Canterbury Museum VIII (3): 177–208.

- and R J Scarlett and George Boraman 1963 New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter Two moa-hunter sites in north-west Nelson. 6(2):88-93.

- and G M Mason

1963 Dashing Rocks, Timaru: a preliminary note on excavations – site Slll/1.6 New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter (2):95-98.

1963 Tumbledown Bay - a Banks Peninsula moa-hunter site S94/30. New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter 6(2):98-100.