The Plymouth Colony Archive Project

Remembering Jim

By Alison Bell & Coy Barefoot
December 2000

Prof. Deetz playing banjo at Flowerdew Hundred site, 1981
Photograph by Karlen Luke

He kept snakes and fish and had a knack for identifying rare species of butterflies. He could work magic in the kitchen and loved it when the aroma of gumbo, curry, or spicy peanut sauce filled the house. He had an incredibly green thumb, and doted on his flowers like a mother hen. He was a consummate fan of the Weather Channel, never tired of My Cousin Vinny, and thought Barney Fife was the man.

He loved jigsaw puzzles, rockabilly music, folk art, and South African wine. He treasured his Hopi baskets, his banjos, his antique English ceramics, and his stamp collection. He hated arrogance, deplored injustice, and had little patience for people who took themselves too seriously.

He believed in cowboy hats and bolo ties, dinner candles and cloth napkins, hospitality, graciousness, and the value of irreverence. He was never afraid to break into a whooping rendition of "I'm a Little Teapot," complete with hand gestures.

He was fascinated by the remarkable, amused by the wacky, and intrigued by the everyday. He was committed to his students, to his work, and to the truth. He encouraged those around him to excellence, and he led by example.

Jim Deetz was so much more than the internationally renowned archaeologist who revolutionized the way we think about history; he was more than the prolific writer who gave us the American classic In Small Things Forgotten; and he was more than the scholar who taught us that good archaeology and good history are always about people and their lives -- not about broken pottery or pipe stems. Jim was an extraordinary man who lived his life in awe of the human experience. Those of us who were fortunate to call him friend will forever treasure the memories.


A memorial fund has been established in Jim's honor to further promote the efforts of the Plimoth Plantation Living History Museum. Donations may be sent to:

James F. Deetz Fund
Plimoth Plantation
P.O. Box 1620
Plymouth, MA USA 02362

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Patricia Scott Deetz and Christopher Fennell