David Peacock was born in Peterborough on 14 January 1939 and educated at the Stamford School for Boys before going on to a BSc and a PhD in geology at the University of St Andrews. He gained a research fellowship in archaeology at the University of Birmingham (1965-68) and then moved to the University of Southampton until retirement in 2004, serving as professor of archaeology from 1990, head of archaeology (1998-2003) and deputy dean for the Faculty of Humanities (2000-2001).
In the 1970s, Professor Peacock worked with the British United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation excavations at Carthage in Tunisia and became fascinated by Roman amphorae. One of his crucial insights was to realise that traditional potteries may help us understand ceramic production in the Roman and medieval periods. His conclusions were published in the highly influential study Pottery in the Roman World: an Ethnoarchaeological Approach (1982), and Amphorae and the Roman Economy. An Introductory Guide (with David Williams, 1986).
Always keen to build bridges between archaeology and science, Professor Peacock demonstrated how thin-section analysis of pottery could upset assumptions based on stylistic considerations and how distribution studies could illuminate unexpected patterns of trade.
Professor Peacock later turned his attention to Egypt. He helped excavate two of the greatest quarries of the Roman Empire at Mons Claudianus (1987-93) and Mons Porphyrites (1994-98). He proved that Quseir al-Qadim was the long-lost Myos Hormos, Rome’s principal Red Sea port for trading with the Arabian peninsula and India. And he drew on his fieldwork at these three sites to produce a highly accessible survey of Roman Egypt in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (edited by Ian Shaw, 2000).
Professor Peacock also worked on millstones, which can reveal a great deal about food production and trade, as he showed in his definitive study The Stone of Life (2013). His eminence was recognised by a Kenyon Medal from the British Academy in 2011 and a prestigious Pomerance Award from the Archaeological Institute of America in 2012.
Simon Keay, associate dean of research in the Faculty of Humanities, recalled Professor Peacock as a scholar notable for “his sharp mind, warmth, supportiveness to colleagues and students and brilliant sense of humour. He will be fondly remembered as an inveterate traveller and ‘explorer’, always looking for something new to discover in far distant and unfamiliar territory.”
Professor Peacock died on 15 March and is survived by his wife Barbara and son Andrew.