- Donn Bayard (1940-2002):Outstanding Southeast Asian Archaeologist and Much More
Donn Bayard died on September 14, 2002, in Dunedin at the age of 62. With his death, a very important Southeast Asian archaeologist passed away, one who had played a central role in the ferment the field experienced in the 1960s and 1970s. However, no matter how important his contributions were to Southeast Asian archaeology, they constituted only a limited segment of this remarkable man's career and life.
I first met Donn Bayard in the spring of 1969, when I came to the University of Hawai'i for graduate studies. Donn was one of two advanced graduate students of Bill Solheim's who had worked with him in Thailand and were part of the exciting discoveries and claims arising from that work. The other student was Chester Gorman. In many ways, Chet and Donn made an unlikely pair, but they shared a few things in common. One was their excitement about their work in Thailand, another was their dedication to Solheim, and a third was their low opinion of anything that had to do with establishment.
Bayard was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in Chicago, a background that would underlie his life-long concern for social justice. He won a small scholarship to Columbia University, where he tried out chemistry and geology, but eventually settled on anthropology, receiving his B.A. in 1961. Columbia offered a heady intellectual atmosphere that suited Bayard's critical mind, but the cost of attending this private school was prohibitive. After literally starving through his years at Columbia, Bayard came to the University of Hawai'i in 1963, where he first focused on linguistics, an interest that would reemerge years later. He had not only a true gift for languages but, more importantly, he was deeply interested in the meaning of words and how they were used in social contexts. His study of the "fire rocket song" in Northeastern Thailand, while he was doing archaeological fieldwork there, is an example of this interest, which eventually led him to sociolinguistics. Bayard completed his master's degree in linguistic anthropology in 1966 with a thesis on "The Cultural Relationship among the Polynesian Outliers."
Meanwhile, however, Bill Solheim had begun his archaeological survey program in Thailand, based on the very simple notion that almost nothing was known about the prehistory of that country and that an effort should be made to close that gap. With funding from the National Science Foundation, Solheim [End Page 1] initiated a "salvage archaeology" program in Northeastern Thailand, organized in collaboration between the University of Hawai'i and the Fine Arts Department of Thailand. Gorman worked with Solheim in this program from the start; Bayard joined in the third season, after test excavations during the second season suggested that bronze artifacts at one of the sites, originally called Nam Phong 7 and later referred to as Non Nok Tha, had considerable antiquity predating the presence of iron. These findings were surprising, since traditional opinion held that metals had been introduced relatively late into Southeast Asia from sources in China and India, in conjunction with the advances of Chinese and Indian civilizations into the eastern and western portions of the subcontinent respectively. More intensive excavations became urgent.
In search of good graduate students to help pursue the expanded program, Solheim attracted Donn Bayard into archaeology and assigned him to take on a major excavation of Non Nok Tha in September 1965. He paired the relatively inexperienced student with the highly experienced and sophisticated field excavator Hamilton Parker from Dunedin, New Zealand. The excavation yielded fascinating materials but, due to the extremely hard sediments and complex stratigraphy, progress was very slow. After seven months, work had to be stopped, even though the team had been unable to penetrate the lower levels of the site in most of the area opened up. Thus, Bayard returned to Non Nok Tha in 1968, this time with a National Science Foundation grant of his own, to continue the excavation as his doctoral dissertation fieldwork.
Bayard's dissertation, entitled "A Course Toward What? Evolution, Development and Change at...