Dr Paul Croft

Dr Paul Croft is a British archaeozoologist and field archaeologist. He is the manager of the Lemba Archaeological Research Centre and a resident of Cyprus.

Besides participating in several excavations in the Middle East, Paul is involved in many Cypriot Archaeological Projects and has excavated at and analysed material from sites such as Kissonerga, Kalavassos Ayios Dhimitrios, and one of the Hellenistic rock-cut tomb complexes at the Tombs of the Kings to name but a few. As manager of the Lemba Centre, he is also maintaining the reconstructed Chalcolithic houses at the Lemba Experimental Village.

What first sparked your passion for archaeology?

One summer, many years ago, a fascinating group of people arrived and based themselves in my quiet Northamptonshire village, and immediately engaged the interest of my 9 year-old self. They were archaeologists, university students and a few "grown-ups", who came to excavate several local sites. I attached myself to their group and they kindly incorporated me into their odd way of life and exciting activities. I was allowed to clean finds, graduated to pot-mending, and quite soon promoted to assistant digger, alongside the students who seemed to me almost heroic figures. I was smitten with them and with digging, and from that time on I never doubted that archaeology would feature somehow in my life. But the thought of pursuing this odd activity for a living didn't occur to me until quite a few years later.

What does archaeology mean to you?

Only when I began to study something else at university (no offense to geography) did I realize that archaeology was what I really wanted to immerse myself in. At this stage of life I came to understand that nothing engaged my interest as much as trying to puzzle out probable meanings of the fragmentary evidence that archaeology, especially prehistory, and particularly the bones of animals, brings to light. Thus a childhood infatuation became a quasi-adult way of life that has persisted for decades.

What is the most interesting experience you have had leading an Andante tour?

I'm pleased to relate that the Andante tours I have led in recent years have been mercifully free of high drama. Tours that I conducted in my youth, however, were not always incident-free. On one of my early attempts at tour-leading a guest rolled over an interesting stone on a site we were visiting and was promptly stung by the scorpion that lived beneath it, requiring his speedy removal to Limassol hospital. This story had a happy ending. On another occasion I undertook to carry a guest, a somewhat hydrophobic nun, on my back across the fast-flowing stream that separated our coach from the site to be visited. The nun, it turned out, was not entirely averse to all forms of liquid, and a raucous review of my successful completion of the task (return journey) late that evening in the taverna temporarily earned me the honorary appellation of Saint Christopher. Andante tours that I have led subsequently have not included venomous attacks or the need to carry guests - at least not yet.

What is your favourite archaeological site?

Having begun my archaeological journey digging in southern England, both before and after university, I later excavated and studied animal bones in numerous places in Europe and the Near East. However, my main focus of attention over many years has been Cyprus. This island has many great sites - some great to visit and others unprepossessing but still great because of the insights that they have provided. It is probably impossible for me to decide on a favourite, but just possibly I'll have made this difficult decision by the tine I lead my next Andante tour.

How many tours have you led for Andante?

Quite a few. Like age, the count of tours led is just a number.

Have you written any books or featured in any TV programs?

As a freelance field archaeologist and zooarchaeologist I have not had paid sabbatical leave like university staff, and have never found the time to write a whole big book - but I have authored bits of numerous books. Cyprus, where I have mainly worked and lived for decades, is a small country and almost everyone gets to be on TV at some point. I have appeared on local TV occasionally explaining field projects that I have conducted, and even featured in an American documentary film that debated the reality or mythical nature of Noah's ark (Search for Noah's Ark. Darlow Smith Productions 2008).