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In Memoriam

Jean-Louis Huot (1939-2023)

Luc Bachelot, Catherine Breniquet, Yves Calvet, Victoria de Castéja, Dominique Charpin, Christine Kepinski, Joël Suire et Régis Vallet
p. 5-8

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Fig. 1 – Jean-Louis Huot, Larsa (Iraq), 1987.

Fig. 1 – Jean-Louis Huot, Larsa (Iraq), 1987.

J. Suire

1Jean-Louis Huot passed away in Paris on April 26, 2023, in his eighty-fourth year. He was a pillar of French Near and Middle Eastern archaeology; our community is in mourning.

2Born in Sens on September 3, 1939, Jean-Louis Huot devoted his life to the teaching and practice of Near and Middle Eastern archaeology, cruising with authority this vast field from Anatolia to the Iranian borders, from the Neolithic to Hellenization. Attracted by the Middle East, his meeting with Jean Deshayes, who had just inaugurated the first university chair of Oriental archaeology in Lyon, was decisive for his vocation as an archaeologist and orientalist. He received a scholarship at the Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem (1965–1966), a stay in the Levant that Henri Seyrig extended for three years by appointing him a resident at the French Institute of Archaeology in Beirut (1966–1969).

3His teachers in Jerusalem and then in Beirut were Father de Vaux, Henri Seyrig, and Daniel Schlumberger. There he made his debut in the field, with Henri de Contenson in Ramad (Syria, Neolithic) and James Pritchard in Sa’idiyeh (Jordan, Iron Age), and began his doctoral thesis on Early Bronze Age Anatolian monochrome smoothed ceramics (1979) under the supervision of Jean Deshayes. A traditional field of archaeology, ceramic studies sought to establish main regional typological classifications; today’s “ceramology” did not yet exist. The one set by Jean-Louis for Anatolia in the third millennium, published by Geuthner in 1982, is still authoritative.

4On his return from the Near East in October 1969, Jean-Louis joined Jean Deshayes as Assistant Professor, then Lecturer, at the Institute of Art and Archaeology on rue Michelet in Paris (Sorbonne, then Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne). In 1980, he succeeded Jean Deshayes, who had died prematurely the previous year, as Professor of Near and Middle Eastern Archaeology, and in 1983, Jean-Paul Thalmann was elected as Associate Professor, who taught at his side until his retirement in 2010.

5In the field, after his beginnings in the Levant, Jean-Louis learned his trade at the large site of Tureng Tepe, in the Gorgan Plain on the north-eastern borders of Iran, where he assisted Jean Deshayes during eight campaigns (1963–1971). However, in Mesopotamia, he finally fixed his attention for a long time and gave his full measure. After two campaigns at Larsa with Jean Margueron, he took over the leadership in 1974. This was the beginning of great years for Middle Eastern archaeology. His actions were decisive for the revival of French research in Iraq. In Larsa, he had a scientific team working in a desert environment in conditions that make us shudder today, cut off from the outside world, in a house that had been looted three times and had to be cleared of sand for each campaign. Jean-Louis first continued the excavation of the E.babbar, the great temple of Shamash, the city’s Poliad divinity, which he revealed in all its extent over nearly 300 m long with the adjoining ziggurat. From 1985 onwards, the discovery of earlier aerial photographs taken by Georg Gerster (in 1973) was an opportunity to take an interest in the housing and urban planning of Larsa, through excavations (B27, B33, B54) and surveys that discovered the main structural lines of the site and laid the foundations of the current work. In 1976, he opened the nearby site of Tell el ’Uwaily (Tell el ’Oueili), which had been discovered in 1967 by André Parrot and Robert McCormick Adams, and revolutionised our knowledge of Mesopotamian prehistory. In 1983, an unsuspected phase of the Ubaid culture, dubbed “Ubaid 0”, was discovered there, enabling to date back to the seventh millennium the sedentary occupation of the region. In 1984, Jean-Louis was the organiser of an international conference in Paris on the Prehistory of Mesopotamia (Préhistoire de la Mésopotamie, CNRS).

6In 1977, Jean-Louis obtained from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs the creation of the French Archaeological Delegation in Iraq (DAFIq). This rear base with a house in Baghdad and one or two archaeologists and architects in residence, which he directed from Paris with the help of Victoria de Castéja, enabled French researchers to participate, for the first time, in the international rescue campaigns launched by the Iraqi authorities: Jebel Hamrin, Haditha, Eski Mosul. Between 1977 and 1990, thanks to the DAFIq, the number of sites operated by the French increased from two (Larsa and ’Uwaily) to a dozen, covering almost all periods, from Prehistory to Islam.

7The tragic events that shook Iraq from 1990 onwards brought all field activities to an abrupt halt, but the harvest of accumulated data naturally did not go untapped. It was time to publish the results and the major summaries. Those from Larsa and ‘Uwaily were published in six collective volumes between 1983 and 2003, and in 2014 came the final publication of the Larsa E.babbar.

8As a teacher, Jean-Louis believed that the Near and Middle East form a whole that must be known as a whole. He refused to confine his teaching to a narrow field and took care to deal each year with the most varied themes: The Neolithic of the entire Fertile Crescent, the Early Bronze Age of Anatolia or Mesopotamia, the Mesopotamian archaic glyptic, the Paleo-Babylonian, Kassite, or Neo-Assyrian periods, the Achaemenid Empire, the Indus Harappan civilisation, etc. All the while, he had perfectly integrated research at the heart of his teaching project, entrusting tutorials, seminars, and the direction or co-direction of master’s degrees and theses to fellow researchers. Thus, beyond the natural differences of opinion, he created a real team spirit stimulating the whole collective and, first and foremost, the young people. It was as a teacher that most of us had the chance to cross paths with him. He was an exceptional, passionate, and exciting teacher, whose vocation remained intact until the last day. Charismatic, attached by a singular bond to each of his students, he had a sense of repartee and gave a profoundly human dimension to all his functions. His caustic but always benevolent humour peppered our exchanges. For many of us, he became a role model, a mentor, a friend, almost a relative.

9Jean-Louis took a very active part in the administration of teaching and research. A pillar of the university, he held many positions at Paris I, directing the Department of Art and Archaeology (1981–1984) and the Doctoral School of Archaeology (1990–1999), among other responsibilities. In addition to his duties at the university, he directed his successive research units for thirteen years (URA 8 and ERA 41 of the CNRS Archaeological Research Centre), where he was able to delegate and establish new and effective research projects and relationships of trust, and to instil a collective dynamic that was constantly renewed. He was a member of several scientific committees, including Paléorient (1991 to 1996).

10Jean-Louis was interested in a wide variety of subjects, taking care to cultivate the eclecticism of his field of research. But one theme fascinated him and is certainly the common thread of his work: the City, its formation, structures, and evolution, and this was long before the subject was in vogue. As long ago as 1970, he debunked the pseudo-towns that lay commentators wish to see in certain major Neolithic sites (Çatal Höyük in particular). In addition to being a great field archaeologist, Jean-Louis was a great researcher; he produced nearly 200 scientific publications and about fifteen books, most of which remain references.

11In 1999, he definitively left the Unit of Near and Middle Eastern Archaeology at the Centre Michelet in Paris. He was appointed director of the French Institute of Archaeology of the Near East (IFAPO); in Damascus and Beirut, he was assisted by Michel Mouton until his retirement in 2003, when it merged with other French institutes to form the current Institut Français du Proche-Orient (IFPO).

12After training several generations of researchers and reshaping the landscape of Near and Middle Eastern archaeology in France, Jean-Louis Huot had come to symbolise our discipline in the eyes of many. This work earned him the highest distinctions. He embodied a magisterial scientific tradition that always remained open-minded and was forged in challenging fields. Heirs to this tradition, we continue to pass on this long-lasting, fertile critical thinking and remain nostalgic orphans of these years of training for which we are immensely grateful. Jean-Louis’ passing has plunged his family, his wife Danielle, who accompanied him along his journey, his relatives and all his friends into deep sorrow and has left a huge void in our scientific community.

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Huot J.-L. 1982 – Les céramiques monochromes lissées en Anatolie à l’époque du Bronze Ancien. Paris: Geuthner (Bibliothèque archéologique et historique 111).

Huot J.-L. 1970 – Des villes existent-elles en Orient, dès l’époque néolithique ? Annales ESC, 25-4: 1091–1010, [online]

Huot J.-L. 1989 – Les Sumériens, entre le Tigre et l’Euphrate. Paris: Éditions Errance.

Huot J.-L. 1989 – Ubaidian Villages of Lower Mesopotamia. Permanence and evolution from Ubaid 0 to Ubaid 4 as seen from Tell el ’Oueili. In: Henrickson E. and Thuesen J. (eds), Upon this Foundation. The Ubaid reconsidered: 19–42. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press (CNI Publications 10).

Huot J.-L. 1994 – Les premiers villageois de Mésopotamie, du village à la ville. Paris: Armand Colin (collection U).

Huot J.-L. 2014 – L’E.babbar de Larsa aux IIe et Ier millénaires (fouilles de 1974 à 1985). Beyrouth: Presses de l’IFPO (Bibliothèque archéologique et historique 205).

Huot J.-L. 2019 – Une archéologie des peuples du Proche-Orient, 2 vol. Paris: Éditions Errance.

Huot J.-L. (ed.) 1983 – Larsa et ‘Oueili, Travaux de 1978-1981. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations.

Huot J.-L. (ed.) 1987 – Larsa et ‘Oueili, Travaux de 1983. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations.

Huot J.-L. (ed.) 1987 – Préhistoire de la Mésopotamie. Colloque international « La Mésopotamie préhistorique et l’exploration récente du Djebel Hamrin ». Paris: Éditions du CNRS.

Huot J.-L. (ed.) 1988 – La ville neuve, une idée de l’Antiquité ? Paris: Éditions Errance.

Huot J.-L. (ed.) 1989 – Larsa, Travaux de 1985. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations.

Huot J.-L. (ed.) 1991 – ‘Oueili, Travaux de 1985. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations.

Huot J.-L. (ed.) 1996 – Oueili, Travaux de 1987 et 1989. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations.

Huot J.-L. (ed.) 2003 – Larsa, Travaux de 1987 et 1989. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations.

Huot J.-L. and Delcroix G. 1972 – Les fours dits « de potiers » dans l’Orient ancien. Syria 49: 35–96, [online]

Huot J.-L. and Vallet R. 1990 – Les habitations à salles hypostyles d’époque Obeid 0 de Tell el ‘Oueili. Paléorient 16,1: 125–130, [online]

Huot J.-L., Yon M. and Calvet Y. (eds.) 1985 – De l’Indus aux Balkans, recueil à la mémoire de Jean Deshayes. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations.

Huot J.-L., Thalmann J.-P. and Valbelle D. 1990 – Naissance des cités. Paris: Éditions Nathan.

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Titre Fig. 1 – Jean-Louis Huot, Larsa (Iraq), 1987.
Crédits J. Suire
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Luc Bachelot, Catherine Breniquet, Yves Calvet, Victoria de Castéja, Dominique Charpin, Christine Kepinski, Joël Suire et Régis Vallet, « Jean-Louis Huot (1939-2023) »Paléorient, 49-2 | -1, 5-8.

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Luc Bachelot, Catherine Breniquet, Yves Calvet, Victoria de Castéja, Dominique Charpin, Christine Kepinski, Joël Suire et Régis Vallet, « Jean-Louis Huot (1939-2023) »Paléorient [En ligne], 49-2 | 2024, mis en ligne le 25 mars 2024, consulté le 26 mai 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Luc Bachelot


Catherine Breniquet

Université Clermont Auvergne, DAFIq former resident

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Yves Calvet


Victoria de Castéja


Dominique Charpin

Collège de France

Christine Kepinski

CNRS, DAFIq former resident

Joël Suire


Régis Vallet

CNRS, DAFIq and IFEA former resident, IFPO member

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