JF BW edited
Archival image of Dr. Justin Fintry, c. 1961. Courtesy of Fintry family private collection.


Department of Archaeology and Ancient Magic Newsletter

University of Cambridge

Cambridge, UK

Spring 2016 Issue (Vol. 76., No. 2)

PROFILE: Professor Justin Callum Fintry

Oral History Project Interview

In February 2016, I met with the department’s Aladdin Professor of Arcane Magic and Archaeology at the University of Cambridge and Professorial Fellow at St John’s College, Professor Justin Fintry. We are currently interviewing senior faculty and emeritus professors in support of our ongoing departmental oral history research project. Our aim is to record the histories of our archaeologists—and our one Archaeologist-Wizard, Professor Fintry—over a series of interviews, the stories that aren’t written in academic journals. Rather, the ones told in camp in the field around the fire or over pints after seminars.

Maddie O’Connor, Ph.D. candidate

M.O.: Hello, Professor Fintry. Thank you for sitting down with me today for this interview. Could you please introduce yourself?

J.F.: You know who I am, my dear.

M.O.: Sir, please remember, we’re filming this for the Department’s oral history project, for the archives? So that future generations can learn from your experiences. And some of them won’t know who you are. Your role is unique in the department as the only wizard trained in archaeology.

J.F.: I shudder to think I may be forgotten by future scholars. I’ve made some important contributions to our discipline, you realise. Very well, I’ll play along, my dear. I am Professor Justin Fintry, the department’s Aladdin Professor of Arcane Magic and Archaeology. I was appointed in 1960 after I completed my Ph.D. here in Cambridge. And, of course, I am your Ph.D. supervisor, Maddie (laughs). Yours and several others.

M.O.: Who are your other current Ph.D. students? For the record.

J.F.: Grace Newberry, Sanjay Kapur, Reginald Fintry and yourself. A record number for me, in my old age. Sanjay will be finished first, then Grace, before the year is out.

M.O.: How old are you?

J.F.: That’s a rather impertinent question.

M.O.: I’m sorry, sir. I wouldn’t ordinarily ask, but it’s for the profile.

J.F.: Seventy-nine at last count, I reckon. I was told recently I look very well for my age. I would agree.

M.O.: Why did you take on so many Ph.D. students on at a time when most professors would consider retirement after a lifetime of service?

J.F.: Retirement! Bah. I shall rest when I’m dead, my dear. There is need for archaeologists trained in the ways of magic. Now more than ever.

M.O.: Why?

J.F.: Ah. Yes. Why? The simple answer is that magic is rising in the world. Some of these reasons I cannot discuss. Your, ah, Betamax or VCR video tapes or whatever it is you’re using will be wiped clean if I discuss details of magic. Magic and technology do not mix, Miss O’Connor. You know how it is from our tutorials. I will destroy your lovely new equipment if I talk in detail about magic.

M.O.: It’s a digital camera, sir. Not film. But I understand what you mean. What can you tell me?

J.F.: Archaeological sites are being disturbed in the modern world more than ever—at an unprecedented rate—due to development. New homes, expanding infrastructure, resource extraction, and on it goes. With all of these new machines, bigger impacts to sites can happen much more quickly. Bigger disturbances. The larger the disturbance to the sites, the greater potential to disturb ancient magic as well.

M.O.: Sir?

J.F.: Yes, dear girl?

M.O.: What do you mean by new machines?

J.F.: Diggers, hydraulic excavators, whatever you wish to call them. They didn’t exist until recently. Within the last century.

M.O.: They’re not that new.

J.F.: Age is relative, Miss O’Connor. In terms of archaeological time, a hundred years is nothing more than a blink of an eye. Following the Second World War, diggers became more common.

M.O.: That’s true enough, I suppose.

J.F.: You are very young, my dear (laughs). Your generation takes all this technology for granted. Things that you take as common place now are in fact a drastic change to how things were even a hundred years ago. Good God, even thirty years ago. Why, you’ve been born into what I call the Internet Age. But you cannot do a search online for magic to learn about it. That is why I am here, to teach you. About the history of archaeology and magic and its practise. Right. Is there more tea (noise in background)?

M.O.: Yes sir. Just a moment (pauses recording).

J.F.: My turn. Would you please introduce yourself?

M.O.: Oh! Nobody wants to hear about me. I’m just Maddie, sir. They want to know about you, not me.

J.F.: Introduce yourself (thumps table with fist)! Confidence, dear Maddie! If that is one thing that will hold you in good stead as an archaeologist and witch, it’s confidence. Try again, my girl. As though you’re the Aladdin Professor etcetera. Go.

M.O.: Oh! Um. Wow. I mean… (pauses for a long moment). I’m Maddie O’Connor. Madison. I’ve just finished my first year of my Ph.D. studies here in the Department under your supervision, sir.

J.F.: Tell your viewers more.

M.O.: Ah… I’m from the United States. Seattle.

J.F.: Where’s that?

M.O.: Washington State in the U.S.A. Pacific Northwest, sir.

J.F.: What are you studying?

M.O.: The origins of agriculture in Estonia. I’m an archaeobotanist. And, um, I study magic.

J.F.: And what else are you forgetting to mention?

M.O.: I’m not sure what you mean.

J.F.: Scholarships, my dear. Too modest. Another issue we need to work on.

M.O.: Oh. I have a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. And I get support from the European Union, as well as from my partner research institution, the University of Tartu in Estonia.

J.F.: Good, good. Anything else, my dear?

M.O.: Can you tell us a story about magic, Professor Fintry? For the archive?

J.F.: Aye—I mean, yes. But you will need to record the story by hand, if you wish to keep it. I don’t think you can put it on your computer. It’ll… break.

M.O.: Thank you, sir. Just one last question for now, if you can answer this for me, please. What inspired you to be a wizard? It’s… uncommon. Especially rare in the olden days.

J.F.: (laughs). You mean the 1950s were the so-called ‘olden days’, back when I was studying myself? I love archaeology, and I’m terribly curious about old things. You might also say I happened to have a knack for magic. I came to Cambridge, the best place to study magic in this part of the world, and the rest, as they say, is history. A deep tradition here of wizardry, one way or another, since the university was founded over eight hundred years ago.

M.O.: Thank you, Professor Fintry. Till next time.

J.F.: My pleasure, my dear. Now, I need to go home and feed my cats if you would excuse me. They’re waiting.

Copyright © 2016 by Hugh Blackthorne