ARCHAEOLOGIST Bill Putnam has died at the age of 78.

He came to Dorset in 1967 as principal lecturer in archaeology at Weymouth College of Education, later working for Bournemouth University, retiring in 1995.

He maintained his enthusiasm for his subject, especially the Romans, in his retirement, becoming a popular and authoritative speaker and lecturer involved in courses and talks to groups and organisations in the area.

Mr Putnam, who lived at Stratton, was born in Hertfordshire. His father was an undertaker and he sometimes referred to his early experiences in the family business during his talks.

He later studied classics and taught the subject in Montgomeryshire before moving to Dorset. He studied under the great archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler who excavated Maiden Castle near Dorchester in the 1930s. Mr Putnam was the acknowledged expert on the Roman aqueduct at Dorchester, devoting seven years to it, as well as 11 years to the 51-room Roman villa at Dewlish.

He led an excavation in the Charles Street car park in Dorchester, discovering a Roman road. And he was hopeful that his 40-year quest to find a road that would point to the sought-after Roman fort that pre-dated the town of Durnovaria would be resolved with a development under way at Edward Road.

Mr Putnam was chairman of Wessex Archaeology for many years and was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of science by Bournemouth University four years ago.

He wrote several books including Roman Dorset and two popular books in the Dovecote Press Discover Dorset series – The Romans and The Prehistoric Age.

He also wrote a book that emerged through his interest in holidays in France – The Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau, A Mystery Solved – as well as many pamphlets, articles and papers for magazines and specialist press.

In one British Archaeology article he recalled a dig near Eggardon Hillfort in Dorset in which his team got to the bottom of what he believed was an ancient site alongside a Roman road. He then uncovered the most closely dated find he had ever known – a fork bearing a Mappin and Webb logo and the date 1939!

Mr Putnam is survived by his wife, Maureen, and three sons and a daughter.

A memorial gathering is being held at Stratton Village Hall on November 6.