On November 27, 2022 our dear friend, colleague, and a long-standing academic member of the Faculty of Arts, UWB, doc. PhDr. Ladislav Šmejda, Ph.D. passed away at the age of 47.
He was an extraordinary and inspirational personality. His contributions to the development of the Department of Archaeology, and the entire faculty, were considerable. He has left an indelible mark in the hearts of hundreds of students whom he accompanied during their studies.
Ladislav Šmejda enrolled at the University of West Bohemia as a student of a master degree program of Archaeology as early as 1998, having completed his bachelor degree studies in the city of Opava. He was part of the very first year of students of this field at UWB and therefore helped lay the foundation of the Department of Archaeology. After completing his studies he remained at this department first under the auspices of the Faculty of Humanities, later renamed the Faculty of Arts, and associated most of his professional career with it.
Ladislav himself stated that at the start of his professional research endeavour he focused on the Bronze Age, but even a quick glance at his early studies dedicated to the sites connected with this period suggests that his interest had been much broader from the beginning. Even we, his friends and colleagues, find it difficult to define his area of scientific interest. He always devoted himself to numerous topics and, within the scope of archaeology, never specialized in any particular era. He was preoccupied with the Copper Age, the Bronze Age or the Iron Age, yet he would not avoid exploring medieval or early modern issues either. He mostly dealt with theoretical archaeology and the development of methods of long-range planetary reconnaissance, with the application of computer methods, environmental archaeology as well as strictly cultural topics with an overreach to cultural anthropology and history. He would not hesitate to contemplate any issue related to the functioning of human societies both past and present. This allowed him to conduct research even outside of Europe and network with researchers across various fields from many countries. His untimely passing is thus a tragedy for the hundreds of his co-workers around the entire world, but it also negatively affected the development of numerous fields ranging from humanities, over social sciences, to natural sciences, too.
His broad field of expertise brought him to the Czech Agricultural University in 2014. There he became a member of the Department of the Environment. Nevertheless, he still remained loyal to the Faculty of Arts moving from the Department of Archaeology to the Department of Anthropology. At this department he intended to take advantage of his investigation of past human societies from the perspective of humanities and various other social science as well as natural science fields by accrediting a new study program. However, his premature passing resulted in rendering this goal incomplete. Nonetheless, during his academic career at the Faculty of Arts, which spanned more than two decades, he raised hundreds of students who always considered him to be a kind and inspirational supervisor. Many of them continued in their successful academic careers only thanks to the pedagogical competences of Ladislav Šmejda and thanks to the excellent conditions that he created for the students that were part of his project teams.
Within the context of international cooperation Ladislav Šmejda took part – both as a researcher and author of manuscripts – in research initiatives in Great Britain, Slovenia, Iceland, Greece, Jordan, Senegal, and, most of all, in Israel. It was there where he endeavoured to participate in the research of the ancient Tel Burna excavation site, putting to use his unorthodox approach to research. Mostly, though, Ladislav attempted to connect Israeli and Czech researchers and establish long-term cooperation among them. This effort bore fruition when he succeeded at sending his doctoral students from the UWB and the Czech Agricultural University to the Ariel University, Ben Gurion University or the Tel Aviv University. In the long term, he participated in fruitful multi-disciplinary research that has led to the birth of many friendships and international cooperation lasting to this day.
One of the chief topics of Ladislav’s professional interest lay in the contrastive cultural conceptions of the relations between the worlds of the living and the dead. This silver lining accompanied his career from the beginning, all the way from focusing on the spatial analysis of the burial ground in the town of Holešov, to presenting a study dedicated to the geo-chemical impact of burial sites at the end of his career. This work culminated in the form of the international Deepdead project (under the patronage of the HERA organization), in which Ladislav represented a team on behalf of the Czech Republic. Many of his lectures and discussions with students, colleagues and friends also touched upon the topic of death and burying. No wonder then that Ladislav had a fairly clear idea about his passing and funeral. The final farewell with Ladislav Šmejda will thus take place on December 9, 2022, at 12 pm during a natural burial at the edge of a forest (coordinates: 49.8149385N and 13.5824377E) with a view over the village of Stupno which had been his home for many years. The main part of the ceremony will feature planting a tree as a symbol of new life. That is what he wished for – resting in a place that he knew and loved.
Cooperating with Ladislav has always been a joy and honour. We will miss his calmness, deliberation, his ability to stay on top of things, and the humour with which he happily took on the many challenges both professional and personal.