Written by Susan L. Huntington

susan-120x175jpgTO THE AVERAGE PERSON, the designation "cave man" conjures up images of an animal-skin garbed, hairy, apelike male carrying a club and dragging his female companion by the hair. But picture this instead. The cave man that I have in mind is more an Indiana Jones-type adventurer whose realm of exploration is the cave monuments of the Indian subcontinent. Wielding a camera as his weapon,this cave man wears his unflagging enthusiasm, love, and dedication to his scholarly quest as his characteristic garb. And far from needing to drag his companion by the hair, this cave man has led his followers by his path-breaking vision.

FROM his earliest work - his doctoral dissertation on the early caves of western India - and throughout his entire career, Walter Spink raised the level of expectations for work in the field. As the first researcher truly to explore the issues behind the creation of the western Indian caves, including the contributions and roles of individual artists and critical questions of chronology and patronage, Walter offered new paradigms that have reconstructed the human history behind the caves' creation. The questions he has asked and the methods he has pursued have ensured that subsequent generations could never study the caves again without feeling the enormous impact of his scholarship. Walter's dedication to initiatives that serve the broader interests of the field is also well known. The founder and director of the ACSAA slide project, Walter relentlessly pursued his goal of providing the highest quality visual images for the classroom. For these, and all of his other contributions, we owe him a profound debt.

walterandStudentsBeyond Walter's remarkable achievements as a scholar, teacher, and leader in the field, I have many warm memories of him. I met him for the first time at a scholarly conference while I was still a graduate student. As I entered the elevator at the conference hotel, this very cheerful and outgoing man extended his hand and said, "Hello, I am Walter (pronounced Waltah) Spink." I was dumbfounded to find myself face to face with this famous individual, whom I knew only from his Ajanta to Ellora and other publications. Such an open-hearted gesture, I came to learn, was characteristic of this man's generous and unfettered spirit. Over the years, I have been fortunate to consider Walter one of my dearest friends, greatly admiring his warmth, brilliance, and wit. I also treasure getting to know his wife, Nesta, and sharing many enjoyable times with both of them.

To those who have the honor and privilege of knowing Walter Spink and the extraordinary body of scholarship he has created on the cave art of India, designating him as a cave man for our times is a highest form of compliment. But unlike the cave man of yore, this cave man could never symbolize a man behind the times. Further, unlike the wheel invented by his stone-age namesake, this cave-man's wheel conjures up another image altogether. More like the wheel turned into motion by the Buddha when he preached his first sermon, the wheel turned into motion by Walter Spink is one that represents learning, knowledge, and truth.

To Walter, I offer my congratulations, my admiration, and my love.

Tribute Authors

Frederick M. Asher

Frederick M. Asher :: In Praise of Walterji

Frederick Asher is a specialist in South Asian art. His current research considers the architecture of contested religious space and the issue of copying/originality in Indian art.

Richard Edwards

Richard Edwards :: Colleague at Michigan

Michigan - History of Art | Professor of Far Eastern Art, 1960 | Professor Emeritus, 1987

Michael W. Meister

Michael W. Meister :: Spink On Wheels

W. Norman Brown Professor of South Asia Studies. He is a specialist in the art of India and Pakistan. He has served as Chair of the Departments of South Asia Studies (SASt) and History of Art and as Director of Penn's South Asia Center.

Janice Leoshko

Janice Leoshko :: The Importance of Questions

Prior to joining the faculty in 1993 at The University, Associate Professor Leoshko worked at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for seven years as the Associate Curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art

Susan L. Huntington

Susan L. Huntington :: Homage to a Modern Cave Man

Susan L. Huntington, Ph.D., is Distinguished University Professor and Professor of History of Art, Emerita, but continues to teach and advise graduate students at The Ohio State University. 

Donald M. Stadtner

Donald M. Stadtner :: The Cow Herder Goes to Washington

for many years an Associate Professor at the University of Texas, Austin, after completing his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. His publications include Ancient Pagan: Buddhist Plain of Merit (2005) and Sacred Sites of Burma (forthcoming).