Written by Susan L. Huntington
TO 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.
Beyond 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.