Nina Layard (b. 1853 – d. 1935) embodied the cultivation of curiosity and curation that was popular among amateurs in the 19th century. As a girl she collected eggs and shells, but it was later that her interest in prehistory sparked, and she became, in her words, a “flint hunter” – but a thoroughly scientific one.

Layard’s great contribution was the discovery, excavation and recording (in detail unusual for the period) of Foxhall Road, Ipswich  – over 300,000 years old, this site preserved the repeated visits of tool-making hominins to a river bank.

Thanks to her meticulous work, she gained a unique understanding of site formation processes and the importance of studying stone tool assemblages in their entirety.

Winter excavations attest to her commitment, and her writing reveals her passion for the “beautiful implements” she found. Her achievements were recognised with many firsts, including one of the first four women Fellows of the Antiquaries Society, and in 1921 the first woman President of the Prehistoric Society.

You can read in detail about the discovery of Foxhall Road, and its modern re-analysis, in the book Miss Layard Excavates by Mark White and Steven Plunkett, published by WASP.

Written and posted by Becky

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