This pairing for Raising Horizons brings together two women focused on exploring later prehistory, including hillforts, the ‘castles’ of the Iron Age.
Margaret Guido aka Peggy Piggott and Dr Rachel Pope
Margaret Guido is a classic example of a woman whose contribution to prehistoric archaeology is enormous but is still somehow overlooked by the history books. Thankfully she has very recently been at least given a proper Wikipedia entry, thanks to the efforts of Dr Rachel Pope and Dr Mairi Davies.
Margaret Guido, known during her earlier life as Peggy Piggott, was pioneer and exemplary archaeologist, excavating a large number of sites and publishing promptly. She was already interested in the past as a child, and pursued this as a student of Tessa and Mortimer Wheeler’s Roman excavations at Verulamium in the 1930s, when she also studied at the Institute of Archaeology, London. She met and married fellow student, Stuart Piggott, who she went on to collaborate with, but she also undertook a huge amount of independent fieldwork and research, starting out with the Early Iron Age.
Margaret’s archaeological contribution extended over many decades, including digging a total of 6 hillforts, excavating for the Ministry of Works during the Second World War, establishing a new chronology of prehistoric settlement and was elected a Fellow of Society of Antiquaries of London. While she had a hiatus from Britain from the mid-50s until the late 70s after she divorced, during which she worked in Italy (and published several books), she later produced what are still the definitive texts on ancient British glass beads, as well as establishing the Bead Study Trust.
Margaret then became curator in the 1980s at Devizes Museum, and during this time resumed her fieldwork focus including collaborating with Isobel Smith and Eve Machin. If she had been able (or wished) to pursue an academic career as her first husband did, it’s clear that with her fieldwork record, over 50 publications and a reputation as a great teacher, Margaret should by rights also have been Professor Piggott.
We chose our contemporary trowelblazer, Dr Rachel Pope, because of the clear links between her and Margaret’s focus on understanding later prehistory in Britain and elsewhere, but also because of her commitment to field-based research, and taking positive action, whether in her academic work or wider contexts.
Rachel first dug as a teenager, and has extensive field excavation experience, including directing work on the Kidlandlee Dean Bronze Age Landscapes Project, Eddisbury Hillfort, and current University of Liverpool excavations at Penycloddiau Hillfort. She is especially keen to ensure that research excavation is used to instill strong fieldwork skills in her students.
Her academic research ranges between the Early Bronze Age to the late Roman Iron Age, and covers a broad range of topics in this sphere, including gender roles and social status in the European Iron Age, hillforts, and prehistoric landscapes and settlement. She is also a key member of the campaign against development near Old Oswestry hillfort.
Rachel is also an activist for women in archaeology, and feminism more generally. She has published on the historical context for the changing prominence of women in archaeology (seriously, go read it, it’s amazing), and she co-founded the organisation British Women Archaeologists with Anne Teather. She advocates for women whether in academia or prehistory, and has written critically of their portrayal in popular culture.
Rachel is a council member for the Prehistoric Society, and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
Written by Becky