The connection between these two Raising Horizons women lies in their excavations of two of the world’s most important early urban settlements, links with the Institute of Archaeology, London, and their legacy of fieldwork training for other archaeologists.
Dame Kathleen Kenyon and Shahina Farid
In 1958 a crisis meeting was called at the newly-sited Institute of Archaeology, in London; the beloved canine companions of one of its most important members of staff had been banned, and in retaliation, she had resigned. Eventually a compromise was reached, with permission for the dogs to remain in the car park, but this episode shows both the strong character of Kathleen Kenyon, and the influence she held.
Kenyon’s three great loves have been referred to as “archaeology, dogs and gin”, and while the Institute might have wished for less of the second, her commitment to her discipline is a major factor in the development of British 20th century archaeology.
It might seem that Kathleen Kenyon was destined for archaeological greatness with a scholarly father who happened to also be Director of the British Museum, but she worked her way to her Damehood. In her early years, she was mentored and trained by many other trowelblazers. She was part of Gertrude Caton Thompson‘s all-female team at Great Zimbabwe, where she surveyed, took photographs (and did a spot of car repair), and later trained with Tessa Verney Wheeler. It was this latter which laid the groundwork for one of her major contributions to archaeology, the Wheeler-Kenyon method of excavation which focuses on understanding the stratigraphic succession of sites.
Kenyon worked on several sites during the 1930s and 40s, but between 1952-9 she was invited to review the extensive works undertaken at Jericho, possibly the world’s oldest urban settlement. Her application of rigorous excavation methods to the site was a greater achievement than the investigation of its biblical veracity, and has stood the test of time. Her importance to archaeology goes beyond this, as Kenyon became a key figure in the professionalisation of archaeology, especially as a founder, and eventual Director of, the Institute of Archaeology, and an early practitioner of science communication. Furthermore it was also at Jericho and Kenyon’s other sites that many women who went on to become archaeologists gained key fieldwork experience, including Margaret Collingridge, Honor Frost and Kay Prag, who wrote up Kenyon’s later excavations in Jerusalem after her death.
Shahina Farid‘s archaeological journey also started at the British Museum, but rather than her Dad running it like Kenyon, she came on a school trip, was entranced by the Tutankhamun exhibition, and began volunteering on excavations- her first was a complex multi-period London dig. Following a degree, she honed her fieldwork skills by working in the commercial archaeological sector, in the UK (for example on projects related to the extension of the Jubilee tube line in London) and the Near and Middle East, as well as Turkish research projects for the British Institute at Ankara.
Shahina’s great legacy project, like Jericho for Kenyon, is the Neolithic ‘town’ of Çatalhöyük, a World Heritage site in modern Turkey with a long history at the Institute of Archaeology. Based on the reputation of her extensive excavation experience, including mudbrick architecture and burials, she was invited to become the Field Director and Project Co-ordinator. She stayed in that role for 17 years (as a member of the Institute at UCL), overseeing the project, which became an archaeological by-word for cutting edge, experimental approaches, founded on meticulous excavation standards. Her direction of the fieldwork and wider project, including the complex stratigraphy, allowed teams of specialists to understand details of daily life at an entirely new scale, advance new interpretations about the society that created this fascinating site, and underpinned the unparalleled approach to public archaeology and outreach at Çatalhöyük.
After leaving her role in Turkey, in 2012 Shahina joined English Heritage, as Co-Ordinator of Scientific Dating (read about their work here), but retains her links to the Middle East having been elected Honorary Secretary for the British Institute at Ankara in 2014. Shahina’s impact on archaeology extends beyond particular sites, periods or methods however, through the hundreds of students she trained and mentored over nearly two decades, a legacy and network just as important as Kenyon’s.
Written by Becky