A year in the making, in partnership with photographer Leonora Saunders, the Raising Horizons exhibition is on now on UK tour! We'll be at the Atrium Art Gallery at Bournemouth University from 30 April to 22 June 2018.

Two centuries of hidden trowel-blazing history is celebrated through captivating portraits: 14 contemporary women working in archaeology, geology and palaeontology pose as their historic counterparts, each representing a moment in time.

Raising Horizons is about revealing the real face of archaeology, geology and palaeontology past and present, sharing its hidden heritage, and promoting the power of networks for advancing women in science. You can help us take this story on UK tour over 2017-8, and bring the message of women's achievements to an even bigger audience by backing our crowdfund.


On a dark and stormy day in May 1898, workmen were digging into an ancient hillock on the island of Rousay, Orkney. The laird and his wife had commissioned a summer seat to be built there, but work came to a sudden halt that afternoon. The laird had proposed that work should be stopped if antiquities were discovered, and it was the keen eye of his wife, Eliza, that spotted the structural remains. Her curiosity was sparked, and an investigation started. It did not take long until a dark void was discovered. That moment, a sudden thunderclap, followed by lightning, burst from the sky.  

“A sharp clap of thunder at the moment completed the weird scene…" illus. N. Schloma Mason

“A sharp clap of thunder at the moment completed the weird scene…”  Original illustration, N. Scholma-Mason.

For a split second, something from the depths below reflected the bright light – unexpectedly, an ancient burial chamber had been opened. By nightfall, the islanders were convinced that supernatural forces were at play.

Lady Eliza uncovers the burial. Illus. N. Scholma-Mason

Lady Eliza uncovers the burial. Original illustration by N. Scholma-Mason

You cannot make this up.

Well, I suppose you could. But in this case: it isn’t. Every detail described above is based on Lady Burroughs’ report of events that took place between the 2nd and 5th of May 1898.

Lady Eliza D’Oyly Burroughs (née Geddes) is as much of an enigma as the site she discovered. She was born in 1849 and spent most of her early life in Edinburgh. Aged 19, she married Lieutenant-General (then Colonel) Frederick William Traill-Burroughs, who was 20 years her senior. Together, they moved to Rousay, Orkney, where he had taken on the role as laird. With her keen interest in art, politics and charity, she was strongly involved in life on Orkney. In spite of this, she remains a lesser known character.

By discovering the chambered cairn of Taversoe Tuick, Lady Burroughs made a noteworthy contribution to the studies of Prehistoric Orkney. She carefully recorded the findings from the site and her own observations in a tidy, gracefully illustrated report, along with a number of her own sketches in pencil and ink. In the weeks following the discovery, she did extensive research, studying the pottery and grave chambers from Europe, the Americas and Asia to contextualise the site and its artefacts. She furthermore provided artefact illustrations for Turner’s 1903 publication of the findings. In her writing she shows an intuitive understanding of stratigraphy and context, and her report remains invaluable for present-day studies of the site.


“What a pity the Stones cannot speak and reveal to us the intentions of their builders…”. Lady Eliza Burroughs at the excavation of Taversoe Tuick chambered cairn, Rousay, Orkney, 1898 (Image by kind permission of Orkney Photographic Archive).

“What a pity the Stones cannot speak and reveal to us the intentions of their builders…”.
Lady Eliza Burroughs at the excavation of Taversoe Tuick chambered cairn, Rousay, Orkney, 1898 (Image by kind permission of Orkney Photographic Archive).

Taversoe Tuick is unique in that it has a two-storeyed construction (of which there is only one other example on Orkney – Huntersquoy on Eday), as well as an adjacent ‘mini chamber’. There are still open questions regarding the phasing of the whole site. However, owing to Lady Burroughs’ records, present-day archaeologists have a decent understanding of the site’s chronology. This has not been the case for all chambered cairns on Orkney: many earlier investigations into ancient hillocks across the archipelago were done with little to no recording.

Lady Burroughs later refers to the excavation as

“…one of the most interesting events of my life: a pursuit I can cordially recommend to anyone in search of excitement!”

 Not merely the quality of her report, but above all the enthusiasm that leaps from its pages show that she was a true archaeologist at heart.

Guest Post by Nela Scholma-Mason

References and further information

I am currently carrying out biographical research into the Life of Lady Eliza D’Oyly Burroughs (1849 – 1908).

All citations (including image captions) are from Lady Burroughs’ report as published by Reynolds 1985.

Davidson, D. A. and Henshall, A. S. 1989, The Chambered Cairns of Orkney. An inventory of the structures and their contents, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

Reynolds, D. M. 1985, ‘How we found a tumulus; a story of the Orkney islands – The Journal of Lady Burroughs’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 115, 115-24.

Thomson, W. P. L. 1981, The little General and the Rousay crofters: crisis and conflict on an Orkney crofting estate, John Donald Publishers Ltd., Edinburgh.

Turner, W. 1903, ‘An account of a chambered cairn and cremation cists at Taversoe Tuick, near

Trumland House, in the island of Rousay, Orkney, excavated by Lieutenant-General Traill-

Burroughs, C.B., of Rousay, in 1898’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 37 (1902-3), 73-82

Image credits

Nela Scholma-Mason (drawn illustrations)

Orkney Photographic Archive (photographs) [aka the photo archive of the best library on twitter]

Awesome archive blog: http://orkneyarchive.blogspot.co.uk/  & http://www.orkneylibrary.org.uk/photoarchive.htm


Edited by Brenna 

TrowelBlazer Margaret Wood is our featured star in this post, but it is important to recognise that her contribution comes on the heels of other fearless female scientists!  Our knowledge of the geology of the island of Anglesey in Wales has been dependent on the dedication of some outstanding women.  Without the inspiration and practical assistance of Annie Greenly, her husband Edward might have never finished his classic map and monograph, The Geology of Anglesey (Greenly, 1919, 1920; Williams, 2007). More recently Margaret Wood was co-author of the first full geology of Anglesey since Greenly (Campbell, Wood & Windley, 2014). Working in collaboration with others, she has also secured recognition of the international importance of the island’s geodiversity, with hundreds of geology students visiting Anglesey every year. However Margaret Woods’s contribution to geology extends from the deep sea to the moon, and includes discovering some of the oldest fossils in the UK.

Margaret Wood at the Mélange on Llanddwyn Island (in blue). Image by kind permission of author, S

Margaret Wood at Anglesey (in light blue jacket). Image by kind permission of Stewart Campbell.

Champion for Anglesey, Geodiversity and Geoconservation

Educated in a convent school in Manchester, Margaret had an early interest in geography, biology and physical education.  She did her B.Sc. (Hons 1972) at the University of London and returned to Manchester where she carried out her M.Sc. (1974), a geochemical investigation of samples from the deep ocean floor.  Her Ph.D (1977) was an examination of transition of rare earth elements in natural and synthetic phosphates.  In addition, as an analytical geochemist working in the University of Manchester (1964-79), she analysed the moon rock from every Apollo Mission. In the period 1966-79, she was also a partner in a geochemical consultancy, the Nicholls-Wood Partnership, which had a range of British and international clients.

Margaret is a qualified teacher and teacher trainer. Geological science has greatly benefited from her enthusiasm, strong communication skills and ability to explain complex issues.  She worked as teacher and extramural lecturer in Manchester, and she has co-supervised M.Sc. and Ph.D. studies at several universities. Margaret was also a  friend of the late Sir Kyffin Williams, celebrated Anglesey artist, and often discussed the geological foundation of his landscapes with him.

An opportunity to move to Anglesey arose in 1989 and in the first decade of the newly created Countryside Council for Wales, Margaret worked as North Wales Region Geologist, monitoring and managing the nationally important Geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest.  She also had a key role in setting up a lower conservation designation tier of Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS) between 2000 and 2003. Following her establishment of RIGS groups in all parts of Wales, she served as chair of the Association of Welsh RIGS Groups for 10 years.

At the same time Margaret led the successful bid securing for Anglesey in 2009 membership of the European Geopark Network, to be followed a year later by acceptance as a Global Geopark member. The sustainable use of Anglesey’s geosites for education is one of the chief objectives of network membership, while the larger Geopark Network seeks to develop geotourism based on the appreciation of the heritage value of geological collections and associated sites.  In 2010 Margaret received the Distinguished Service Medal from the Geological Society of London. In 2015, UNESCO instituted a new programme for the Geoparks, elevating their status and they are now called “UNESCO Global Geoparks” and have special logos for their use. Covering the entire island of Anglesey the Geopark is now called “GeoMôn UNESCO Global Geopark” and the prestigious logo can be used by all statutory bodies on the island.

GeoMon Logo

Margaret continues to celebrate the geology of Anglesey.  On one occasion she organised a band to lead a large group of the local community from the village of Cemaes Bay to the ancient church of Llanbadrig for the opening of a new geological trail.  It was a very memorable and beautiful sunny day, with local politicians and dignitaries happy to support geoconservation and recognise its contribution to the local economy.  However it is also a reflection of the huge respect and appreciation of the local and worldwide geological community for Margaret Wood, who has secured a place for Anglesey on the international geological stage.

Written by Dr. Catherine Duigan (@c_duigan), with input from Stewart Campbell.


Campbell, S., Wood, M. & Windley, B. (2014). Footsteps Through Time. The Rocks and Landscape of Anglesey Explained.  GeoMôn, Isle of Anglesey County Council, 193pp.   

Conway, J.S. & Wood, M. (2016). A Geoheritage Case Study: GeoMôn in Wales. In: Hose, T. A. (ed)  Geoheritage and Geotourism A European Perspective. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 219-231.

Greenly, E. (1919). The Geology of Anglesey, Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain (HMSO, London), 980pp., (2 vols). Greenly, E. (1920). 1:50,000 b (and 1 inch to 1 mile) Geological Map of Anglesey. Geological Survey of Great Britain, Special Sheet No. 92 and 93 (with parts of 94, 105 and 106).

Williams, T.P.T. (2007). The role of Annie Greenly in the elucidation of the geology of Anglesey.  The Role of Women in the History of Geology, Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 281, 319-324.

Wood, M. (2003). Precambrian Rocks of the Rhoscolyn Anticline, Seabury Salmon and Associates, 48pp.

Wood, M. (2012). The Historical Development of the Term ‘Mélange’ and Its Relevance to the Precambrian Geology of Anglesey and the Lleyn Peninsula in Wales, UK. Journal of Geography (Japan). 121 (1) 168-180.

Edited by Suzanne and Brenna


America’s first Black geology Ph.D., geologist and geographer Marguerite Thomas Williams was born on December 24, 1895 in Washington D.C. Her pursuit of higher education was uncommon enough among women of her time, but as a woman of color born in the Reconstruction-era South, her academic achievements are especially remarkable.

While she worked toward her Bachelor’s degree at Howard University, she was employed as an elementary school teacher, a position which marked the beginning of her life-long work as an educator. After finishing her degree in 1923, she began teaching as an assistant professor at Miner Teacher’s College, now part of the University of the District of Columbia. For a decade, she served as the Chair of the College’s Division of Geography, though she took a leave of absence to continue her research at Columbia University in New York, where she earned her M.A. in 1930. Over the course of her education, she was mentored by Dr. Ernest Everett Just (1883-1941), himself a prominent, trailblazing Black scholar and an early developmental biologist.

When she ultimately received her Ph.D. in geology from the Catholic University of America in 1942, she was the first African American to ever earn that degree in the United States. Her dissertation was entitled A history of erosion in the Anacostia drainage basin, referring to the nearby basin of the Anacostia River, which runs through Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Upon completion of her degree, she was promoted to full professor at Miner. She concurrently taught night classes at Howard University as well.

Because she focused her career on teaching rather than research, her legacy is less prominent than that of many scholars. However, she stood at the university lectern in a time in which it was rare for either a woman or a person of color to even be in the classroom. As the first Black person, male or female, to earn a Ph.D. in geology in America, she opened the doors of that discipline of black scholars and continued to serve them as an educator until her retirement in the 1950s.

Guest post by @NadiaDreamsBig


Some of the details of Professor Williams life are still lost to time — we would love to hear more, particularly about her students and her lifetime of teaching. So, as always, if you have more to add to the TrowelBlazing story, let us know!

Edited by Brenna


Byrnes, W. Malcolm and William R. Eckberg (2006) “Ernest Everett Just (1883-1941)—An early ecological developmental biologist.” Developmental Biology 296:1.

Ogilvie, Marilyn and Joy Harvey. (2003) The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives from Ancient Times to the Mid-20th Century. Routledge.

Warren, Wini. (1999) “Marguerite Thomas Williams: Geologist,” in Black Women Scientists in the United States. Indiana University Press: Bloomington, IN.

Williams, Marguerite T. (1942) A history of erosion in the Anacostia drainage basin. The Catholic University of America Press: Washington D.C.

“To be sure, the Critic has the same right to his own conclusions, as does the Artist—only the latter has had the advantage of time and opportunity to study first hand, every inch and angle of the original” (Baker 1936:120).

Mary Louise Baker was born in 1872. Her early youth was spent in Alliance, Ohio, a small town at the intersection of the Ohio & Pennsylvania and Cleveland & Wellsville Railroads. Her parents were devout Quakers.  At the age of 19, she boarded a train for Pennsylvania, where she spent four years teaching in one-room country schoolhouses.

By 1900, Baker moved to Philadelphia and enrolled in the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art.  She was awarded a first prize of $40 in 1900 for her printed tableware design by the Mayer Pottery Company and a commendation for her illustrations—several of which appeared in the Annual report of the Philadelphia Museum of Art that year.  She also won a scholarship for the 1902-1903 school year.  Frequently ‘in desperate need of money’ (Danien 2006:6), she worked as a free-lance illustrator and secured a position as an art teacher at the George School in Bucks County. She also wrote and illustrated stories and poems for children, and published illustrations in the Children’s Page of the Youth’s Companion Magazine and other magazines for children (see Baker 1915).  In 1902, she was hired to produce illustrations and watercolor paintings for Clarence Bloomfield Moore’s popular reports on his archaeological investigations, published in the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia; her work soon attracted wider attention.

In 1908, M. Louise Baker was hired by the archaeologist George Byron Gordon, then the General Curator of American Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, to draw Nubian materials from the Eckley B. Coxe, Jr. Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania.  She produced beautiful ink and watercolor illustrations of objects from Karanog, a necropolis and large second-century provincial capital of the Meroitic kingdom in Lower Nubia.  These were published in eight volumes (see, for examples, Randall-MacIver & Woolley 1911 and Woolley & Randall-MacIver 1919).

The position of part-time Museum Artist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum was a modest one.  Baker continued to work as an art teacher at the George School until 1938.  But her concerns of craft and technique predominated over money affairs, and the income she received from her work painting Meroitic materials enabled her to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. At the University of Pennsylvania, Baker returned to the Museum’s Maya material.  Her stunning water colors of Maya pottery convinced George Byron Gordon—who had filled a spot left by another Philadelphia trowelblazer, Sara Yorke Stevenson, after her departure from the museum in 1905—to hire Baker to produce ink illustrations and watercolors of the Maya collections at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University.

baker landscape

During the First World War, Baker worked for the American Friend’s Service Committee in France.  In 1919, she ran the Embroidery Depot at Verdun and Clermont-en-Argonne, near the Belgian border, where 200 displaced women were employed making embroideries with brightly colored wools and other materials supplied by the Friends. These were sold to tourists to provide the women with an income.  She returned to Philadelphia in late August, 1920, in the company of E. Constance Allen, of Dublin, Ireland, with whom she would have a life-long relationship.

Louise Baker traveled widely. After her return from France, Baker led groups of women on summer tours of European museums. In 1931 she traveled to New Orleans.  After an interval painting Maya material at Tulane University’s Middle American Research Institute, she departed for Mérida, the capital of Yucatán, Mexico, where she painted and drew Maya pottery in the State Museum and private collections.  From Mexico, she travelled to Guatemala City, Guatemala, and produced ink and watercolor illustrations of pots from the Carnegie Institution of Washington expedition to Uaxactun (Carter 2015) and others from Cobán, some of which were privately held by Erwin Paul Dieseldorff, a coffee-planter who wrote extensively about the Maya.  Baker contributed to the second volume of Dieseldorff’s Kunst und Religion der Mayavölker (3 vols., 1926–1933).

After briefly returning in to Philadelphia in 1931, she sailed in 1932 for England and Iraq, where she painted materials from Leonard Woolley’s excavations at the Royal Tombs of Ur (19221934) (see Baker’s illustrations in Woolley 1934b).  Her return trip took her through museums and private collections in Germany, Spain, France, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and England.  This circuitous return, and a subsequent trip to Europe in 1934, were jointly funded by the Penn Museum and the Carnegie Institution to enable her to sketch, paint, and photograph Maya materials in Europe.

Baker produced stunning images in pen and ink and watercolor.  Archaeologists have often found good illustrations like hers more useful than photographs.  An illustrator can make indistinct details more distinct and present an object in multiple views simultaneously.  Baker had a particular talent for watercolors, capturing the three-dimensional qualities of vessels and ornaments.  Baker also produced detailed ‘rollout’ images of cylindrical surfaces projected (or ‘rolled out’) onto a flat plane (see Smith 1932, Plates 4 &5).  And she was a skilled pictorial conservationist—supplying missing details to damaged objects, such as Lintel 3 of Piedras Negras (Baker 1936). Between 1925 and 1943, Baker’s beautiful ink and watercolor illustrations were published in the three-volume Examples of Maya pottery in the Museum and other collections (edited by G.B. Gordon and J. Alden Mason, published by the University of Pennsylvania Museum).

Baker struggled with her eyesight throughout her life.  With her eyesight failing, Baker retired from the Museum in 1936 and from the George School in 1938.  By 1949 she was completely blind.  She settled in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, with E. Constance Allen, who had been her companion since 1919.  M. Louise Baker died on July 15, 1962, in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Louise Baker was one of the greatest archaeological illustrators of the early twentieth-century. Her career spanned archaeology’s transformation from the collection of antiquities into a comparative science. The contributions to archaeology’s professionalization made by illustrators are often overlooked or forgotten in histories of archaeological methods and techniques (but see Pillsbury 2012).  Yet illustration is a critical tool of archaeology, especially to the sharing of information among scholars and the production of comparative archaeological knowledge (Smith 1932).  Illustrations are not straightforward or neutral copies.  They present a selection of information; they take sides, advancing particular interpretations, and forestalling others (see, for debates involving Baker’s work, Gordon 1921 and Carter 2015:5-6). “A restoration always invites criticism,” Baker wrote in 1936.

Sources and References

This summary of M. Louise Baker’s career is based largely on Elin Danien’s excellent account in Paintings of Maya Pottery: The Art and Career of M. Louise Baker (2006).  I’ve also drawn on the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Annual Reports of the Trustees for 1900 and 1901.  Information about her wartime service for the American Friend’s Service Committee comes from a notice in The Friend: a religious and literary journal (September 2, 1920).  Lee Price describes Baker’s conservation work in Scientific Illustration at its Best: Conserving the Work of M. Louise Baker (Artifacts, Fall 2010)

The University of Pennsylvania Penn Museum Archives hold more than 500 works by Baker, spanning the years from 1889 to 1962.  This collection includes her sketches, commercial art, illustrated stories and poems, watercolors, photographs, her traveling valise, a collection of her diaries, an unpublished memoir, and all her work for the Museum’s Maya Pottery publications (link to the finding aid for the M. Louise Baker papers).

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Expedition Magazine contains several articles about M. Louise Baker’s contributions to Maya studies.  See, for example, Dosker, Caroline G.  (1985)  Mary Louise Baker and the Maya.

Baker, M. Louise (1936) Lintel 3 Restored. . .and Why: An Artist’s Interpretation.  University Museum Bulletin, 6(4):120-121.

Baker, M. Louise (1915)  A Mystery.  South Dakota Educator, 29 (September):20.

Carter, Nicholas P.  (2015) Once and Future Kings: Classic Maya Geopolitics and Mythic History on the Vase of the Initial Series from Uaxactun.  The PARI Journal, 15(4):1-15

Danien, Elin C. (2006)  Paintings of Maya Pottery: The Art and Career of M. Louise Baker.  Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies (FAMSI).

Gordon, George Byron.  (1921) Mrs. Nuttall and The Ulna River (current notes and comments).  Art and Archaeology, 11(1-6): 262-264.

Pillsbury, Joanne, ed.  (2012) Past Presented: Archaeological Illustration and the Ancient Americas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Randall-MacIver, David & Woolley, Leonard.  (1911)  Buhen.  Philadelphia: University Museum.

Smith, A. Ledyard.  (1932) Two Recent Ceramic Finds at Uaxactun.  Contributions to American Archæology, No. 5.  [Preprint from Publication No. 436 of Carnegie Institution of Washington, pages 1 to 25, September, 1932]

Woolley, C. Leonard.  (1911) Karanóg, the town.  Philadelphia: University Museum.

Woolley, C. Leonard & Randall-MacIver, David.  (1919) Karanòg: Plates.  Philadelphia: University Museum.

Woolley, C. Leonard & Randall-MacIver, David (1911) Karanòg: the Romano-Nubian cemetry : Plates.  Philadelphia: University Museum.

Woolley, C. Leonard. (1934a)  Ur Excavations, Volume II, The Royal Cemetery (text).  Joint Expedition of the British Museum and of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania to Mesopotamia.

Woolley, C. Leonard. (1934b)  Ur Excavations, Volume II, The Royal Cemetery (plates).  Joint Expedition of the British Museum and of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania to Mesopotamia.


Post by Brendan Tuttle

Images used with the permission of the University of Pennsylvania Archives. The portrait is Image #176327 and the roll out of the pot is Image #165114.

The stars finally aligned in 2018 for Team TrowelBlazers to be able to take part in a very special event to celebrate the launch of the Raising Horizons exhibit at the University of York. It was an excellent chance to bring the Raising Horizons stories, and Leonora Saunders’ beautiful art, to a new audience, who proved very receptive to both the wine and the history of women in archaeology.


The event featured talks from two of the Raising Horizons featured women: Dr Colleen Morgan, who portrays Jaquetta Hawks; and Prof. Nicky Milner who portrays Dorothy Garrod.


In discussing her connections with Jaquetta, Colleen managed to convey some of the poetry and expanse that is possible when writing about the past, hopefully inspiring some of the audience members to be brave and let their own work take flight.


Nicky spoke with great insight about the life and times of Dorothy, bringing out the contrasts — and the very similar hurdles — of participating in archaeology as a woman both today and a century ago.


Meanwhile, a crack team of volunteers provided York Archaeology students with wine and merchandise opportunities, and there was a roaring trade in postcards of both York staff members. Many thanks to Colleen for organising such a terrific event, and to all who attended!

The Raising Horizons exhibit can be seen in the Common Room, King’s Manor, University of York, YO1 7EP.

11th January – 16th March 2018

Admission: Free.



Pioneering prehistorian and author Linda Braidwood was a familiar figure in Near Eastern archaeology. Receiving her Masters degree in 1946 from the University of Chicago, Linda undertook excavations in Syria and soon found herself at the helm of the Iraq-Jarmo project. The Braidwoods (Linda and husband Robert) and their team of experts were incredibly important to the study of early village life in the Qara Dagh and Zagros Mountain ranges (and beyond).

The Iraq-Jarmo project began in 1948 and ran until 1955, and Linda was key in the planning and day to day running of life on the dig. Alongside a team including Bruce Howe, fellow Trowelblazer Patty Jo Watson, Vivian Broman Morales and Charles Reed, Linda was influential in introducing environmental specialists to excavations throughout Southwestern Asia. This trend continued globally, eventually becoming specialist disciplines like zooarchaeology, archaeobotany and radiocarbon dating.

Linda was also a highly talented author and researcher. A contemporary of Agatha Christie Mallowan, who famously authored “Come Tell Me How you Live”, Linda also took delight in documenting all aspects of the Iraq-Jarmo expedition in her book “Digging Beyond the Tigris”. From packing, to selecting the expedition team, to the construction of the project’s dig-house, she ensured no detail was spared (including the adoption of a pet gazelle, ‘Gazelly’). This resulted in a must-read book for anyone interested in Iraq, its heritage, and life as an archaeologist in the 1940s and 1950s.



After Jarmo, Linda continued to work throughout Southwestern Asia, notably in Iran and Turkey. Without her extensive research and publication on the origins of agriculture, our understanding of the Eastern Fertile Crescent would be severely diminished. She was part of an incredible generation of women working in the archaeology of Southwestern Asia, including trowelblazers Halet Çambel and Ufuk Esin.

Post by Elizabeth Farebrother

Edited by Brenna


Braidwood, L.S. 1953. Digging Beyond the Tigris: An American Woman Archaeologist’s Story of Life on a dig in the Kurdish Hills of Northern Iraq. Abelard-Schuman: London and New York.

Christie Mallowan, A. 1946. Come Tell Me How You Live: An Archaeological Memoir. Collins: London.

Watson, P.J. 2003. Remembering the Braidwoods. Journal of Anthropological Research 59(2):145-147


Main Portrait: Linda Braidwood – Image Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Cover: The ‘Hilly Flanks’ of the Qara Dagh Mountains, taken from Jarmo – Image Courtesy of Chris Stevens, UCL Jarmo Project




Glenys Lloyd-Morgan (1945-2012) was a Roman archaeologist whose career was cut short by early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in her early fifties, but who made an important contribution to the field, bringing to her work both a considerable experience of excavation and a scientific background.

In 1963, aged 18, she joined S. S. Frere’s excavations at Dorchester-on-Thames, and the following summer worked with Sonia Chadwick Hawkes at the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Finglesham. Later digs included Viking sites in Orkney. When sharing tented accommodation she would have to warn the others about her habit of talking loudly in her sleep!

After studying chemistry and physics for a year at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in 1963–4, she decided to change direction and eventually took a degree in Archaeology and Ancient History at Birmingham University. At the suggestion of the French archaeologist, Danielle Rebuffat – an expert on Etruscan mirrors – Glenys worked on Roman mirrors and predecessor artefacts from Britain and Ireland, for her PhD at Birmingham. The research led to a tour of continental museums in 1973–4, and from September 1973 to the following summer enjoyed a particularly fruitful time at Museum van Kam in Nijmegen.

Glenys Lloyd Morgan in Leiden, in 1973. Copyright Ceridwen Lloyd Morgan

Glenys Lloyd-Morgan in Leiden, in 1973. Copyright Ceridwen Lloyd Morgan.

She also spent some time at the British School in Rome, where she met Sir Anthony Blunt. When her old university friend Erica Davies was studying at the Courtauld Institute, where he was then Director, he told her he vividly recalled Glenys not only for her enthusiastic work on mirrors but also how she had enlivened the School’s New Year Party by dancing on the table. Dr Stephen Briggs, who first got to know Glenys at Young Archaeologists’ Conferences from 1968 onwards, likewise speaks of her ‘great sense of fun, with an infectious enthusiasm’, describing her also as a ‘warm-hearted and helpful collaborator who made lasting friendships.’ She greatly valued the friendship and support of other women archaeologists, including Siân Rees, Miranda Aldhouse-Green and Rosemary Cramp.

Every trowel tells a story. This is Glenys Lloyd Morgan's trowel. See how worn it is, testament to every dig that Gelnys ever worked in. Note the polish on the handle, where Glenys held it tight as she uncovered the past. Ceridwen Lloyd Morgan has entrusted her sister's trowel to us at TrowelBlazers, and we will endeavour to protect Glenys' legacy.

Every trowel tells a story. This is Glenys Lloyd-Morgan’s trowel. See how worn it is, testament to every dig that Glenys ever worked in. Note the polish on the handle, where Glenys held it tight as she uncovered the past. Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan has entrusted her sister’s trowel to us at TrowelBlazers, and we will endeavour to protect Glenys’ legacy.

Elected FSA in March 1979, Glenys spent 23 years working at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, not only cataloguing but also involved in education and community outreach work, which included her memorable re-enactments of life as a Roman lady. Her career involved struggle and frustration at the glass ceiling and sometimes pettifogging local bureaucracy, but she continued researching, publishing and lecturing. In 1989 she married and moved to Rochdale, leaving her job and becoming a free-lance finds consultant specializing in Roman artefacts, until domestic abuse and illness tragically intervened. However, she left behind a substantial legacy of publications (see http://www.archeophile.com/rw-bibliography-lloydmorgan.htm). Writing in Lucerna, 44 (Jan. 2013), Hilary Cool noted that Glenys ‘was, and remains, the foremost authority on Roman mirrors in the Western empire’.

Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan

We used Glenys Lloyd-Morgan’s trowel to illustrate the importance of networks in supporting women in science, both in the past and in the present day, in our contribution to Cosmic Superheroes, a photographic celebration of real-life women superheroes.

You can see our contribution on line here: https://cosmicshambles.com/superheroes/trowelblazers

And you can visit the exhibition at the Conway Hall, 8th December 2017-31st January 2018, open daily 10am-6pm, Admission FREE. 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL.

“…her enthusiasm being as always an inspiration” (John Garstang, Prehistoric Mersin)

Born in Toulouse, France around 1880, the daughter of a farmer, little is currently known of Marie Louise Bergès’ life before her marriage to archaeologist John Garstang in 1907. However, it is clear that from the time of their marriage she took an active role in archaeology. She joined her husband on site in Egypt and at Meroe in Sudan, where he was directed a team on behalf of the Sudan Excavations Committee of Liverpool University between 1909 and 1914. She gained experience and specialist skills in pottery analysis and repair, as seen in this image from the Garstang Museum. Another shows her working alongside her husband in a deep trench, surrounded by statues and statue fragments in situ.

During the First World War she served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse while her husband served in the Red Cross in France. After the war, much of Garstang’s work was quasi-diplomatic in nature; he held (concurrently) the positions of Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and Director of the Palestine Antiquities Department between 1919 and 1926. Conducting important visitors around excavation sites to a certain extent went with the territory – the Garstangs had welcomed Consul General in Egypt Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, and Governor General of Sudan Sir Reginald Wingate and Lady Catherine Wingate to Meroe, for example. In the early days of the Palestine Mandate, however, Garstang was in charge of a Government Department and social engagements with administrators and other members of the British community in Jerusalem were a regular occurrence.

John Garstang resigned both posts in 1926, but the Garstangs returned to Palestine in 1930 to undertake excavations at Jericho, 30 miles northeast of Jerusalem. They brought their teenage daughter Meroe, who had spent her childhood with her parents in Jerusalem, with them. Marie Louise Garstang ran the camp and laboratory, where she was involved in analysing and repairing pottery found on site.   The reconstruction of the Jericho “snake vase”, done under her supervision, involved piecing together over 70 fragments. In his 1934 field report John Garstang specially credited Marie Louise for her supervision of the conservation workshop, emphasizing her skill in reconstructing fragmented pottery. Meroe, meanwhile, was in charge of records as well as assisting in the field – particularly tomb clearing. Dorothy Garrod, Dorothy Crowfoot’s sister Joan Crowfoot, and Veronica Seton-Williams also contributed in various ways to the excavation and interpretation of Jericho.

The Garstangs moved on to Turkey in 1937 with funding from philanthropist Francis Neilson. They spent three seasons in the plain of Cilicia on the southern coast, looking for a prehistoric link with Jericho and excavating Yümük Tepe, near the port town of Mersin. Veronica Seton-Williams (among others) joined them on site. The Garstangs remained involved with Turkey during the Second World War, as part of an Anglo-Turkish Relief Committee set up to help Turkish victims of a major earthquake at Erzincan in early 1940. They resumed excavation work in Turkey in 1946, and for the following years worked on establishing the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, which opened in 1947. John Garstang was appointed Honorary Director. Marie Louise Garstang died in 1949; at her death their partnership and her role in archaeological work was noted in her obituaries.

Marie Louise Bergès Garstang and John Garstang join a host of other archaeological couples working during the late 19th or early 20th centuries: Agnes Conway Horsfield and George Horsfield, Tessa Verney Wheeler and Mortimer Wheeler, Margaret Collingridge Wheeler and Mortimer Wheeler, Hilda Urlin Petrie and Flinders Petrie, Molly Hood Crowfoot and John Crowfoot, Annie Pirie Quibell and James Edward Quibell, Katharine Keeling Woolley and Leonard Woolley, Freda Hansard Firth and Cecil Firth, Winifred Newberry Brunton and Guy Brunton (and the list goes on.) These were marriages in which both partners worked alongside each other in the field and at home. As the wives of Antiquities Inspectors/Directors Marie Bergès Garstang, Agnes Conway Horsfield, Annie Pirie Quibell and Winifred Hansard Firth also played their own role in facilitating the (imperial) framework for managing archaeology during the earl 20th century.

It’s been difficult to extricate Marie Garstang’s contribution to archaeology from her husband’s – while she is recognised in the introductions to his publications and field reports with there are few specific details about her day to day life on site, making her seem a rather enigmatic figure. The images that remain, though, tell a different story.


Garstang, J. et al. Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology Vols 19-23. Jericho Reports, 1932-1936.

Garstang, J. 1934. The City of Jericho: its History and its Fall. The Scotsman. 5 Nov. p. 8.

Garstang, J. & Garstang J. B. E. 1940. The Story of Jericho. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Garstang, J. 1953. Prehistoric Mersin: Yümük Tepe in Southern Turkey. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Holiday, J. C. (Ed.). 1997. Letters from Jerusalem during the Palestine Mandate. London: Radcliffe Press.

Seton-Williams, V. 1986. The Road to El Aguzein. London: Kegan Paul International.

The Times. 1949. Mrs John Garstang. 30 July. p. 7.

The Times. 1949. Mrs John Garstang. 3 Aug. p. 7.


Guest Post by Amara Thornton (OBT and Raising Horizons featured TrowelBlazer)

Image of Marie Garstang at Jericho courtesy the Palestine Exploration Fund

A bit of a throwback today — our friends at Cosmic Shambles have been putting together the clips from last spring’s March for Science. Sure you could watch Peter Capaldi aka Dr Who talk about the importance of science… OR you could listen to Team TrowelBlazers’s Brenna do her best to articulate why we do what we do — and how to do it better — to somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 people in Parliament Square. (Which wasn’t intimidating. AT ALL).


Annette Laming-Empiraire (1917-1977) was a badass archaeologist. She studied philosophy in Paris, before WWII broke out. During the German occupation of Paris she became a teacher, which was fulfilling and also was perfect cover for her help in the French Resistance. Yes. Annette was in the French Resistance. Yes, she was a badass. She was the female Indiana Jones. She really did fight against the Nazis. She didn’t, however, loot ancient artefacts.

Soon after the war, she found her calling in archaeology. Annette began her PhD studying ‘the significance of paleolithic art’ at the incredible cave site Lascaux, which preserves beautiful cave art 20,000 years old. She would lay down the foundations for the study of cave art around the world.

Perhaps nothing links us more emotionally to the past than cave art. Seeing that colourful painting of a woolly mammoth, or energetic pride of cave lions, transports us instantly back to a time when these creatures lived and breathed. Back to a time when a human painted this animal onto a wall in a cave. Back to a time when a human saw these animals alive. Because of this emotional link with cave art, it is difficult not to think of why they painted in the caves. Dozens of explanations have been flung about; planning a hunt, respecting the animals, getting the spirit of the animal, and more. This is why Annette’s research was groundbreaking. For the first time, Annette looked at cave paintings not as finding reasons why but looking at how they were displayed in the caves, looking at gender of species, number of species, orientation, symbols and locations. This meticulous, detailed look at cave paintings is a method used by archaeologists today, providing a greater understanding of caves and their paintings.

Annette travelled to Brazil with her husband, Joseph, after her thesis was complete, and published her classic book, Lauscaux: paintings and engravings. Unfortunately, South America was cursed for this French couple. While excavating one site, her husband died after a wall collapsed on him. A few years later, Annette was on holiday in Brazil, where she was electrocuted in the shower.

But Annette’s legacy in South America remains.

A few years before she passed away, while working at the cave site of Lagoa Santa in Brazil, she discovered one of the oldest human skeletons of America. Nicknamed ‘Luzia’, she dates to around 11,500 years BP and has played an important role in research into the earliest Americans, and the migration of our species.

Annette Laming-Empiraire left her mark on archaeology in a way that many dream of and only a few achieve. She changed how we looked at cave art and discovered one of the earliest humans in the Americas. Annette was determined, meticulous, and focused. She was described by her colleague Danièle Lavallée as one of the ‘richest of spirits’ of French Archaeology. And that rich spirit lives on today.

Post by Jan Freedman

Image used with permission of Professor Marcus Beber,  Universidade do Vale do Rio Dos Sinos, from Arquivo Pe. Schmitz. The photo is of the excavation at Iiha do Rosas in 1966.


Laming, A. 1959. Lascaux: Paintings and Engravings. Pelican.

Lavallée, D. 1978. “Annette Laming-Emperaire.” Journal de la société des Américanistes 65. pp.224-226.

We’ve been dashing around the airwaves lately trying out this new fangled thing the kids call ‘podcasts’. Just in time for Halloween (er. next years?), Brenna chatted to the hilarious Iszi Lawrence, host of the hit podcast Z List Dead List about all-time superstar TrowelBlazer Margaret Murray. Murray’s role in Egyptology and (possibly) winning World War I by hexing the Kaiser are discussed in decidedly non scientific terms…


Check out more of Iszi’s stuff at www.iszi.com or just follow along with Z List Dead List to learn more than you ever thought you could about history’s lesser known *cough* heroes.





Born Margaret Markham Dean in London in 1911, Peggy spent much of her childhood in the Falkland Islands where her father was in government. Here she learned several useful skills, including sewing and how to strip down, load, and fire a Lee Enfield. Educated at Cheltenham Ladies College, and the Polytechnic School of Speech and Dramatic Art, she eventually became an actress, touring Britain under the name of Peggy Dean. During these years she met and became friends with many of the literary personalities of the day. At this time she was briefly married to an actor called Richard Meadows White, with whom she had a son and a daughter.

When the war began, Peggy was rejected by the Home Guard because she was a woman. She got her revenge by actually training many of the early recruits in rifle-drill. She relished this, though when it became known by those in authority , she was relegated to being in charge of collecting clothes for bombed-out civilians, under the  aegis of the Home Guard.

How she entered archaeology we never discovered. She appears in the background of a picture of Mortimer Wheeler at Maiden Castle, and we knew she dug with him after the war. Peggy was never forthcoming about her origins in archaeology, but her friends eventually discovered that she had worked as a supervisor for Wheeler. Before this she had done the archaeological rounds of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, and when prompted could relate hilarious and scandalous tales about well-respected archaeologists.

Peggy was a meticulous digger, and a brilliant tutor. It was said of her that she out-Wheelered Wheeler. Several of her protégés became supervisors on some of the major digs of the 1960s, including Mucking, Sutton Hoo (second dig under Rupert Bruce-Mitford & Paul Ashbee), West Stow, and Silbury Hill. She worked as deputy director for archaeologists like Paul Ashbee and Laurence Butler, and unfailingly supported her husband Kenneth (married in 1962) in his career in archaeology.

The couple retired to Alderney in 1967, and immediately were press-ganged into directing a dig on an Iron Age site there. I suspect that little arm-twisting was required! Kenneth died in 1989, and Peggy moved into genealogical research into island families. Characteristically, she was brilliant at this too. She died in 2004, shortly after handing over the reins of the island’s genealogical database.

Post and photo by Eric Houlder

It’s said there is no such thing as wasted time. This maxim can have as its proof the slightly circuitous route into archaeology taken by Professor Charlotte Roberts. Initially training as a nurse, she segued into the study of human remains, incidentally becoming the subject of a 1994 Women’s Weekly article about changing career paths: “I changed my life and you can change yours! Charlotte’s Back to Basics”. Introduced to the study of disease in the past by Keith Manchester, she married her medical training to her love of the past, to leading the way in kickstarting the field of palaeopathology. In fact, she literally wrote the book on it: The Archaeology of Disease. Her expertise in the field was recently recognised through her appointment as a Fellow of the British Academy.

The study of disease in archaeological populations is notoriously tricky, but by being a strong promoter of interdisciplinarity and holistic research, Prof. Roberts has used ancient DNA, ancient lipid analysis, and more traditional osteological methods to look at tuberculosis, leprosy, syphilis and other major sources of morbidity and mortality in human groups.  Her nurse’s training shines through in her passion for re-humanising the past, constantly impressing upon her students the importance of viewing human remains as people and not case studies.


Despite her successes, Prof. Roberts remains down to earth, claiming her many achievements are due only to her willingness to take the opportunities that came to her. She is an inspiring mentor to students, heavily involved in building and supporting the bioarchaeological community through presidency of BABAO.   She is also a strong-proponent of work-life balance, being herself a fanatical cyclist, runner and fan of the outdoors, as well as being an occasional bell-ringer in the village where she lives.


Written by Charlie King and Ross Barnett

Portrait of Charlotte Roberts used by permission, photographed by Jeffrey Veitch, Durham University. Not to be re-used without prior permission. Landscape still from Archaeosoup Productions and used with permission. Check out Archaeosoup’s interview with Charlotte Roberts here.

Titia Brongersma lived between approximately 1650 and 1700. She was a so called “Joffer” from the northern Netherlands: an unmarried lady of the upper class who works and undertakes activities by herself and quite unusual for a woman in the 17th century. She was a poet whose work considered subjects as embroidering and arranging flowers, but she also wrote odes to people and romantic poetry – addressed to a woman.

When she visited the bailiff of Borger in Drenthe in 1685, she became familiar with the existence of dolmens in the area. She was intrigued by the phenomenon and decided to have a dolmen excavated. She initiated and financed this project all by herself. It became the first recorded excavation of a dolmen in The Netherlands (recorded by Dr. Ludolph Smids in his book Schatkamer der Nederlandse Oudheden, 1711). Titia was amazed that the dolmens turned out to be graves and not the stoneheaps built by giants that she had held them for. She dedicated a 27 lines poem to the dolmen in her only book De Bron-Swaan, published in 1686.

Post by Marie-France van Oorsouw

Images are in the public domain. 


Ethel Currie dedicated her life to the University of Glasgow. She received her education there and spent her academic career inside its walls. After graduating in 1920, she became the Assistant Curator for the geological collections of the Hunterian Museum, a collection that had been growing for almost 200 years. She engaged the public in her work, and uder Mr. F. Munro, she helped visitors understand the world of morphology and relationships of fossil vertebrates. She was praised for her thoroughness and attention to detail in the models she set up for the museum’s public visitors. Towards the end of her career, she was honored with the position of Senior Lecturer in 1960, but retired 2 years later.

Aside from her dedicated museum work, Currie was an expert on Mesozoic and Tertiary echinoids. She published many works, including The Monographs of the Hunterian Museum with Professor J. W. Gregory – with whom she studied with in her student days – and several papers on Promicroceras and other Jurassic ammonites. She became one of only three women to have the distinction of becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1949, and her work also earned her the Neill Prize in 1945.

According to Dr. Neil Clark, who suggested this post, “Her discernment and her technique enabled her to make notable advances in paleontological theory that in their turn were to serve her in good stead when she began a comprehensive description of the Scottish Carboniferous goniatites. This work, which turned out to be her magnum opus, had its germs in an analysis of the fauna of Skipsey’s Marine Band -a first thorough study by the Society in 1937. It expanded into a detailed account of every known species and variety – almost every informative specimen – of Scottish goniatite.”

Post by Shelby Watts

Images provided by the University of Glasgow and used with permission. 

Elsie Jury played a huge role in fostering the acceptance of women in Ontario archaeology. Born in Perth County, Canada, Elsie was ambitious: at a time when women’s education wasn’t always valued, she attended the University of Toronto and completed her undergraduate degree specializing in English and History in 1933. She then received her MA in History at Columbia University. In her MA thesis, Elsie wrote about the heritage of her ancestors, the Scottish settlers of Perth County.

In 1935 Elsie returned to the University of Toronto and worked as a researcher for Toronto Public Libraries while she worked on a degree in Library Science. In 1942, she took a job at the University of Western Ontario Reference Library. Elsie was very involved in the Ontario Historical Society, helping with their publications, lectures, and research.

Elsie met archaeologist Wilfrid Jury at the University of Western Ontario; he mentions going on a number of chaperoned dates with Elsie in his diaries. During this time, Wilfrid hired Elsie as a historical researcher on the Fairfield project. The dates continued for three years until their wedding in 1948. Elsie and Wilfrid’s marriage marked the beginning of their long lasting partnership and careers.

Elsie played a big role in Wilfrid’s excavations at Saint Marie I in 1947. As part of her role as historical research she contacted every institution, teacher, and historian that could have material on the period to help gather information—she even contacted the Russian Ambassador.

Elsie also helped establish Fanshawe Pioneer Village and the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. She worked on almost every project that Wilfrid worked on during his career as an archaeologist. She would support the project and conduct valuable research to help the projects move forward. Their passion for history and archaeology in Ontario helped further the understanding of Ontario’s history, and promoted conservation of the past.
After Wilfrid’s death in 1981, she continued to work with the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, and at archaeological sites across Ontario until she passed away in 1993.

Submitted by Joan Kanigan and adapted from the original post on the Museum of Ontario Archaeology website.

Images provided courtesy the Museum of Ontario Archaeology and used with permission. 

At 89 years old, Jean Sassoon is still working – she is in the process of publishing four titles as a result of 25 years of anthropological research into the Pokot people of Kenya. Jean’s career has been a varied one, combining archaeology and ethnography, from Britain to East Africa.

Jean studied archaeology at Edinburgh University in 1949 under Stewart Piggot (husband of trowelblazer Peggy Piggot) with whom she excavated two megalithic tombs in South Scotland, Cairn Holy and the white cairn of Bargrennan) and another, Bronze Age site.

jean sassoon stonehange group

Group photo at Stonehenge. From left to right: unknown, Paul Ashby, Nick Thomas, Prof. Gordon Childe, Isabelle Short (Childe’s secretary), Dr Jean Sassoon, Richard Nunoo, unknown, Jay Jordan Butler.

Later she studied under Gordon Childe, Mortimer Wheeler and trowelblazer Kathleen Kenyon at the UCL Institute of Archaeology. While in London, she constantly worried the British Museum for a job- which eventually they gave her- and Jean became the first woman employed in the Antiquities Department there as an assistant in the ethnography department.

A couple of years later she married a veterinary virologist being posted to Nigeria. It was arranged, as she had been working with William Fagg at the British Museum, that she could work in the museum at Jos in Nigeria with Bernard Fagg.  But, at the last minute, her husband’s post was redirected to Kenya at the peak of The Mau Mau uprising.

So it was that at the Coryndon Museum, Jean worked with Louis Leakey under armed guard. In 1955, she worked on the dig at the Olduvai Gorge with Leakey, where they found the remains of early hominins, including a tooth which took her ages to stick together, as a workman had smashed it. She was later rushed out of Olduvai Gorge overnight to the small hospital in Arusha, where she had an emergency appendectomy and ended up sharing a room with Hemingway’s daughter-in-law. She then recuperated in the Leakey household, where Richard Leakey, then 12, put his pet snake in bed with her to keep her company!

While in Kenya, Jean also worked on Louis Leakey’s collection of Miocene fossils from Lake Victoria and visited Rusinga and Mwafangano islands on board the “Miocene Lady” in company with geologists Drs Whitworth and Savage. She also excavated two burial mounds in the Rift Valley, carried out excavations of a Serikwa hole at Lanet with Merrick Posnansky, and another on the Uganda border with Susannah Chapman. She continued exploratory archaeology in central and North West Kenya. Later, whilst working with the British Council, she volunteered to catalogue and display the Museum’s sparse ethnographic collection. She spent many nights cataloguing in the evening in company with Glynn and Barbara Isaac who were researching Palaeolithic tools.

Jean took up collecting ethnographic material for the museum from multiple Kenyan ethnic groups. She became Hon. Ethnographer at the Kenya National Museum and lecturer in the University of Nairobi where she set up and ran the Material Culture Project of the Institute of African Studies. As her work progressed, she became increasingly interested in ethnoarchaeology and researched, among other subjects, traditional metalworking in Kenya, which she later produced a book on.

Jean also collaborated with yet another trowelblazer, Mary Leakey, on an investigation into ethnographic parallels for the manufacture and use of rock hollows and stone bowls. She has made ethnographic collections in Kenya and Ethiopia for museums in the U.K. and U.S.A. These include the British Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford, The Horniman Museum London, Peabody Museum Yale, and the Museum of Cultural History Los Angeles. She gave several lectures in the United States at Harvard, UCLA, Cleveland Museum and others and was the socioanthropological consultant for the U.N. on development projects in Kenya and Southern Sudan. She also received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Urgent Anthropology Fund of the Smithsonian, Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford, Royal Geographic Society,and University Women’s Association.

Post by Andrew Harris, based on an interview with Jean Sassoon in November 2016.

Images provided by Jean Sassoon and used with permission.



Emily Dix was born in Wales in 1904 and was a dedicated paleobotanist who made important early contributions to the field. After earning a certificate in history, botany, and geography, she attended University College Swansea, where she studied geology, botany, and math. She focused on the fossil flora of southern Wales alongside the likes of T. Neville George and Professor A. E. Trueman. Her research also took her to the National Museum and Galleries of Wales, where she worked with the David Davies collection. At one point, she received funding from government grants for coal mining. In 1929, she became a fellow of the Geological Society. The next year she joined Bedford College, London as a lecturer. In 1933 she became Dr. Emily Dix when she submitted a paper on coal seams in south Wales to the University of Wales. She received such prestigious grants as the Murchison Fund from the Geological society in London for her work establishing nine different floral zones in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, providing a way of organizing fossil flora. In 1935, she attended the Second International Carboniferous Congress in Heerlen.

After moving to Cambridge with the rest of Bedford College in WWII, she and Dr. Leonard Hawkes kept the department alive throughout the war years. Unfortunately, a large portion of her paperwork was lost during the war. After the college moved back to London following the war, there is not much recorded activity. She was exhausted, both emotionally and mentally, and lived out the rest of her life in a mental institution from 1945 until her death on the last day of 1972.

dix landscape


One can only imagine what she may have accomplished in a time of peace and what her lost work entailed. Her influence can still be seen in multiple collections in the UK, including The National Museum of Wales and Galleries in Cardiff, the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, and the Sedgewick Museum in Cambridge, where her fossil finds rest.

Suggested by Neil Clark and written by Shelby Watts.

Images digitised from the Geologists Association Carreck Archive, reproduced with permission of British Geological Survey. Permit no. CP16/075.


Burek, C. 2005. Emily Dix, palaeobotanist – a promising career cut short. Geology Today 21: 144-145.

Pennington, C. 2015. The historic role of women scientsits at BGS and a look at what is happening today.  Geoblogy.


Mary Porter was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk on 26th July 1886. She was the daughter of Times journalist and international correspondent Robert and his wife Alice Porter (née Hobbins). Robert believed that education was superfluous for women; hence, Mary was schooled in reading and writing at home but did not receive any formal education. Nevertheless, like many a Trowelblazer, Mary – or ‘Polly’ as she was known to most people – persevered with her studies and defied the odds to become a well-known and influential crystallographer. Her interest in this subject was fueled by an interest in building stones and marbles that she developed at an early age.

Her father was sent to Rome when Mary was in her teens. There on her explorations of the excavations she met the archaeologists Conte Gnoli and Giacomo Boni and through them developed an interest in the decorative stones that were a major trade commodity during the Roman Imperial period. She became fascinated by these marbles and their use in archaeological contexts, but she was also interested in the recycling of decorative stones from ancient sites into modern churches, and the collectors of marble samples such as Faustino Corsi. She was inspired to begin her own collection of marble fragments, scavenged from the excavations.

Mary was quick to realise that the knowledge of the provenance of stones in the Roman world at the time was cursory and the main sources of knowledge concerning their place of origin were the Roman writers Vitruvius, Pliny the Elder and Pausanias. She remarked that the local site guides ‘are not to be trusted as to the names of marbles, which are invented by the stone-cutters, and are usually merely descriptive of colour or marking, or of some other peculiarity, and which for the most part bear no reference to the true geological character of the stone or the locality whence it comes.’ Sadly, despite Mary’s best efforts, much of this remains true to this day. However, Mary researched and recorded the textures of the stones she encountered and taught herself the rudiments of geology. At this time she was only 15. Her brothers had implored their father to allow Mary a proper education as a scientist, but to no avail. However, the life of a foreign correspondent is a fickle one, and the Porters returned to England and, conveniently for Mary, settled in Oxford.

Here, Mary became an habitué of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH) where the Corsi Collection is housed. Here she met Professor of Mineralogy Henry Miers. Miers had previously studied classics and the Corsi Collection very much piqued his interest, as its interpretation and cataloguing required the combination of a knowledge both of the classics and mineralogy and petrology. Miers set Mary, still a teenager, the task of translating Corsi’s records from Italian to English. Here, with full access to an excellent reference collection, she developed a great expertise in the identification of decorative stones, and applied her knowledge in identifying building materials used in the local churches and colleges. She also corresponded with William Brindley, co-director of the (legendary) stone contractors Farmer & Brindley who specialised in the procurement of ancient marbles. Through Farmer & Brindley, she was also able to obtain new stone samples which she described, catalogued and accessioned to the Corsi Collection. At the age of only 21, Mary published her book; ‘What Rome was Built With: A Description of the Stones Employed in Ancient Times for its Building and Decoration. (1907)’ This volume still stands today as a useful reference for any geologist (or indeed archaeologist) with an interest on the use of stone in Roman architecture. It is almost certain that Brindley also learned much from Mary on the use and importance of stone in the Roman World.

Importantly, Miers saw her potential and tutored her in mineralogy and crystallography. Their academic liaison came to and end when Miers left Oxford to join the University of London and Mary’s family moved to the USA. In Washington, D.C., Mary worked at the Smithsonian Museum, cataloguing their collection of decorative stone samples. Two years later, her father was posted to Germany, where at last, Mary (now in her mid- twenties) was able to study at university and attended graduate study programmes in mineralogy at the University of Munich for just one term. During the summer of 1913, Mary returned to the USA to work with pioneering geologist Florence Bascom at Bryn Mawr. Under Bascom’s influence, Mary’s skills as a crystallographer flourished. Bascom put her in contact with Victor Goldschmidt at the University of Heidelberg and Mary went on to study at that institution for the next two years. She returned to the UK to take up a scholarship at Somerville College, Oxford and finally in 1932 was awarded a Doctor of Science degree. She went on to be an influential crystallographer, working with Dorothy Hodgkin and co-editing with R. C. Spiller the Barker Index of Crystals.

Mary worked at the intersection of the fields of classical crystallography and the then new science of X-Ray crystallography. She embraced the new analytical technologies and published a number of research articles. She was a member of Council for the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain from 1918-1921 and then again from 1929-1932.

Back at Oxford, Mary made time to further work with the Corsi Collection, particularly in arranging a new display system for the stones. Mary’s legacy is now one of the most important reference collections of Roman and other decorative stones available to researchers. Her work and the collection have been extremely influential in the study of the Roman Marble trade. It was used by Conte Gnoli’s grandson, Raniero Gnoli who wrote the definitive text Marmora Romana (1971) and by former director of the British School at Rome John Ward-Perkins, both authoritative and important researchers in this field.

Although Mary should be rightly remembered for her contributions to crystallography, she should also be acknowledged for being one of the first people to seriously study the use of stone in cultural heritage and for making this subject a valid field of cross-disciplinary research. She died on 25th November 1980 in Oxford at the age of 94.

Post by Ruth Siddall, who says, “The Corsi Collection still resides at the OUMNH where it is curated by Monica Price. I am also very grateful to Mr Brian Woodward, a distant relative of Polly Porter’s, through whom I discovered her photographs and some more details of her life.”

Image provided by Brian Woodward and used with permission. 


Haines, C. H., 2001, ‪International Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary to 1950‬., ABC Clio Inc. Santa Barbara, California, p. 253.‬‬‬

Ogilvie, M., Harvey, J. & Rossiter, M. (Eds), 2003, ‪The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives From Ancient Times to the Mid-20th Century‬., Routledge, Oxford., 1043-1044.‬‬‬

Rayner-Canham, M. F. & Rayner-Canham, G., 2008, Chemistry Was Their Life: Pioneering British Women Chemists, 1880-1949., Imperial College Press, London., 336-337.

Corsi Collection: http://www.oum.ox.ac.uk/corsi/

Census of England and Wales, 1911.

Camilla Ada Dickson, nee Lambert, was born in 1932 in Histon, Cambridgeshire. Although she had no formal scientific training, she became one of the most skilled and respected environmental archaeologists of the late twentieth century. Her career began in the 1950s when she started work as a technician in the Sub-Department of Quaternary Research in the Botany School at Cambridge. There she worked with the pioneering pollen expert Sir Harry Godwin. She became an expert in the identification of pollen grains and seeds, providing the identifications for many of Sir Harry’s later papers. Her study sites ranged from medieval Shrewsbury, to Bronze Age burial urns from Bedfordshire, to post glacial Northamptonshire to interglacial Essex. At Cambridge, she was responsible for the Quaternary labs in the Botany School, and maintained the reference collection of seeds and sediments. Despite having no formal qualifications, she was publishing academic articles by 1963 as first named author. The details of her activities are included within the annual reports of the Sub-Department.

She married a Cambridge research student, James Dickson, and together they began a career focused primarily on plant remains from archaeological sites in Scotland. One of their first pieces of work together, the study of pollen from a Bronze Age cist burial at Ashgrove in Fife attracted wider archaeological attention as the presence of meadowsweet (Filipendula) pollen lead Camilla to suggest that the burial had been dressed with a garland of flowers. James suggested that honey or mead had been in the beaker and the contents had spilled into the grave. The fact that lime (Tilia) pollen was present in this grave may also suggest that the honey or mead was brought to Fife from further south. The discovery in 2009 of meadowsweet flowerheads preserved in a Bronze Age cist at Forteviot supports Camilla’s original interpretation.  However, the two explanations are not necessarily mutually exclusive. There are now several discoveries of meadowsweet pollen from prehistoric sites in Scotland, in Wales and mainland Europe. The controversy continues.

She was especially skilled at identification, and in the 1970s worked on plant remains from Bearsden Roman Fort, where she and James identified bran from imported cereals along with parasite eggs, which suggested that the ditch contained the soldiers’ sewage. To confirm her suspicion, and unbeknownst to James, she spent several days eating only wholemeal bread, and sieved and examined her ensuing waste, which closely matched the Roman material. Her study of charcoal from Scottish island sites, including the famous Neolithic village at Skara Brae in Orkney, revealed that driftwood from North America was being used as a fuel when it arrived.  In 1970, she published an introduction to the study of plant remains from Quaternary deposits in Walker and West’s Studies in the Vegetational History of the British Isles that remained a key text for many years. At the time of her death, in 1998, she was close to completing a book about plants in Scotland’s prehistoric past. Plants and People in Ancient Scotland was finished by James, and published in 2000.

Post by Lisa Lodwick and Matt Law

Photo of Camilla provided by her husband, James Dickson and used with permission. Image of Bearsden Roman Fort by Richard Sutcliffe and used under a Creative Commons Licence.


Dickson, J.H. 1978. Bronze Age mead. Antiquity 52, 108-112.

Lambert, C.A. Pearson, A.G. and Sparks, B.W. 1963. A flora and fauna from Late Pleistocene deposits at Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge. Proc Linn Soc Lond 174: 13-30.


In the 1890s and 1910s, Palestinian village women were a common sight on archaeological excavations, employed to lug baskets of earth from the diggings to the dump. Some site directors thought that women’s more delicate touch made them better at sieving deposits for small finds. The vast majority of these women remain nameless and voiceless, but there are one or two for whom a few details emerge from the mists of time.

One of them was called Heuda, a name deciphered from the scrawling handwriting of the archaeologist Frederick Jones Bliss. The reason that we know anything about Heuda at all is that in the early 1890s she was one of the labourers who worked on the excavations at Tell el-Hesi, an archaeological site not far from Gaza in what was then Palestine. The dig was funded by the Palestine Exploration Fund and directed by Frederick Bliss, a Lebanese-born American scholar. Most of the brute labour was split between men, who hacked away at the earth, and women, who carried the spoil away. Frederick Bliss described his workers’ lives during the excavation thus:

At first most of our workmen were from Bureir, a village six miles from the Tell. Before Ramadan most of the men slept at the camp, digging little shallow graves for a bed, when they covered themselves with their cloaks. The women and girls had the long walk both before and after work. Six miles’ walk before 6.30a.m., and six miles’ walk after 5p.m., with a hard day’s work of carrying earth-piled baskets on the head in between, does not strike one as being an easy life, but more girls begged for work than we could employ.  [Frederick Jones Bliss, “Report of Excavations at Tell-El-Hesy during the Spring of 1891: Excavating from its Picturesque Side. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 23, 4 (October 1891), 282-298]

PEF-P-MACK-193 - small

Heuda seems to have warranted particular attention because she was a ‘character’ amongst the villagers employed the do the heavy work at Tell el-Hesi. She first appears in Bliss’ letters and publications in the second half of 1891. In a report for the PEF’s bulletin, the Palestine Exploration Quarterly, he describes various individuals from the workforce, including:

Rahama, our messenger to Gaza, a rather fussy man, with eyes of the poorest quality, which however never let the smallest object escape them. His daughter Fatmy worked with her brother Monsur rather than with her father. It was a delicate arrangement, owing to the fact that [Heuda], Monsur’s sweetheart, wasn’t allowed to work with him, but could help her prospective father-in-law. Heuda settled down into a capital worker, though a bolder, wilder girl I never saw. Tall, straight, active, she made a picturesque figure in her slim blue gown, with stripes of figured crimson and her fringed white veil, as she darted, sickle in hand, from trench to trench, cutting down the rich barley before each digger. I was relieved to see the strength of will shown by Monsur in rigidly keeping Ramadan, for he is a gentle youth, and I had feared that his prospects for matrimonial control over Heuda were very frail. Suggesting this to him one day, I was answered, with a smile of mingled scorn and amusement.

Monsur and Heuda’s marriage was further put off after a feverish illness attacked the village, killing Monsur’s father and reducing the young man to “a shadow”. The wedding did eventually go ahead, although Bliss does not give any details. However, the union did not, it seem, go well, and the repercussions went beyond the unfortunate couple themselves, as a common device to avoid paying a bride-price came into play, in which a female relative of the groom marries a male relative of the bride, effectively cancelling out the costs to each family.

PEF-P-MACK-494 - small

Bliss recounts how this practice led to sadness not just for Heuda and Mansur, but for a second pair, as well as tension on the excavation:

My fear was justified: she proved too much for him and after a brief but stormy union she went back to her people. Now comes in a singular complication. Mansur [paid? – indecipherable] for Heuda by marrying his sister Fatimy to Heuda’s uncle Rizq. Fatimy and Rizq proved a happy couple but when Heuda came home, poor Rizq had to lose his bride who was ordered to her old home to bake and draw water. Admirable business but indifferent romance. Heuda, who had been basketing earth for Mansur before the brawl, walked after her uncle Rizq, within a few paces of her estranged husband, while Fatimy, with easily imaginable rebellion in her heart, filled her basket with the earth dug by her brother Mansur. But she said never a word nor cast a look at Rizq. “She has been well brought up” said her brother proudly.

Like the subaltern described by postcolonial scholar Gayatri Spivak, at no point can Heuda speak for herself. We can reconstruct only this one small part of her life, and that from the writings of a white, upper-class male, who writes about her appearance in terms typical of a masculine, orientalist gaze, and although at times seeing her as a worker in her own right, describes her mostly in terms of her gender and marital status. But we also need to look at the circumstances in which we first encounter these Heuda and Fatimy – not as wives or fiancées, but as labourers, and ones who have actively come seeking cash work when the opportunity arises.

This does not mean to glorify the arrival of colonial labour relations, or the backbreaking conditions under which Bliss worked his staff. But they are women who went out to join a tough workforce, who chose to undertake hard manual labour (probably little different from any other work in their lives), and who we meet and witness as workers first and sexual beings second. They are some of the very few that we even know by name, due to Frederick Bliss’ ongoing curiosity about his employees and their lives.

PEF-PEF-MACK-342 - small

More commonly, we meet the women working in these excavations only as a nameless mass. We know nothing of their names, ages, marital situations, loves, hates and ambitions. Indeed, Bliss’ benevolent attitude to them is also atypical, as his successors R.A.S. Macalister and Duncan Mackenzie usually refer to them in disparaging terms, griping about the gossip they see women labourers as bringing with them. Eventually, with an inexorable logic of masculine technological modernisation, women are replaced by wheelbarrows, heralding – according to Duncan Mackenzie – more efficient working practices, and less chatter and romantic tension: “Barrows were introduced as an innovation to take place of female labour and it was found that an able bodied youth with barrows was able to accomplish the work of four women.”



F.J. Bliss, “Notes from Tell El Hesy”, Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 24:3 (1892), 192-196

F.J. Bliss, “Report of Excavations at Tell-El-Hesy during the Spring of 1891: Excavating from its Picturesque Side”. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 23, 4 (October 1891), 282-298

Nicoletta Momigliano, “Duncan Mackenzie and the Palestine Exploration Fund”. Palestine


Written by Sarah Irving, @sarahonline_

Images provided by and used with permission of the Palestinian Exploration Fund. 

Happy Birthday Mary Anning! Born on the 21st of May in 1799, your spirit is still strong amongst trowelblazers the world over.

This year we are channeling the Anning spirit, and are celebrating by opening a shop. But rather than selling fossils (or indeed shells by the seashore), we are selling TrowelBlazers SWAG! All proceeds will go to keeping trowelblazers.com going, and if we really start raking it in then we will put our squillions towards other good works, like our long-held dream of running a fieldwork scholarship.

Take your pick from a selection of TrowelBlazing quotes to inspire you, like this no nonsense one from Anning herself (describing a plesiosaur fossil she collected and prepared):

“It is large, and it is heavy… but it is the first, and only one discovered in Europe” — Mary Anning, 1823

Or how about channeling the power of our community directly, with this by Alison Atkin (buy it here):

#TrowelT design by Alison Atkin

We were left speechless when she submitted it to our #TrowelT call for designs. And then there is this beauty of a portrait of Gertrude Bell by Angela Hennessy. And remember, if you want to submit your own, you still can–we have a special #TrowelT collection dedicated to designs by our community, for our community).

We are pretty excited. More quotes and designs coming soon. And if you have any ideas get in touch!

Born in Australia in 1907, Dorothy Hill developed an early curiosity for palaeontology after finding fossil corals while wandering in the outback in Queensland. After studying geology as an undergraduate and then taking her Master’s degree at the University of Queensland, she won a scholarship to study for a PhD at the University of Cambridge, which she completed in 1933. She would spend almost seven years in England, learning from geologists Gertrude Elles, W.D. Lang, Stanley Smith, and H. Dighton Thomas. After returning to Australia, she continued to forge a career in palaeontology and geology as a Research Fellow studying the corals of Queensland, and mapped large sections of the state in her stratigraphical analysis.

During WWII, Dorothy Hill took both her D.Sc. as well as serving as a Third Officer in the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS).

She returned to academic life following the War and was appointed as a Lecturer at the University of Queensland. Highly driven and energetic, she was a successful teacher, researcher, and role model for hundreds of students. She continued to review specimens from all over Australia and the world, establishing their age and publishing her results in over 150 papers and books.

Hill was a trowelblazer for women in academia as the first female Professor at an Australian university, first female President of the Australian Academy of Science, first President of a Professorial Board in Australia, and the first Australian woman to become a Fellow of the Royal Society. When she retired from full time work in 1972, she was an honoured with a Chair named for her at the Department of Geology. Two medals are given in her name, by the Australian Academy of Science and the Geological Society of Australia. A research vessel on the Great Barrier Reef is named for her extensive work in setting up the Marine Research Station at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef and the University of Queensland Dorothy Hill Engineering and Sciences Library is named for her.


Post by Kellie Ashley, Dorothy Hill Engineering and Sciences Library, University of Queensland.

Images of Dorothy Hill from University of Queensland Fryer Library and used under CC BY 4.0 and CC BY 3.0 licenses.


Born in 1871, Margarete Gütschow played  a prominent role in the development of Roman archaeology  and art history. Growing up in a wealthy family in Lubeck, Germany, Margarete had a culturally lively background. She traveled a lot; she never married and decided to move to Italy for several months. She arrived in Rome in 1910 and began collaborating with the German Institute of Archaeology, and began to develop her passion for archaeology as an assistant there. When the First World War broke out, the German Archaeological Institute was closed and she had to come back to Germany. In 1918, at the age of 47, she enrolled at the University of Berlin to study classical archaeology. It was here she met Gerhart Rodenwaldt, the director of the Corpus der antiken SarkophagreliefsFrom now on, her studies would be focused exclusively on funeral sculpture.

In 1925 she had the opportunity to go back to Rome, where she acquired photographs and researched funeral sculpture as Rodenwaldt’s assistant. She also wrote a number of articles about iconography and sarcophagi in Rome and Lazio. Her most famous work concerned the restoration and museum exhibition of the numerous classical sarcophagi fragments found out in the galleries of Pretestato’s catacomb in Via Appia Pignatelli, including the identification of fragments of the famous sarcophagus of Balbinus (238 AD). Her diligence was recognized by the Pontifical Commission for Sacred archaeology.

After several years of hard work for the German Archaeological Institute, she received the title “Ordinary Member of German Archaeological Institute” in 1935. Official documents highlighted the exceptional nature of this title, because Margarete Gütschow did not complete her studies with a Ph.D. In 1938, Margarete Gütschow published her first and only book: “Das Museum der Prätextat Katakombe” (Atti della Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia, Memorie 4,2). She also wanted to write a volume for the aforementioned Corpus der antiken Sarkophagreliefs, but the book was never finished.

The years of World War II were hard; Margarete Gütschow was now elderly and had many economic difficulties. She returned to Germany in 1944 and received an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Hamburg. She died in Schleswig on the 29th of July 1951.

Post by Raffaella Bucolo

Book cover image provided by Raffaella Bucolo, author of Margarete Gutschow: Biografia E Studi Di Un’archeologa




Sarah Parcak is what she and others refer to as a space archaeologist.

A National Geographic Society Archaeology Fellow and 2013 TED Senior Fellow, Parcak works as an Associate Professor of Anthropology for the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she is also the founding director of the Laboratory for Global Observation.

But Sarah Parcak’s claim to fame comes from her groundbreaking use of infrared satellite imagery in archaeological survey and exploration.

To date, her techniques have helped uncover thousands of prospective pyramids, tombs and previously unknown settlements in Egypt and across the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, due increased looting of these sites, their global legacy is now in danger.

In 2011, a large number of looters in Egypt took advantage of the chaos created during the revolution. Some of Egypt’s most significant archaeological locations were ravaged and looted. At the request of the National Geographic Society, Parcak used her satellite imaging technology to determine the extent of damage to these sites.

When her study revealed a 520 percent increase in the number of looters’ pits at just two sites, Parcak saw this as a call to action and the beginning of her vision. In 2015 her $1 million dollar TED Prize gave her the means to see that vision become reality.

Parcak’s solution for protecting these ancient treasures involved the creation of a new citizen-science technology, Global Xplorer,  that allows anyone, from anywhere in the world, to join her in the search. It uses a series of cards, each containing a satellite image of 400 to 2,500 square meters, to help track looting activity and discover new sites.

Users receive training tutorials and examples of what to look for. To protect these sites, the system only provides general locations such as country and region. Parcak’s team will then use this information to alert appropriate authorities of looting activity, and produce maps of new archaeological finds to share with nearby archaeologists.

Parcak feels the battle against looting is being lost due to the limited resources archaeologists. She sees this public participation as a way to scale up the fight. It’s imperative that we understand the importance of our shared human history and make every effort to preserve it. By partnering with Sarah, you have the unique opportunity to take part in a process of discovering the many places once inhabited by those who shaped the world as we now know it.

Written by Megan Nichols, science writer and editor of Schooled By Science.

Photos by Mark Almond and The Birmingham News, and used with permission. 


Countess Yekaterina Vorontsova (1744-1810) was the daughter of a very well connected Russian family. Yekaterina married Prince Mikhail Dashkov in 1759, becoming Princess Dashkov at just 15 years old. Their marriage was short, as the Prince passed away five years later from pneumonia.

Living in Moscow, with a high status, money, and no ties, the Princess had opportunities not really available for other men or women in the 1700s: time (and the money) to persue what she wanted. With a quick mind and a good education, she went on to study Maths at the University of Moscow. But it wasn’t her education that gave her the opportunism she desired. It was her rather volatile relationship with a Queen.

A young and politically-minded Princess Daskova took a part in raising Catherine 1’s granddaughter, the Grand Duchess Catherine Alexeyevna to the Throne. The Grand Duchess would jointly rule as Catherine 1 of Russia in 1724, and after the death of her husband Peter, she would be the first woman to rule Russia in 1762. Although close, the Queen and the Princess both had very strong personalities that often clashed. It wasn’t long that Princess Dashkova asked for permission to travel abroad, which she was granted. Perhaps like close sisters they may have gotten a little cabin fever while living under each other’s feet, for they both remained good friends while the Princess was on her travels.

She was well received in France and Britain through her reputation, and presumably her status of ‘Princess’. She appears to have had no trouble meeting whomever she wanted to: she met Benjamin Franklin when she was 37, and they became good friends – so good in fact, that Franklin, invited her to join the American Philosophical Society, the first woman member, and the only woman member for the next 80 years.

Returning to Russia in 1782, her importance had grown. She was appointed Director of the Imperial Academy of Arts and Sciences (the Russian Academy of Sciences), where she was instrumental in ensuring that Russian science was brought up to a professional level.

After a very grand life, a new emperor, Emperor Paul, had Princess Dashkova exiled from the capital due to her strong political ties. She had spent her life living in luxury, only to spend the last decade living in poverty in a small village outside St. Petersburg, though she was allowed to return to live her final few years in her home in Moscow.

But how was this Princess a Trowelblazer? Although Dashkova didn’t undertake her own research or publish papers, she understood science. As President of the Imperial Academy of Arts and Sciences, she advanced knowledge and was a very important figure in the birth of Russian science.

And, although she didn’t know it, she discovered a unicorn.

On her adventures across Russia and Europe, Princess Dashkova collected many  strange objects. This became her ‘Cabinet of Natural History and other Curiosities’. The collection was donated to Moscow University in 1807.

One object that was recorded was examined by Johann Gotthelf Fischer von Waldheim. von Waldheim examine a fossil fragment that belong to the jaw of an animal and still held three teeth. He named an entirely new genus based on this one jaw, of an extinct, massive rhinoceros, Elasmotherium. The species was named a year later, so the jaw belonged to Elasmotherium sibiricum. The label with the specimen reads:

Elasmotherium sibiricum Fischer, left part of a mandible from Siberia presented by the princess E. Dashkova. Listozub. Original. For the work by Fischer.”

There is no information about where exactly the jaw fragment was found, or how she acquired it. As was typical of early collections of ‘curiosities’ objects were amassed not for advancing knowledge, but because they looked pleasing. Since the naming of this new species in 1808, many more fossils have been discovered. The jaw the Princess had found belonged to a species of extinct rhinoceros, that was specially adapted for cold climates and only became extinct 50,000 years ago. This was the biggest rhinoceros to have ever walked the Earth.

This rhino was different from those you are familiar with. It had slightly longer, more slender legs than those alive today, and an enormous horn.  Some estimate that it could have been over 2 meters long (longer than an adult human!). These features have suggested links to Siberian and Chinese to Elasmotherium sibiricum and the unicorn.

The Princess unknowingly unveiled a whole new genus of rhinoceros to the world-and the legend of the Unicorn leading to speculations that Elasmotherium survived until recent times.

Post by Jan Freedman.

Portrait of Yekaterina Vorontsova-Dashkova by Dmitry Levitsky, 1784. Public domain. 


Apokryltaros at English Wikipedia, 2007. My reconstruction of the "Giant Unicorn" rhinoceros, Elasmotherium sibiricus of Pleistocene Siberia (C) Stanton F. Fink

Reconstruction of the “Giant Unicorn” rhinoceros, Elasmotherium sibiricus of Pleistocene Siberia (C) Stanton F. Fink 2007, Wikipedia Commons.

Joanna Sofaer is a renowned Professor at the University of Southampton and a co-director of the Szhazalombatta-Foldvar excavation project. She earned her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1998, where she spent two more years after that, employed as a Research Fellow until 2000. Professor Sofaer has been involved with numerous archaeological projects across Europe, and has been a guest lecturer at many universities around the world.

Working under the supervision of Professor Marie Louise Stig Sørensen at Cambridge University while obtaining her PhD, Sofaer shares some of her research interests.  She is involved with European prehistoric research, mainly the Copper and Bronze Ages, with a focus on pottery analysis and interpretation. Her research explores social identity and bioarchaeology. Combining these two fields, Sofaer makes significant contributions to the issues of childhood in archaeology, which she further explores in relation to gender and identity issues.

Joanna Sofaer is also the author of many influential archaeological books and articles. Her contributions are multidimensional, exemplified by her involvement in different interdisciplinary projects.  An example is Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA), where she is managing the “Creativity and Craft Production in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe” project. Sofaer is further interested in how the past can be used to create social benefits in the present, particularly in the areas of education, the creative economy and mental health. She was also a part of the EC-funded Marie-Curie ITN “Forging Identities” project, and works with research teams across Central and Eastern Europe.

Being such an influential scholar, Sofaer has a lot to contribute to the directorship of the Szhazalombatta excavation project, and she does associate a part of the directors’ collaborative success with their shared womanhood; for example, they share an understanding of having families and children. Because of this shared experience, the directors can relate better to each other, and have even started to perceive themselves as one extended family over the many years spent together. This closeness between the three women plays a great role in the international success of their joint project.

By Monika Dimitrova and Uli Botzojorns

Image provided by Joanna Sofaer and used with permission. 

Marie Louise Stig Sørensen was born in 1954 in Denmark. She graduated from the University of Aarhus in Denmark and later obtained her PhD from Cambridge University in 1985. Since then, her research interests have diverged and she has contributed to research on Bronze Age Europe, archaeological theory, and heritage studies.

One of Sørensen’s most significant contributions to the archaeological discipline has been her exploration and development of gender archaeology. This idea, the connection between social ideas and gender, is explored in her seminal book Gender Archaeology, a publication that is used in archaeological theory studies in universities worldwide since its first publication in 2000. Following this line of research interest, Sørensen continued to contribute to the issues of gender in archaeology, past and present. Regarding the team in Szhazalombatta, she confirms that an effort is being made by her and the other directors to keep a balanced approach towards the team participants’ respective genders. This deliberate decision is a result of Sørensen’s observations on other archaeological teams that she has been a part of, where often clashes occur between the ways that people associating themselves with different genders communicate. Therefore, a goal of the Szhazalombatta’s team management is to have open communication between the team members, their supervisors, and the directors.

In 2011 Sørensen was appointed as a Reader at Cambridge University and subsequently became a Professor of Archaeology. Her research is internationally influential, and in 2012 she was also appointed as Professor in Bronze Age studies at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. In 2014 she was awarded the 16th European Archaeology Heritage Prize, a prestigious award given for exceptional contributions to heritage preservation, another testament to her diverse achievements in archaeology.

Post by Monika Dimitrova and Uli Botzojorns

Image provided by Maikel Kuipers and used with permission. 

Magdolna Vicze was born in 1962 in Budapest, Hungary. She graduated with her master’s degree from the ELTE Bolcseszettudomany University in 1986, and continued to work at the Archaeological Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, where she took part in Gyomaendrőd area of ​​micro-regional research. She was responsible for organizing large-scale and multi-directional archaeological research coordination and organization. During the period between 1986 and 1993 she also studied Bronze Age materials with scholars from Italy, Hungary and the Soviet Union.

Starting her PhD in 1993 at the ELTE Archaeological Departments, Vicze worked on and researched the largest collection of Bronze Age ceramics from burial contexts (1600 graves in total) in Central Europe. Her final dissertation used this data in order to explore the Vatya culture and its respective social space as reconstructed by Bronze Age burial contexts.

Dr. Vicze had to prove herself not just as a scholar, but also as a woman scholar in a then predominately male-oriented profession in a Communist country. When getting married to another renowned archaeologist herself, Magdolna Vicze refused to change her last name, something uncommon for the Communist times. Instead of being perceived as a subsidiary of her husband’s work, she decided that she wanted to be accepted as an independent scholar, and continued to author academic  papers under her maiden name.

Since completing her PhD in 2001, Vicze has been predominantly involved with work at the Matrica Museum, of which she is also a director. Despite the fact that her academic work takes her all over the world, Vicze continues to be a back-bone of the Szazhalombatta excavation project. Being multi-lingual and publishing articles in both Hungarian and English, Magdolna Vicze provides a link between Western and Central European archaeology.

Post by Monika Dimitrova and Uli Botzojorns

Photo by Maikel Kuipers and used with permission. 

This guest post by students Monika Dimitrova and Uli Botzojorns at the University of Leiden (Netherlands) features a collaborative team of three women, each deserving of their own posts-linked below as we post a new article each day this week.

“Duuh Duuh da da da Duuh”

The opening notes of the Star Wars theme song ring out over the trench, and trowelling stops for a moment as we look around for the source.  Madgolna Vicze stops mid-stride around the edge of the pit and whips her cellphone out of her pocket.  Flipping it open, the music stops and she starts emphatically speaking.  From the far corner of the trench, a bachelor student from the University of Southampton begins to hum the rest of the song, to the chagrin of her fellow trowellers.

We are working around 30 kilometres south of the Hungarian capital, Budapest, at one of the most well researched Bronze Age sites. The site of Százhalombatta-Foldvar, the largest-scale prehistoric excavation in Hungary, has been revealing its secrets to the archaeological team exploring it over eighteen years of detailed excavation. It has substantially enriched our perspective of the European Bronze Age and has gained an international significance. The current project owes its success to the co-direction and cooperation between three women archaeologists who have excelled in their respective fields – Magdolna Vicze, Marie Louise Stig Sørensen, and Joanna Sofaer.

The development of the archaeological excavations at Százhalombatta has been heterogeneous, and the project changed directors a number of times before settling with the current co-directorship. Begun in 1998, the original team leaders changed a few times over the years. Dr. Sørensen and Dr. Sofaer joined in 2000 as supporters of the project and in 2005, after the unfortunate passing of Dr. Proszlai, agreed to co-direct with Vicze.

More than 10 years later, the Százhalombatta project has turned into an internationally renowned excavation project, with a diverse archaeological team that changes from season to season. Given the impressive scholarly and personal background of the three directors, it is safe to assume that the international success of the Százhalombatta project is owed to its driving forces, each who deserve their own post:

Dr. Magdolna Vicze

Professor Marie-Louise Stig Sørensen

Professor Joanna Sofaer

During our participation in the 2016 season of the Százhalombatta excavation we were particularly interested in how these diversely accomplished individuals experienced working in close collaboration. The two authors of this article participated in the excavation and interviewed the three directors about their work on the project.

The continuity of the Százhalombatta project throughout transitions in directorship is successful and of international significance for prehistoric archaeology. The directors owe their success first and foremost to their professionalism and ability to form a well-functioning team. It is their compatibility (both with and without effort) as researchers and people that makes them so successful. Nevertheless, their womanhood facilitates their personal and professional relationships, and their shared gender helps them create a better team management. Together these women have maintained a project that will likely change our understanding of Bronze Age Tell settlement patterns and possibly even the European Bronze Age as a whole. Both authors felt motivated and inspired by working with Dr’s Vicze, Sørensen, and Sofaer and we are excited to watch the excavation proceed to its completion.

Image provided by Matrica Museum and used with permission. Pictures are (L to R) Vicze, Sørensen, and Sofaer on-site.


Joan Wiffen was born in 1922 in New Zealand. Her father thought education was wasted on girls, so Joan didn’t get to go to high school. When she grew up, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce during World War II and served as a clerk for 6 years.

Joan got married in 1953. After a time, her husband signed up to take a geology class, but got sick and couldn’t go. Joan eagerly took his spot in the class, remembering her love of fossils as a child. She saw on a geologic map that a nearby valley had ‘Reptilian bones in beds of brackish water in the Te Hoe Valley’ and went out fossil hunting near her house. She involved the whole family in fossil and mineral hunting. In 1975, she found a fossil vertebra in Maungahouanga Valley! She knew it was from a land animal, but didn’t know which one.

In 1979, she went on vacation to Australia and visited the Queensland Museum. There she met Ralph Monar, a paleontologist, and noticed a familiar-looking bone on his desk: a vertebra exactly like the one she had found. He told her it was part of a theropod dinosaur tail. She had found the first dinosaur fossil from New Zealand!

10 centimetre-long toe bone from a theropod. Reproduced courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa under a CC BY-NC-ND licence

10 centimetre-long toe bone from a theropod. Reproduced courtesy of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa under a CC BY-NC-ND licence.

Ralph and Joan worked together on many projects and published dozens of papers. Among her notable discoveries, she found a new species of mosasaurs and the first pterosaur from New Zealand. Because of Joan’s hard work, she was known as “The Dinosaur Lady.” Even though Joan had not gone to school, she received an honorary doctorate from the Massey University of New Zealand in 1994. She also received an Ordinary Commanders of the Civil Division of the said Most Excellent Order 31 Dec 1994 for services to science. In 2004, she received the Morris Skinner Award from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology for sustained contributions to scientific knowledge. Joan passed away in 2009.

Guest Post by Eugenia Gold, who is part of a team running a Kickstarter campaign for a very cool looking kids book which brings the history of women fossil hunters to life in big bright colours — and multiple languages, with your support!


Edited by Brenna

More on Joan!

Jack McClintock. Romancing the Bone: how an amateur fossil hound unearthed dinosaur remains in a most unlikely place and rocked the world of paleontology. Discover 



Obituaries of Joan Wiffen



Collections related to Joan Wiffen





Dame Freya Stark (1893-1993) was not your typical candidate to be a grand adventurer. Not because her family was not financially capable of supporting her – that they certainly were. Nor was it for a lack of travel. By the time she was 10 she had lived in Paris, the English countryside, London, and northern Italy.  But, around this age she was left scarred for life after an unfortunate run-in with a machine at her mother’s factory, which caused grievous injury to her scalp and right ear. She was to spend a great deal of time as a child ill or recovering.

While these early setbacks may have been highly unpleasant at the time, one thing they did ensure is that Freya had much time for reading. The 1001 Arabian Nights and Dumas’ French adventure novels were her particular favourites, but she also kept herself busy with language and was an autodidact in Latin. Despite never having formally been schooled, her efforts eventually won her a place at Bedford College studying Arabic and Persian. This education was interrupted by WWI, and she took a break from her studies to become a nurse at the Italian front.

It was after the war that her solo travels began. Travelling to Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq without an escort, Stark was breaking many of the social conventions of her day. She famously said:

One can only really travel if one lets oneself go and takes what every place brings without trying to turn it into a healthy private pattern of one’s own and I suppose that is the difference between travel and tourism’.

During her own travels she definitely lived by these rules. Stark spent much of her time learning regional dialects and about local cultures by interacting with the communities in the areas she traveled. In doing this she strongly diverged from the expectations of the social code of the time, and incurred the disapproval of her more prominent colonial associates. Her sociability, however, allowed her to gain a better understanding of local life, inspiring the captivating accounts of her travels that were so well received.

In 1930 she set out for Persia, the ultimate goal of her travels. She planned to find and map the Valley of the Assassins, the fabled base of the 11th century Islamic sect of Nizari warriors. Despite being plagued by malaria, dengue fever, and dysentery, Stark never gave up, earning the reputation of a seasoned explorer. Her research was disrupted by the outbreak of WWII, where she also contributed as an advocate for the British cause, working to dissuade the Arabs from joining the Central forces. Stark never stopped travelling, also visiting Turkey, Yemen, Afghanistan, India, Egypt, and Kurdistan. She once said that she was able to do so much, during such politically fraught times, not in spite of, but because of, her sex:

“The great and almost only comfort about being a woman is that one can always pretend to be more stupid than one is and no one is surprised.”

With additional training in geographical and archaeological methods, Stark made some more formal studies of the lands, peoples and customs she came across. She surveyed the areas she visited, and unlike many early archaeological teams, she fully documented and published her findings, albeit in narrative prose. Though she was well regarded as a cultural geographer, her reliance on her personality and  social relationships to obtain her objectives made her a very different traveler than say, Gertrude Caton Thompson, with whom she once joined forces in an expedition to the Hadhramaut in Yemen. The meticulous scientist Caton Thompson expressed a clear distrust for Stark’s more flamboyant methods, while Stark’s account of her scientist companion describe her as pedantic and insensitive to the local people. Stark’s methods may seem more recognizable to modern practices combining a high level of professionalism and a relationship of mutual respect with the local community.

Stark never stopped traveling and even after the war she returned to the Middle East, visiting new places and sharing her discoveries with the public through her written work and public lectures. Freya Stark ultimately lived a long and eventful life, dying in Asolo at the age of 100. Her courage and dedication have secured her a place among the great explorers of the 20th century. Not only did she break gender stereotypes, she was also willing to flout colonial conventions, choosing instead to rely on her own experience.


Geniesse, F. 2001. Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark. Random House.

Izzard, A. 1992. A Marvellous Bright Eye: Freya Stark. Cornucopia 2.

Sorensen, M.L.S. 2013. Rescue and Recovery, in Excavating Women. Routledge.

Written by Annelies Van de Ven @archaeoa1

Edits by Brenna
Images provided with permission from John Murray, from the John Murray Collection. 


Katherine Routledge (née Pease) (1866-1935) can be counted amongst that Victorian set of women who strived to go beyond the societal norms of the time. This was especially true for Katherine, who descended from a long line of entrepreneurial Quaker families in Darlington, northern England. But it wasn’t until her entry into Somerville College at Oxford University that she was able to experience the freedom she craved. Katherine graduated with a degree in Modern History in 1895 and not long after began traveling abroad, first joining a trip to South Africa to investigate the resettlement of single working women there. Katherine’s interests in anthropology and archaeology had been piqued whilst she was in Oxford, but it wasn’t until the 1914 Mana Expedition to Easter Island that her interest came to fruition.

Katherine had married, and with her husband, William Scoresby Routledge, approached the British Museum and the Royal Geographical Society with a notion of traveling to the Pacific. The decision to organise an expedition to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) arose from anthropological questions of that era related to the moai (the giant stone statues) and the people who created them. A wooden schooner was custom built for the trip, named Mana, and set sail from Southampton, England in 1913 with a small team onboard.  It took over a year to arrive at the distant island in the Southeast Pacific. Like many women of that period, Katherine had no formal training in the skills and techniques of archaeological excavation, but she had been given notes and instructions to follow from Dr. Marett, an Oxford scholar. Excavation was a planned part of the expedition, alongside ethnographic research. Once ensconced on the island, and after many weeks of surveying the moai of an area called Rano Raraku, it was finally decided that excavations should begin: “In the hope of throwing some light on these problems we started to dig them out.” (Routledge, 1919).

And then, in what may sound like a naïve tone to the experienced archaeologist, Katherine continues: “It had originally been thought that the excavation of one or two would give all the information which it was possible to obtain, but each case was found to have unique and instructive features, and we finally unearthed in this way, wholly or in part, some twenty or thirty statues.” (Routledge, 1919). The results that Katherine and the Mana Expedition produced from the excavations allowed a number of conclusions to be drawn about the production of the statues and their carvers. And, despite the fact that the work of the Mana Expedition has stood the test of time more for its ethnographic material rather than archaeological findings, it was able to determine numerous facts that have provided the platform for later investigations. Katherine published a summary of the expedition’s findings in the book, as quoted above, “The Mystery of Easter Island” on return from the Pacific in 1919 – an excellent read for anyone interested in Pacific anthropology. The book includes pictures of excavated statues but no excavation in process, and only a single photo of Katherine doing any work in the field exists.

Katherine Routledge wanted to publish a second book that would have covered many of the expedition’s findings in greater detail. It seems that she was highly aware of the fact that actual numbers and measurements were missing from her book published in 1919, but she was unable to complete this task due to her deteriorating mental health.

Further reading on the subject must include “Amongst Stone Giants: The Life of Katherine Routledge and Her Remarkable Expedition to Easter Island” by Dr. Jo Anne Van Tilburg – a prominent Rapa Nui archaeologist. Katherine’s life is detailed thoroughly and the book provides a great insight to what it must have been like for Katherine to travel so far and work so remotely in the field.

Written by Susie Stephen, who upon the 100th anniversary of the Mana expedition in 2014 completed “Retracing Routledge“, where she ran from Darlington, her shared hometown with Katherine Routledge, to Southampton, UK; cycled across Argentina and the Andes into Chile; and then embarked on a 9-hour, 40-mile circumnavigation of Rapa Nui. Along the way, she recorded her experience and contrasted it with that of Katherine Routledge. This led to an exhibition and a forthcoming book on her journey.

Images used are in the public domain. 

“Her research in the last ten years has helped pave the way for the study of biomechanics and functional morphology of both fossil and extant animals.” – Dr. Stephan Lautenschlager, Vertebrate Palaeontologist

Professor Emily Rayfield is an internationally renowned palaeontologist who has pioneered the use of engineering principles in palaeontology, particularly finite element analysis (FEA). Her meticulous work spans many areas of palaeontology, from dinosaurs to Mesozoic mammals. Most importantly, she stresses the importance of proofing models of how extinct animals function by carefully comparing them to living forms. As well as carrying out her own research, she now passes this care in scientific methodology to the many students and researchers in her classroom and research laboratory.

Born in the Yorkshire town of Northallerton, Emily did her degree in Biological Sciences at Oxford University, followed by a PhD at Cambridge. She became a Junior Research Fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, before working at the Natural History Museum in London as a postdoctoral researcher.

Her high impact research career began with a publication on the biomechanics of Allosaurus fragilis, alongside an international team of colleagues. While others had attempted to use engineering principles to understand the properties of living structures (predominantly in human medicine), Emily was the first to create complex and complete models. The rise of accessible CT-scanning allowed her to use finite element analysis to understand how the Allosaurus fragilis skull reacted to the forces involved in biting. This kind of model allows palaeontologists to make predictions about the kind of food an animal would have been able to eat, and how it would have eaten.

One of Emily’s unique research focuses is her emphasis on generating models of living animals and using these to understand extinct forms. Known as validation, this rigor in her methodology sets her work apart from many others. It also allows her to span from the palaeo-sciences to modern biology, ecology and functional anatomy.

Emily took up a position as Lecturer in Palaeobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol in 2005, where she subsequently became a Senior Lecturer and then Reader in Palaeobiology. She is now a Professor and leads the Rayfield Lab. She won the Palaeontological Association’s Hodson Fund for exceptional early-career achievement in 2009, and The Geological Society Lyell Fund in 2011.

While an initial focus on dinosaurs means much of Emily’s work has been on reptiles and increasingly on birds – the closest living relatives of dinosaurs – she has also worked on mammal functional anatomy, particularly Mesozoic mammals. As an expert in methodology, Emily has even co-authored papers using biomechanics in unexpected areas of research, such as the study of fossil plankton. She is well known for her work on crocodile and gharial skulls, comparing bending and torsion along the length of the skull and using these findings to inform research into dinosaurs, notably in the much-loved Spinosaurus, the “crocodile-mimic”.

Emily’s review of using finite element analysis in the understanding of extinct organisms has become a seminal text on the subject, tackling not only the applications and strength of the method, but future directions in this area of palaeontology. Emily provides a great role model for women in science-she has even lent support to the Fossil Hunter Lottie campaign.

By Elsa Panciroli (@gsciencelady)

Image courtesy Emily Rayfield.


Gill, P.G.; Purnell, M. A.; Crumpton, N.; Robson-Brown, K.; Gostling, N. J.; Stampanoni, M.; Rayfield, E. J. 2014 Dietary specializations and diversity in feeding ecology of the earliest stem mammals. Nature 512, 303–305 doi: 10.1038/nature13622

Rayfield E. J. 2007 Finite Element Analysis and Understanding the Biomechanics and Evolution of Living and Fossil Organisms. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 35, 541-576

Rayfield E. J.; Norman, D. B.; Horner, C. C.; Horner, J. R.; Smith, P. M.; Thomason, J. J.; Upchurch, P. 2001 Cranial design and function in a large theropod dinosaur. Nature 409, 1033-1037 doi: 10.1038/35059070



British archaeologist Bridget Allchin was born Bridget Gordon on February 10th, 1927. Inspired by the work of W.J. Sollas, Bridget had nursed an ambition to study prehistory since childhood; she decided to go to university but made what she calls ‘the disappointing discovery’ that in Britain archaeology was not taught as a first degree subject at the time. She opted instead for a degree at UCL that included Ancient History, spending her Easter break excavating a prehistoric site in Oxford. Bridget’s studies were interrupted after her first year at university when her parents abruptly moved to South Africa and pressured her to join them. In South Africa and of marriageable age, she rebuffed suitors by explaining that she intended to soon return to Britain to continue her academic career; however, returning home became unnecessary when she found that she could read for a degree in African Studies, including Anthropology and Archaeology, at Cape Town University. She studied under A.J.H. Goodwin, learned to speak Sesotho, and – in her free time – began flying lessons under a Battle of Britain pilot who taught her in a Piper Cub.

Completing her degree at Cape Town, Bridget continued her plans to become an archaeologist with a single-minded focus; in 1950 she returned to Britain alone to begin her PhD, relying on her savings since childhood to tide her over. She tried LSE but was met with some opposition and told her ‘colonial degree’ wasn’t considered adequate preparation for a research degree; she stormed to UCL, and without an appointment and in what she described as “a somewhat belligerent mood”, asked to meet the Director of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, Professor Gordon Childe. Whisked off to meet him, she managed to convince Childe to admit her to the Institute in less than ten minutes.

Bridget began her PhD that autumn, telling her supervisor she wanted to work on later African prehistory and ethnoarchaeology. She describes the Institute of the 1950s as a friendly and eccentric place where she met fellow Trowelblazers Kathleen Kenyon (cheerful, redoubtable, and “very much a ‘doer’” who always brought her two large but well-behaved dogs to the Institute according to Bridget); and (briefly) Agatha Christie who came across as quiet and kindly. She also met her future husband, fellow archaeology student Raymond Allchin; they became engaged after the winter holidays. Ever the archaeologists, they married in March 1951 and then honeymooned in the Dordogne to see the Palaeolithic cave paintings.

Raymond studied Indian archaeology and was scheduled to spend a year in South Asia; the couple began making arrangements for Bridget to spend her year’s study leave there with him. Before World War I broke out, her doctor father had served in the Indian Army Medical Service in what was then the North-West Frontier Province of India (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan); Bridget herself was now to return for archaeological fieldwork. Correspondence from Raymond’s supervisor, Professor Kenneth Codrington, shows him recommending that Bridget join them on their research trip – not least because (very helpfully) she was an experienced driver and he did not drive at all!

As they prepared to leave for a year in South Asia, Bridget found that she was pregnant. Undaunted and with her mind already made up to go, she and Raymond hid the news from their families; Bridget checked their travel schedule and prepared to give birth in Bangalore. The couple spent the next six months travelling through South Asia, from Karachi to Bombay, Delhi to Peshawar crossing the Indus River, and to Kabul through the Khyber Pass; by the time they travelled to south India for Christmas, Bridget was nearly 8 months pregnant. She was awed by the richness of South Asian archaeology, from Gandharan sculpture to Hindu rock-cut temples to Mughal architecture; her admiration for cultural heritage was no less as she built up a collection of Indian textiles and ate everything from mithai to idlis (which she described as “the best breakfast we had ever had”). Her newfound love for the region she was immersing herself in was clear when she gave birth to her daughter in early February and gave her the Indian name Sushila.

Bridget wrote her first professional paper in this period, on Palaeolithic stone tools in the University of Mysore collection, and then headed back into the field with a 6–8 week infant. She went on to earn her PhD, which was published in 1966 as The Stone-Tipped Arrow: Late Stone Age Hunters of the Tropical Old World, and built a career as a specialist in lithic technology and South Asian prehistory. She had her second child, William, in 1953, and returned to the South Asia for extended fieldwork three years later with both children in tow. While Bridget and Raymond went on to write on Indian archaeology together, including The Birth of Indian Civilization, The Rise of Civilization in India and Pakistan, and Origins of a Civilization: the Prehistory and Early Archaeology of South Asia, she wrote separately and extensively on her own research interests such as Stone Age settlements and ethnoarchaeology in India. She became a fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and built a reputation as a formidable field-focused archaeologist.

Bridget’s legacy in the field of South Asian archaeology, and her efforts to structure the field and provide platforms for teaching and publishing are clear: besides her own ground-breaking research and many collaborations, she is a founding trustee of the Ancient India and Iran Trust; a founding member of the European Association of South Asian Archaeology, editor of the journal Afghan Studies and founding editor of the journal South Asian Studies. In 2014 Bridget was presented with the Royal Asiatic Society Gold Medal; the society recognized her as a “pioneering female field-archaeologist in South Asia.” Bridget and Raymond also give their name to the Annual Allchin Symposium of South Asian Archaeology.

Written by Danika Parikh, @induswaliarch

Photos are copyright the Allchin Family and  are used here with permission; they may not be reproduced without permission. For more information on Bridget’s life, read From the Oxus to Mysore in 1951: the Start of a Great Partnership in Indian Scholarship, her joint autobiography with Raymond. This post can also be found on the Ancient India & Iran Trust blog. 

RH e-invite


After an absolutely awe-inspiring amount of work, our Raising Horizons collaboration has finally seen the light of day! On the 9th of
February we had a little party to celebrate the artistic vision of Leonora Saunders and the rather epic TrowelBlazing of Becky Wragg Sykes. The portraits were hung by the railings with care, half the professors and all of the TrowelBlazers were there…!

We’ve compiled a few pictures of the evening for those who came out to support us, and we will soon be posting the perks and treats for our Raising Horizons backers! In the meantime, check out the #RaisingHorizons tag, enjoy seeing what ‘the most women ever seen in the Geological Society’ looks like, and a massive THANK YOU from all of us at Team TrowelBlazers for everything that makes us work.*


Tori takes over the most important job – sorting the bubbles


Suzie finds a new role as Queen of Merch


We even met some celebrities… (Shahina, Jess, Rachel, Ella, and Peggy!)

image12 image8 image6ellaFullSizeRender

And the amazing Emma O’ Riordan brought together THREE amazing women in this photo — TrowelBlazer Margaret Murray, her modern Raising Horizons counterpart Amara Thornton, and the custom TrowelBlazer Lottie!


There were beautiful words from Leonora, from Becky, from Raising Horizons star Peggy Brunache and from Dorothea Bate biographer Karolyn Shindler. And MOST EXCITING THING OF ALL — all four of your Team TrowelBlazers managed to co-exist in the same physical space without the sheer awesomeness collapsing the space-time continuum.†



*That would be you, our amazing community  😉

†We’re better at digging than physics. Oh well.

Born in 1930, Hester Ashmead Davis did not initially set out to be an archaeologist, but got hooked in the course of a summer job.  She would later become leading figure in American archaeology, and help shape two of its main trajectories: cultural resource management and public archaeology.

After earning her undergraduate and not one but two master’s degrees, Hester went to Arkansas to work as a museum preparator in 1959. Just one year later, she was appointed Assistant Director of the University Museum. The rapidly disappearing archaeological landscape of Arkansas became one of Hester’s primary concerns. At the same time, Hester recognized that avocational archaeologists knew the most about local sites and could be allies if a positive relationship was forged based on education and the pursuit of common goals. Together with Charles McGimsey, Hester worked to create a new statewide Arkansas Archeological Society. Formed in 1964, it emphasizes the scientific partnership of amateur and professional archaeologists, and includes an annual Training Program.

Hester’s efforts, with the political support of all those like-minded surface-collecting citizens, convinced the Arkansas Legislature to create the Arkansas Archeological Survey in 1967. Now a division of the University of Arkansas System, the Survey is a statewide program of professional research, college level teaching, preservation, and outreach. That same year Hester was appointed Arkansas’s first State Archaeologist, a position she retained until her retirement in 1999. She developed and taught one of the first college courses in Public Archaeology for the University of Arkansas’s Department of Anthropology. The reputation of the Survey drew students from around the country to the UA master’s program with its focus on cultural resource management (CRM) archaeology during that period.

Hester and Charles McGimsey took their fight for archaeological preservation to the national scene by lobbying for the Moss-Bennett Bill, which became the Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974. In her position as chair of the Society for American Archaeology’s Committee on Public Archaeology, Hester encouraged her colleagues to help support passage of Moss-Bennett. Her articles in Archaeology magazine (1971) and Science (1972) foregrounded the preservation of cultural resources as an issue of concern for professional archaeologists as well as the general public. (As a side note, Hester was the only woman to contribute a single-authored article to Science that year.)

Hester was an officer of many professional organizations, served on numerous boards and committees, and was the first non-Ph.D. to be elected to the Society for American Archaeology’s Executive Committee. She also held many editorial positions throughout her career, and was appointed by President Clinton to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee. Among her numerous awards, she received the SAA’s first Award for Excellence in Cultural Resource Management and the Distinguished Service Award. Her 1999 book Remembering Awatovi, the Story of an Archaeological Expedition in Northern Arizona 1935-1939  won a gold medal in the Independent Publishers IPPY Book Awards.

Hester Davis in the Field

Despite national and international recognition, Hester remained committed to the people and archaeology of Arkansas, regularly attending the Training Programs she had helped to establish (where her famous “electric shovel” was sometimes displayed) and serving as editor of the Arkansas Archeological Society Bulletin and newsletter for 40 years.

In addition to her many career achievements, Hester was a generous hostess to dozens of incoming graduate students and new employees, and an outstanding benefactor to the organizations to which she had dedicated her life’s work. She once told a young woman considering switching careers that women were better represented in archaeology than in many of the sciences, “but we could always use more.”

Hester Davis passed away on December 30, 2014. In 2015 she was inducted posthumously into the inaugural class of the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame.


In Memoriam: Hester Davis-A National Treasure. The Archaeological Conservancy.

Davis, Hester A., 1971 Is there a future for the past? Archaeology 24(4):300–306.

Davis, Hester A., 1972 The crisis in American archaeology. Science 175:267–72.

McGimsey, Charles R., III, and Hester A. Davis, 1992 History of the Arkansas Archeological Survey. Special Publication, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville.

White, Nancy Marie, 1999 Hester A. Davis, A Legend in Public Archaeology. In Grit-Tempered. Early Women Archaeologists in the Southeastern United States, edited by Nancy Marie White, Lynne P. Sullivan, and Rochelle A. Marrinan, pp. 206–229. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.


Written by Deborah Sabo, Research Assistant, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville, Arkansas, dsabo@uark.edu

The Arkansas Archeological Survey can be found on Twitter at @ArkArcheoSurvey . The mission of the Arkansas Archeological Survey is to study and conserve the state’s archeological heritage and to communicate this information to the public. The Arkansas Archeological Survey is a unit of the University of Arkansas System. For more information see http://www.arkansasarcheology.org.


Images provided by the Arkansas Archeological Survey and used with permission. The image of Hester Davis at her desk was taken at the University of Arkansas Museum in 1962. She is also pictured with her famous “electric shovel” at the  Ferguson site in SW Arkansas, ready to repair a collapsed mound profile. Credit: The University of Arkansas Museum Collections, Photo Nos. 62-CO-203 and 74-CO-2015.

 Edited and posted by Suzie

Gertrude Lowthian Bell (“GLB” in her British Intelligence Reports) was many things in her extraordinary life, but amidst the global-trotting, international politics, and alpine ascents, she managed to fit in archaeological investigations and the creation of the National Museum of Iraq.

Born in 1868, GLB was something of a prodigy, attaining a First Class in Modern History at the University of Oxford in 1885, after only five terms at Lady Margaret Hall.  Her travels began soon afterwards, and it was through this and voracious reading that she developed an ever-growing social network with the great and the good of Victorian and Edwardian society, scattered around the British Empire. Her capacity to learn new languages and develop new skills made her a proficient self-teacher and a fascination with the Near and Middle East led her to eventually settle there.

Gertrude started learning Persian in the early 1890s when she spent time in Tehran with her aunt and uncle, Mary and Frank Lascelles. During this decade she travelled with family or friends who had important social and political connections, constantly expanding her network wherever she went.  She visited historic places and spent hours each day reading on new subjects. By 1897 she could publish her translations of Poems from the Divan of Hafiz.  She wrote hundreds of letters and kept her diary, all the time building up her knowledge of the people, history, and culture of the places she experienced.

GLB started to learn Arabic in 1899 when she visited Jerusalem and from 1900 began to make desert journeys in what was then part of the Ottoman Empire.  In the spring of 1900 visited the ruins of Mashetta, Petra, Bosrah and Palmyra. By this time she had also become a proficient photographer.

In January 1902 she was photographing and drawing Maltese ruins; by March, excavating at Byzantine sites on the Turkish coast including at the Ionian city of Colophon and surveying the temples and palaces of Pergamos. She also began printing her own photographs, in improvised darkrooms.  At the end of the year she went to India, encountering Agra, Jaipur and the remains of the Moghul Empire.  This typified her curiosity as a wide-ranging scholar “with an almost intuitive understanding of ancient architecture and archaeology.”

In 1904, Salomon Reinach (Director of the French National Museum of Antiquities) asked Bell to review Josef Strzygowski’s book on Turkish church architecture and art, Kleinasien: ein Neuland der Kunstgeschichte.  Unsurprisingly, she made an expedition in 1905 to visit these sites, via Syria, Palestine, and the Levant.   Whilst visiting Homs, the Greek colonial sites at Hama and Apamea, Aleppo, and Adana, she also familiarised herself with the tribal groupings of the region – a lifetime obsession that would equip her for intelligence and political work during and after the First World War.

This trip led to her research with Sir William Ramsay at the Anatolian Byzantine churches of Binbirkilisse (Barata), her first episode of sustained, recorded, and published fieldwork.  It resulted in The Thousand and One Churches which they wrote together.   In 1909 her most important journey of geographical discovery took her along the Euphrates, including her first visit to the castle at Ukhaidir, 120 miles south-west of Baghdad.  Although previously described, Bell surveyed the massive structure and returned to it in early 1911.  Her interest having opened up the site to other researchers, she published her work in 1914 in collaboration with a German expedition.  Over the years she was to meet with a number of German and British archaeologists as she explored the cultural, political and archaeological character of the region.

In mid-1914 Bell was back in London.  Her first contributions to the war effort were at home and in France with the Red Cross, but in 1915 she was invited to join British Intelligence in Cairo, using her expert knowledge to assess the political situation of the Near and Middle East, Arabia and Persia.  From March 1917 her office was located in Baghdad.  Both during the First World War and after she was extremely concerned about the security of the archaeology of Iraq.   She took it upon herself to visit sites to check for looting, examined wartime damage to the arch of Ctesiphon, and toured Baghdad’s bazaars to intervene in artefact sales.

Although her archaeological expertise equipped her to pursue this work, the wider context of GLB’s intervention was her desire to see Iraq become “a centre of Arab civilisation and prosperity”, as she explained in a letter of 10 March 1917 to her father.  While her boss Sir Percy Cox intended to send antiquities to London, in early 1922 the new leader of Iraq, King Faisal, appointed GLB Honorary Director of Archaeology in the Department of Antiquities, part of the new Iraqi Ministry of Works.  Her responsibilities included ensuring that the growing number of expeditions were not using out-dated excavation methods, and that artefacts were shared fairly between the research teams and Iraq itself.

To this end, GLB supervised the new generation of British and American diggers coming to the country, and in 1923 established the Baghdad Archaeological Museum (now called the National Museum of Iraq).  She had a proper building for the museum by mid-1926, but died on 12 July that year having taken an overdose.  The foundations of scholarship that she laid were further cemented by £6,000 which she willed towards the creation of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq (founded in 1932 as a memorial to Gertrude).  For someone whose only formal qualification in field skills was a course of instruction in survey methods and map projection at the Royal Geographical Society in October 1907, Gertrude Lowthian Bell achieved a phenomenal amount of well-received archaeological exploration and research.   Established at a time of immense political turmoil and considerable violence, her archaeological legacy in the region is still being championed.


Goodman, S. (1985) Gertrude Bell  Leamington Spa: Berg Publishers Ltd
Winstone, H.V. (1978, 1980) Gertrude Bell  London: Quartet Books Ltd

Written by Katy Whitaker

Drawing of Gertrude Bell by Nathan Gelgud, inspired by Gertrude Bell’s ‘A Woman in Arabia,’ in 2015 and originally published in Signature. Reproduced here with permission. Map drawn by Katy Whitaker and used with permission. 

The Gertrude Bell archive at the University of Newcastle includes digitised photographs, letters and diary entries available online at http://www.gerty.ncl.ac.uk/



Although her research has come to be regarded as on the fringe of archaeology, it arose from a pioneering career that stretched across five decades. Gimbutas, originally from Lithuania, was Professor of Archaeology at UCLA from 1963 to her retirement in 1989, and she died in 1994. Known mainly for her analysis of the Baltic Neolithic and Bronze Age societies and her theories on the origins of Indo-European traditions and ‘Kurgans’, she has been described as ‘one of the most productive and wide-ranging scholars of European prehistory of [the twentieth] century’(Chapman 1998).

Marija Gimbutas was born in Vilnius, Lithuania in 1921. She was the child of doctors, with her mother often cited as one of the first female doctors in Lithuania. Her undergraduate studies were wide-ranging, taking in archaeology, ethnology, folklore and linguistics. After completing an MA on Iron Age burials at Vilnius in 1941, she began doctoral studies, writing her thesis on prehistoric burial rites in Lithuania. These studies were interrupted in 1944 by the second invasion of Lithuania by the Red Army. Gimbutas recounts in interviews how, with her husband, she fled for Vienna with her MA dissertation in one hand and her child in the other. After she completed her PhD at the University of Tübingen in 1946 and held several postdoctoral posts in Germany, she emigrated to the United States in 1949. After first taking an unpaid post, Gimbutas became a fellow at the Peabody Museum, Harvard in 1955. Her time at Harvard is said to have been blighted by the misogyny of the time, but this did not stop her writing and publishing a major synthesis of Eastern European Prehistory (1956) and then the classic work Bronze Age cultures of Central and Eastern Europe (1965). These innovative and pioneering works combined archaeology with linguistics to investigate Indo-European origins and migrations, and led to the proposal of the ‘Kurgan hypothesis’ – that the peoples who built the Kurgan burial mounds brought the Indo-European language westwards into central Europe.

In the early 1960s, Gimbutas moved with her family to California, where she became full professor at UCLA in 1963. Throughout the 70s and 80s, her research became focused on the female figurines of the eastern European Neolithic and Chalcolithic as icons of prehistoric ritual and religion – the ‘Mother Goddess’. It was her writing on this theme which caught the attention and imagination of the feminist movement. Her final three books, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1974), The Language of the Goddess (1989), and The Civilization of the Goddess (1991), however, drew on a wider range of evidence and ideas to explore Neolithic society and religion. Gimbutas contrasted what she interpreted as the goddess-centred, peaceful and equal society of the Neolithic, with the patriarchal and war-like Bronze Age society of the Kurgans. Several researchers have drawn parallels between Gimbutas’ own life and her writings on prehistory – just as her peaceful life in Lithuania was brought to an end by the invasion of the Russian and German armies during the Second World War, so the matrilineal and peaceful Neolithic way of life was brought abruptly to an end by the invasion of the war-loving and androcentric Kurgans (Meskell 1995).

While Gimbutas’ notion of prehistoric societies worshipping a ‘Mother Goddess’ was challenged, her interpretations of Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe as a place of complex social organisation, religious practice, and material culture filled with meaning, continues to inspire and provoke in equal measure.

Written by Penny Bickle


Chapman, J. 1998. The impact of modern invasions and migrations on archaeological explanation. A biographical sketch of Marija Gimbutas. In M. Diaz-Andreu and M.-L.S. Sørensen (eds), Excavating women. A history of women in European archaeology, 295–314, London: Routledge.

Meskell, L. 1995. Goddesses, Gimbutas and ‘New Age’ archaeology. Antiquity 69, 74–86.

Top image obtained from Wikimedia Commons, taken by Michael Everson and published here under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Image below, “Reflexive Representations“, created by Andrew Cochrane and Ian Russell and used with permission.


"Reflexive Representations" by Andrew Cochrane and Ian Russell


While archaeologist Dorothy Liddell is perhaps best remembered as Mary Leakey’s treasured mentor, she was an accomplished woman in her own right, and excavated several important British sites while being barred from formal training.

Before Dorothy Liddell would encounter Mary Leakey, her most famous protégé, she would become an active member in the English archaeological world. Even though she wasn’t a professional archaeologist, in 1929 Liddell was employed by the Devon Archaeological Society in order to conduct field research. The Society, which was founded in 1928, hoped to uncover the ancient mysteries of Dartmoor and Exmoor. These two areas of Devon — which are defined by rolling hills and vast grasslands — were home to ancient human activity and ripe for excavation when Liddell became involved.
In 1929, Liddell discovered ornamented pottery belonging to prehistoric Britain inhabitants in Windmill Hill, Avebury. The area has since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to an agrarian society presumably around 3500 BC. Liddell’s excavation of the ornamented pottery was not merely an indication of an early culture at the site, but arguably the ability and intelligence of its people. Alongside the pottery was a small bird bone, which she suggested could serve as a stylus for decorating, seemingly representing complex tool-use.

Liddell documented her findings in Antiquity: “Sometimes the Gods are kind, and so they seemed one morning during last season’s excavations at Windmill Hill: when some minor official of that department which dispenses new ideas through such simple media as overflowing baths and falling apples, superintended the finding of a large quantity of fragments of ‘West Kennet’ type pottery, thickly ornamented with a clearly defined design and in the same layer-for this site singularly unproductive a small bird-bone.” Her eloquent words tell of one of the first women to be involved in notable excavation sites, an accomplishment that would lead her to Hembury and Mary Leakey.

A 17-year-old Mary Leakey gained some of her first archaeological training from Liddell at the Neolithic site in Hembury, Devon from 1930 to 1935. Leakey worked with Liddell and her team for three summers and trained with Liddell for four years. Liddell was a great inspiration to Leakey both as an archaeologist and as a woman. “She was an enormous help in training me, showing me how to dig properly and making it quite clear that females could go to the top of the tree,” Leakey said. Liddell saw Leakey’s talent and included her stone tool illustrations in her publications on Hembury. Liddell also showed Leakey’s illustrations to Gertrude Caton-Thompson, who would later introduce Mary to Louis Leakey. So one could say, Liddell helped start the love affair that was the greatest archaeological team in history.

Outside of the successes of Liddell and Leakey, the Hembury site proved to be significant in the larger archaeological world. Archaeologists originally believed the site to be of the Iron Age, but then Liddell discovered a framed entrance to a causewayed enclosure and an oval arrangement of postholes, suggesting that a fire that had destroyed the building. The finding indicated a Neolithic site and suggested that warfare had been a staple in prehistoric Britain. In addition to the enclosure, Liddell and Leakey uncovered more pottery identical to other sites, like Chassay and Fort Harrouard. Later in the 1960s, charcoal would also be discovered at the site and support their fire hypotheses. Liddell herself would later uncover more Iron Age sites, like huts predicted to have been occupied by the Romans at Choseley Farm, Odiham. Despite not being a professional archaeologist, Liddell made her mark in archaeological history. Her findings in Britain helped shed more light on the country’s prehistoric past. Liddell was highly regarded by her colleagues at the sites she excavated and for her discoveries.

Perhaps the best way to sum up Liddell’s work is to remember the influence she had on inspiring other women to pursue paleoanthropology. Her work inspired past female paleoanthropologists in the same way it will inspire the next generation. Liddell’s contributions to archaeology were visible during her time, but throughout history have become invisible. This is a loss, because Liddell was a true trowelblazer. She did not let the absence of a degree or training (something that kept so many women of the past from lives of work and academia) keep her from her prehistoric passions. In the 1930s her strength as a woman and talent as an archaeologist made her a dynamic role model and integral to the archaeological field.

Written by Maia Erickson, Katie Bieser, Claudia Seidenberg, and Audrey Piehl  for the course “Gender and Human Evolution”, taught by Caroline VanSickle and published as part of the Women in Paleoanthropology special collection.

In true TrowelBlazers fashion, we had a long, hard search for images of Dorothy Liddell, who seemed to have so many connections but very few images. Finally, we were able to contact the Hampshire Cultural Trust, who in turn discovered that they had a veritable trove of Liddell’s material. David Allen graciously provided us with this image, Dorothy Liddell in the background writing in her notebook at the Lodge Farm site while a team member works in the fore. They are now in the process of digitizing their entire collection of material relating to Dorothy Liddell as a result. 

Elizabeth Wayland Barber is an archaeologist, linguist, and folk-dancing expert whose career has been as vibrant and storied as the textiles she studies. Born in 1940 in Pasadena, California, she received a BA in archaeology in 1963, and received her doctorate in linguistics from Yale University in 1968. Her career has focused mainly on the study of textiles and linguistics throughout human evolution, and her website “the Dancing Goddess” (also the title of one of her books) highlights her lifelong fascination with folk music and dance. She is a Professor of Linguistics and Archaeology Emerita at Occidental College, where she has also led the “Oxy Folk and Historical Dance Troupe” since 1971.

She became interested in archaeology at a young age, claiming that she fell in love with it because it allowed her to use information gleaned from various other sciences in an interdisciplinary manner. Her father was a polymath who passed on to her an itch for academic exploration and discovery. When her family moved to France, she was quick to pick up French, sparking another one of her lifelong passions: linguistics. Young Elizabeth was able to explore the many archaeological exhibits on display in museums across Europe, and made a point to always learn at least one or two basic conversational phrases in the countries she visited with her family. It was also during her time in France that she discovered folk costumes, which would inspire her research of textiles. Barber humorously notes that her collection of folk costumes continues to grow at the age of 75.

She combined her love of archaeology and language in her thesis, which was entitled “Computer-aided analysis of undeciphered ancient texts”. After finishing her PhD in 1968, Barber applied for a job at Princeton, where her husband was teaching at the time, and was told she was perfectly qualified for the position – but Princeton would not begin hiring women for another two years.

Rejected by her male colleagues despite her sharp intellect and promising skill, Barber remained determined to further her research in archaeology and linguistics. When asked via email how she navigated such a male-dominated environment, Barber recalled, “at Bryn Mawr… I had absorbed the attitude that to change the male-oriented world, we needed to play by the established rules and show that we can do things that way as well as, or better than, men.”  Barber went to great lengths to make sure her work would be disseminated among the academic community and treated seriously by her male colleagues. She published her first several books under the name “E.J.W. Barber” to masculinize her name, and worked with women copy-editors at the Princeton Press to make sure the dust jacket did not contain any pronouns revealing the author’s true gender.

Barber’s most well-renowned work is her seminal text Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years – Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, an in-depth research project that focuses on the oft hypothesized gendered division of labor. In particular, Barber provides insight on the archaeological and linguistic evidence that provides a framework for scientific inquiry on labor division. The story-telling and analyses contained within Women’s Work illustrate Barber’s experiences with archaeology, and her discovery of fibrous ropes and string juxtaposed with her knowledge of linguistic trends allows Barber to create a map for the reader to develop informed opinions on the importance of so-called “women’s work” in a paleolithic society.
Barber’s mother introduced the art of textiles to her at a young age. She would watch as her mother would weave and sew, entranced by the form, color, and texture of the cloth. In college, she was able to apply her knowledge of textiles to her studies in classical/Bronze age archaeology by examining more durable materials, such as clay pots, that appeared to have styles copied from typical weaving patterns. This was striking to her; could ancient peoples weave as intricate and ornate patterns as we have today? Not only that, but was labor divided in such a way that textile weaving came to be considered inherently female? And how did that occur?

Barber began by imitating the forms she studied. Of particular interest were the weaving shreds and scraps left behind by the Hallstatt mining peoples of ancient times. Considered the progenitors to many European groups, most notably the Celts, the Hallstatt people left a variety of woven objects behind. These objects included twill shreds of fabric, torn on each of the four sides. This tearing made the determination of the direction of the weave nearly impossible. Not to be beaten, Barber used string of the same color and thickness as the ancient patterns. Her attempts were not in vain; she was able to adequately replicate the patterns found in archaeological remnants of the Hallstatt. Moreover, the discovery of their particular weaving style had larger implications: by recovering ancient weaving techniques, Barber was recovering the reality of how women worked in ancient times. She found that women often worked together on weaving, that they would often weave by eye rather than precise measures, and that weaving was heavily associated with childbirth. It is perhaps for this reason, Barber conjectures, that weaving is often relegated to “women’s work”.

Elizabeth Wayland Barber’s multidisciplinary approach to archaeology has expanded the view of ancient women’s roles in society, offering detailed explanations of what made “women’s work” gendered, transliterating folklore and ancient modes of dance, and fighting institutional sexism on a daily basis.

Written by: Beni Benish, Brian Edwards, Kayla Hui, and Jordyn Schara  for the course “Gender and Human Evolution”, taught by Caroline VanSickle and published as part of the Women in Paleoanthropology special collection.

Image provided by Elizabeth Wayland Barber and used with permission. 

Elaine Morgan, who was born in 1920 and died in 2013 at the age of 92, was a well-known advocate for the inclusion of feminist perspectives in the theories of evolution. Most commonly known as a television writer, Morgan had multiple awards for her various writings. One of those successes was her bestseller The Descent of Woman, discussed below. Challenging the theories of evolution that focused on males and their needs, Morgan’s book deviated from the norm of portraying females as sexual objects.

Born as Elaine Floyd, Morgan lived in Wales most of her life. She grew up in extreme poverty. She later attended Oxford University, graduated with a degree in English, and taught there for three years after she graduated (Douglas, 2005). Later in life, in an attempt to help make ends meet, she began writing. She was a successful writer for BBC, winning multiple BAFTA and Writer’s Guild Awards. Though she had a prosperous career writing for television, her passion was outside of the entertainment field.

Her interest in science began after reading an article by Sir Alister Hardy, who proposed the Aquatic Ape Theory. She expanded on this hypothesis, and even though it was later discredited, her work in science included indispensable theories about women in evolution. She cultivated this passion for the sciences when she began reading books on human evolution (Morgan, 2012). After Morgan read The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris, she was inspired to learn more about the differences between humans and apes, and whether or not those differences could be explained from our ancestors’ behaviors.

Morgan was a staunch believer that the Man the Hunter Hypothesis, being as prominent as it was, was an incorrect portrayal of gender in human evolution. Furthermore, she believed that regarding women as being one of the scarce resources that men fight over was absolutely incorrect. The more she read on the subject, the more outrage she felt on this issue of gender in human evolution (Morgan, 2012). This was because adult males were the central focus, with little mention of women. It was Morgan’s belief that it was incorrect to assume a woman’s role in prehistory was limited to being a trophy or object for men. Morgan sincerely believed that since she had concerns about the conclusions being made, someone else would as well, and she waited for someone with more scientific credentials to write a book (Morgan, 2012). After years of waiting, she took it upon herself.

The resulting book, The Descent of Woman, gained recognition, although Morgan originally thought that it would not be well received due to her status as a woman without legitimate scientific credentials. Because her college degree was not in the sciences, established scientists disregarded her work (Douglas, 2005). Her book took a more casual tone than most scientists saw fit, for which she was often criticized. To write her book, Morgan taught herself everything by simply reading books that pertained to her topic. Although she did receive backlash from some, she received positive feedback from feminists and went on to write more books challenging the androcentric view of human evolution. Morgan recognized that the success of her book was reliant on the fact that it discussed the topic of sex, and because it was released at the same time of the initiation of the women’s liberation movement.

In her first chapter, Morgan set the foundation of her argument. Morgan comically made this argument by noting that women were omitted from text on human evolution, until they were dragged “onstage rather suddenly for the obligatory chapter on Sex and Reproduction” and were told “all right, love, you can go now” (Morgan, 1972, p.3). With this satirical tone, Morgan went on to discuss gender issues and myths highlighting the biases with hypotheses throughout many aspects of human evolution.

Written by Sylvia Frazier, Brenna Puestow, Kaitlyn Sonnentag  for the course “Gender and Human Evolution”, taught by Caroline VanSickle and published as part of the Women in Paleoanthropology special collection.


Douglas, K. (2005). Natural optimist. New Scientist,186 (2496), 50-53.

Elaine Morgan. (2013, July 18). Obituary. The Telegraph. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/books-obituaries/10189152/Elaine-Morgan.html.

Morgan, E. (1972). The Descent of Woman. New York: Stein and Day.

Morgan, E. (2012, October 12). Elaine Morgan: Read the final extract from her great autobiography. Wales Online. Retrieved from: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/elaine-morgan-read-final-extract-2020931.


Photograph by David Sillitoe for the Guardian, included here under the Open Licence Terms




Frida Avern Leakey (1902-­1993) may be most recognizable for her last name, but she was a woman who made contributions to the field of paleoanthropology in her own right. In 1921, she entered Newnham College in Cambridge where she studied modern and medieval languages, graduating in 1924.  At age 26, she met paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey, and they married a year later. She would go on to join him in the field and record their discoveries.

Frida Leakey’s scientific work is often overlooked, but she was a researcher in her own right. Archaeological illustration is a very specific and meticulous skill to master; in 1929, Frida Leakey carefully constructed the illustrations of stone tools that were published in Louis’ volume on the results of the excavation, The Stone Age Cultures of Kenya Colony. After only a few weeks of nursing her infant daughter, Priscilla, she joined her husband at an excavation near Nairobi, in the Olduvai Gorge. One of the localities she discovered, nicknamed FLK (Frida Leakey Karongo), is one of the most productive sites in all of paleoanthropology.

Written by: Natalie Cook, Meagan Sobel, and Tina Treviño­ Murphy  for the course “Gender and Human Evolution”, taught by Caroline VanSickle and published as part of the Women in Paleoanthropology special collection.


Morell, V. (1995). Ancestral passions : the Leakey family and the quest for humankind’s beginnings. New York: Simon & Schuster.

“Frida Leakey.” Times [London, England] 1 Sept. 1993: 17. The Times Digital Archive . Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from: http://find.galegroup.com.ezproxy.library.wisc.edu/ttda/infomark.do?action=interpret&source=gale&tabID=T003&prodId=TTDA&userGroupName=wisc_madison&docPage=article&searchType=BasicSearchForm&docId=IF503366160&type=multipage&contentSet=LTO&version=1.0&finalAuth=true.

Scan of “Frida Leakey.” Times [London, England] 1 Sept. 1993: 17. The Times Digital Archive . Web. 5 Apr. 2015. 



Anna “Kay” Behrensmeyer received her undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis and her Ph.D. from Harvard University. Her work has spanned a range of fields including anthropology, geology, paleobiology, evolutionary biology and ecology, but most of her research has focused specifically on taphonomy. Taphonomy is the study of the processes that affect animal and plant remains as they become fossilized as well as the processes themselves. She has had a prominent career and in 2002 she was selected as one of the 50 most important women scientists by Discover Magazine. But early on in her career she was caught up in a controversy over the dating of a discovery she made at Koobi Fora in Kenya alongside Richard Leakey.

In 1968, after a colleague recommend to Richard Leakey that he should bring along geologists to his next venture in Kenya, Leakey began searching for accompaniment. Leakey noted that while ‘only’ a graduate student she had “proved that she was capable of excellent field work in East Africa.” After only six days after her arrival at camp Koobi Fora, Behrensmeyer discovered a plethora of ancient stone tools within a tuff (volcanic ash). The tools were dated 2.4 million years ago, which was nearly 600,000 years old than those found at Olduvai. It was a momentous discovery for the young scientist that resulting in the particular tuff being named after her, the “Kay Behrensmeyer Site” Tuff.

Not long after the exciting discovery, however, speculation arose over the accuracy of the dating. It was reported that the samples were in fact contaminated, and took much longer to be dated. This caused controversy throughout the field of paleoanthropology. There have been additional tests of the KBS Tuff by other scholars in the field which revealed dates ranging from 1.8 to 1.6 million years. These new dates put Behrensmeyer’s findings at the same age as those found by Louis and Mary Leakey at the Olduvai Gorge nearly forty years earlier.

While the tools found at the KBS Tuff were perhaps not the oldest in the world, it was still a magnificent find. Her determination has followed her since she began her journey – and luckily, she has no intention of stopping her explorations any time soon so it can be expected that her discoveries will continue to be published for years to come.

Written by Sarah Bergman, Caroline Marie Russell, Erica Schultz, Olivia Weltz  for the course “Gender and Human Evolution”, taught by Caroline VanSickle and published as part of the Women in Paleoanthropology special collection.


Currano, E. (Interviewer) & Behrensmeyer A. K. (Interviewee). (2014). Dr. Kay Behrensmeyer: an Insatiable Field Scientist. Retrieved from http://www.ellencurrano.me/dr-kay-behrensmeyer-an-insatiable-field-scientist/

Morell, V. (1995). Ancestral Passions: The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind’s Beginnings. Touchstone. New York, New York.

Image of Kay Behrensmeyer from Recording to Remember. The image belongs to the Smithsonian Institution and is reproduced here in accordance with their Terms of Use


While a lot of scholarship identifies Mary Leakey as a wife, mother, and half of a husband and wife research team, one of her most influential and predominant contributions to the field of paleoanthropology serves as an excellent testament the path that Leakey forged for herself: the famous Laetoli footprints.

In 1978, while working in Laetoli, Tanzania, Leakey discovered the fossilized footprints of three hominin individuals. There is one large set of footprints, a medium set of footprints, and potentially a smaller set of footprints on top of the larger set of footprints, alluding that the smallest individual walked slightly behind the largest and walked in their tracks. Many assume that a family unit of australopiths created these tracks, but a large degree of uncertainty still surrounds the Laetoli prints (Hay & Leakey, 1982).

The wide breadth of Leakey’s scholarship on the Laetoli footprints embodies the incredible diversity of expertise Leakey brought to the field of paleoanthropology. Some of her work was quite technical, such as her analyses of volcanic ash fossilization and soil conditions from Oldvuvai Gorge, (Hay & Leakey, 1982). Other articles explained the extensive artifact findings at Laetoli (Leakey, 1984). Most notably, her thorough analysis of the prints themselves strongly suggested that the prints were created through upright bipedal walking (Leakey & Harris, 1987), a finding that has been replicated by recent research as well (Raichlen et al., 2010). The dating of the fossils themselves also provided key evolutionary insight into the development of bipedalism. The prints were dated to approximately 3.6 million years ago. As Leakey pointed out in her research on them, the earliest stone tools that were discovered at the Olduvai Gorge were only 1.9 million years old (Hay & Leakey, 1982). At the time of Leakey’s discovery, a prominent school of evolutionary thought was that tool use and hunting drove the evolution of bipedal walking to free up the hands for these activities. The Laetoli prints, however, debunk this theory, as they present direct evidence that bipedal walking occurred about a million and a half years before tool use.

Although Leakey did not identify or engage with feminism, her very presence as a prominent researcher in this male-dominated profession at the time serves as inspiration for many women in the field of paleoanthropology, whilst simultaneously opening the door for other trowelblazers after her (Hager, 1997). Leakey’s independent discovery and research on the Laetoli prints has not only stitched together the steps of our evolutionary history, but also forged a path of curiosity and expertise for women in anthropology.

Written by Gina NeroneLacey Alexander, and Mary Mohr for the course “Gender and Human Evolution”, taught by Caroline VanSickle and published as part of the Women in Paleoanthropology special collection.


Hay, R. L., & Leakey, M. D. (1982). The fossil footprints of Laetoli. Scientific American, 246, 50-57.

Hager, L. D. (1997). Sex and gender in paleoanthropology. In L. Hager (Ed.), Women in Human Evolution, (pp. 1-28). New York, NY: Routledge.

Leakey, M. D. (1984). Disclosing the past. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Leakey, M. D., & Harris, J. M. (Eds.). (1987). Laetoli, a Pliocene site in northern Tanzania. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.

Raichlen, D. A., Gordon, A. D., Harcourt-Smith, W. E., Foster, A. D., & Haas Jr, W. R. (2010). Laetoli footprints preserve earliest direct evidence of human-like bipedal biomechanics. PLoS One, 5(3), e9769.

Image of Mary Leakey and her husband Louis Leakey digging at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. The image belongs to the Smithsonian Institution and is reproduced here in accordance with their Terms of Use


Katerina Harvati is a paleoanthropologist whose work has focused on Neanderthals and hominin migration. She received both her BA and MA in Anthropology, and completed her PhD in Anthropology, at the City University of New York (CUNY) in 2001. She is currently Director and Professor of Paleoanthropology at the University of Tübingen in Germany. Her research has landed her several fellowship awards and she has even been featured in TIME magazine in 2007 for one of the top 10 scientific discoveries: “Man’s Migration Out of Africa” (TIME 2007). The article explains how Harvati and her team analyzed a skull from South Africa to determine its age, consequently supporting the theory that all modern humans have African origins.

Neanderthal research in general has added to our understanding of the evolution of the human species. They are estimated to have inhabited West Eurasia from the mid Pleistocene until 30,000 years ago and are recognized in the fossil record by characteristics including but not limited to reduced prognathism, larger brains, elongated crania, heavy brows, and shovel-shaped incisors. They were the first fossil human species for which mitochondrial DNA was extracted. While some believe that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred, others, including Harvati, believe that there is not enough evidence to support admixture (Harvati, 2007). Harvati’s work has added directly to our knowledge of the Neanderthal lineage through her contribution to the discovery of the first evidence of Neanderthals in Greece. Specifically, Harvati discovered a Neanderthal tooth at the Lakonis site in southern Greece, dated between 38-44,000 years ago. Harvati claims that although it is difficult to determine which technologies are associated with which species definitively, the finding lends evidence that the stone tools at the site were made by Neanderthals (Harvati, 2003, 2007). Her research and findings are crucial because Greece is thought to be an important geographic travel route for modern human migration to Europe from the East (Harvati, 2003).

Written by Casey Sheridan, Jas Hamilton, and Lisa Estrella Yang as part of  Gender and Human Evolution, taught by Caroline VanSickle and submitted as part of the Women in Paleoanthropology special collection.


Harvati, Katerina et al. 2003 “First Neanderthal remains from Greece: the evidence from Lakonis”. Journal of Human Evolution, 45: 465–473.

Harvati, Katerina. 2007 “Neanderthals and Their Contemporaries” Handbook of Paleontology: Phylogeny of Hominids.Springer, New York. Vol. 3. Pages 1717-1748.

Image provided by Katerina Harvati (on fieldwork in 2016) and used with permission. 

Adrienne Zihlman is a key figure in paleoanthropology, important because of both her scientific pursuits and feminist voice. She has had a strong influence on the critique of the “Man the Hunter” theory and was one of the first feminist anthropologists in the subfield of biological anthropology. She has published numerous studies on primate anatomy and books and articles for public consumption about human evolution.

Adrienne L. Zihlman was born on December 29th, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois (Nemeh, 2005). She earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Colorado in 1962, and her Ph.D. several years later from the University of California Berkeley in 1967. Once she obtained her degree, Zihlman started teaching at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) as an assistant professor from 1967-1969. During her time as a professor, Zihlman served as the Anthropology Department Chair between 1975-1978 and 1984-1987. While working at UCSC Zihlman has won numerous awards for her astounding work, such as the 2002 Excellence in Teaching Award from UCSC, 2004 Squeaky Wheel Award from the American Anthropological Association, and the 2009 Chemers Award for her Outstanding research in social services.

Zihlman learned much of the information that set her up for academic success from her mentor, Sherwood Washburn (Barr et al., 2016). Two of Zihlman’s graduate students include Debora Bolter and Carol Underwood. While mentoring Bolter, Zihlman focused her efforts on both dentition and growth and development of wild chimpanzees (Bolter, 2016). Similarly, when working with Underwood, the two centered their studies on the comparison of anatomy between two different primates (Bolter, 2016). Zihlman currently retains professor emerita status. This status was given to her because of the hard work and notable discoveries in the anthropological field.

Her work masterfully combines the sciences of primatology and paleoanthropology amidst a pool of scientists who often fall in one end of the spectrum or the other. Her effective intersectionality makes her a compelling and continuously relevant scientist. Zihlman has always been interested in primate gross anatomy and its implications for hominin locomotion and evolution. While her publishing record ranges from feminist anthropology to primate behavior, primate and hominin anatomy has been a central theme. Perhaps most impressive is her access to ape cadavers and the knowledge she provides from this rare commodity in science. In 2015, she published an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzing the body composition of 13 bonobos–this sample size is virtually unheard of in a paper studying gross anatomy of apes. She compiled this data over a 35-year period, which indeed is an impressive feat and shows her commitment and diligence (Zihlman and Bolter, 2015). In 2016, she presented a poster at the annual American Association of Physical Anthropology meetings on the comparative anatomy of ape hands and feet and found that the differences reflect differing locomotor behavior between apes (Zihlman and Underwood, 2016). Consistent participation at conferences and frequent publications since obtaining her PhD in 1967 proves that she continues to be a prolific scientist and important figure in biological anthropology.

One of her most prominent and notable achievements, in collaboration with Nancy Tanner in 1970s, but also in her own publications in the 80s and 90s, is the critique of the “Man the Hunter” hypothesis proposed in 1966 (Lee and DeVore, 1966; Tanner and Zihlman, 1976; Zihlman and Tanner, 1978; Zihlman, 1985; Zihlman, 1997). “Man the Hunter” stated that men’s ability to hunt and obtain meat were essential to the progression of human evolution, implying that men were the drivers of the evolution of our species while women were passive bodies and consumers of their bounty. Women were relegated to being gatherers and child bearers. Under this hypothesis, there is a division of labor that existed naturally since the beginning of humankind. Zihlman and Tanner challenged these widely held beliefs, using sociobiological concepts of sexual selection and parental investment as well as new data on human/chimpanzee DNA and archaeological bone assemblages. The authors examined living foraging peoples and primates. In their model, women were innovators, tool makers, and socially central to the well-being of the group. In this role, women would have needed to invent solutions to carrying and sharing the volume of food needed to be collected. The authors also state that in looking at living foraging peoples, there is no sexual division of labor; instead, flexibility and interdependence are key to survival.

Zihlman has been featured in many public forums regarding her feminist critique of “Man the Hunter” as well as her other research. Zihlman appeared in Discover magazine in 1991, openly shedding light on the fact that human evolution was largely written by male scientists. She has been featured in Lear’s magazine titled “Science Discovers Women” in 1994 and the March 1997 LA Times article titled “’Man the Hunter’ May Have Met His Match”. In December of 1978, she appeared in a Time magazine science article titled “The Case for a Living Link”, which was about the common ancestor of African apes. Her devotion to spreading knowledge through the educational setting is clear. She has published various works, including a human evolution coloring book. This approach allows students to learn about and visualize science in an unconventional, creative manner. Furthermore, Zihlman has been an educator at UCSC for forty-nine years, teaching Introduction to Human Evolution, Primate Behavior and Ecology, Comparative Functional Anatomy, and many more. Zihlman has also hosted multiple seminars at UCSC. Notably, one seminar topic was titled “Women and Science through an Anthropological Lens.”

Adrienne Zihlman has been a prominent woman in anthropology, with her voice reaching folks in both the educational and public forums. No doubt she has shaped the field in invaluable ways and improved the academic climate in paleoanthropology for future women anthropologists.

Written by: Jeanelle Uy, Arielle Bearheart, Cecilia Gehred, and Suri Pourmodheji as part of  Gender and Human Evolution, taught by Caroline VanSickle and submitted as part of the Women in Paleoanthropology special collection.

Image provided by Adrienne Zilhman and used with permission. 

Phenomenal women such as Carol Ward are breaking barriers and paving the way for young women who want to contribute to the field of anthropology. Ward encourages other women to make themselves, and their work, become as visible as the fossils they work with. Carol Ward is a well-known biological anthropologist who has been very influential in her field. She received her Bachelors of Science degree in Anthropology and Zoology at the University of Michigan in 1986, and then went on to earn her Ph.D. in Functional Anatomy and Evolution at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Ward is interested in the evolution of apes and early hominins, thus her research focuses on fossils found in East and South Africa, as she hopes to understand human origins. When Ward isn’t focused on her research, she spends time teaching anatomy to undergraduate, medical, physical and occupational therapy students at the University of Missouri. Ward is also in charge of directing the Ward Laboratory. Her lab is focused on looking at the evolution of the postcranial skeleton of primates such as catarrhines, which are also known as the Old World monkeys. The lab looks at the morphology of modern primates and other mammals. The lab focuses on questions such as whether morphology is related to locomotion as well as adaptations for movement throughout evolutionary history.

Carol Ward’s research includes three different areas: studying the earliest forms of Australopithecus anamensis, torso morphology in Hominoids, and non-landmark based morphometrics. For one of those projects, she collaborates with the West Turkana Paleontology Project (WTPP) and the National Museum of Kenya. A. anamensis originated in Kenya 4.2 million years ago and was discovered at the Kanapoi site. One of the major goals of the WTPP is to create insights on the environmental conditions faced by A. anamensis. Ward’s work in this field is crucial to comprehending the adaptations and ancestry of Australopithecines.

The morphology of torsos in hominids is another main endeavor. Through the use of CT scans, landmark coordinates, photos, caliper measurements, and 3d laser scans of the torso, Ward is able to better understand its evolution as well as its relation to locomotion and posture. Specifically, she examines the structure and makeup of the torso in living primates and fossilized torsos in order to create a clearer picture of Miocene hominoids. Finally, her work on non-landmark-based morphometrics is carried out in collaboration with the Plavacan Lab and the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies at the University of Arkansas, complete fossil specimens are digitally created. Ward utilizes continuous laser scan data, which does not require the use of landmarks.

While participating in her groundbreaking work, Ward also manages to give back to women in anthropology. Ward is the part of the executive committee of the Physical Anthropology Women’s Mentoring Network. This network is a resource for women who are just starting off in the field to connect to women who have established careers in anthropology. The young women are able to talk about anything from academia to maintaining a family life while having a career in anthropology. She is part of paving the way for other women in a predominantly male field, and her participation in the Physical Anthropology Women’s Mentoring Network, along with the rest of her influential work, inspires women to join her in her pursuit of anthropology.

In addition to her work with the Physical Anthropology Women’s Mentoring Network, Ward inspires women to join the field in her everyday work. In 2005, she was awarded the Michigan University Tribute to Women Award due to her continued work in the advancement of women in her field. This award highlights her desire for women in anthropology to continue to thrive in a safe, accepting place with equal opportunities for all. Although this is just one of the many awards and honors that was granted to Carol Ward throughout her fruitful career, it highlights her dedication to the young women who are just starting out in the field.

Written by Alicia Flores, Nastassia Satahoo, Lilia Arreola, and Kara Gitter for the course “Gender and Human Evolution”, taught by Caroline VanSickle and published as part of the Women in Paleoanthropology special collection.

Image provided by Carol Ward and used with permission.

About two years ago, we were contacted by Caroline VanSickle (@cvans), the author of this special guest post, who had an idea. A great idea. She wanted to incorporate TrowelBlazers in the undergraduate classroom, and has now done so, twice. Below, she explains her educational goals, methods, and outcomes – one of which includes the creation of a number of group-authored posts for our website. Over the next two weeks, we will post a new trowelblazer each day, each carefully researched and authored by her students, some more famous than others, but all new additions to our site. We are glad to see TrowelBlazers having an impact in the classroom this way, and hope that others might use or adapt Caroline’s pedagogy – and let us know about it. Many thanks to the students who contributed these pieces, and thank you Caroline!

The standard story of hominin fossil discoveries, present in nearly every introductory textbook, has its customary cast of characters, including Eugene Dubois, Raymond Dart, Davidson Black, Robert Broom, Louis Leakey, and Donald Johanson. Absent from this list are any of the women who have been instrumental in discovering evidence of human evolution. Indeed, one might get the impression that only men work in paleoanthropology, only men organize the sorts of archaeological digs that yield hominin fossils, and only men write peer-reviewed articles about human evolution. Those of us who study the subject know that this isn’t the case, yet this is the version of our field’s history that we often find ourselves teaching in class.

I’ve been an avid reader of the TrowelBlazers website since it got its start, a start that I watched happen on Twitter and have been excited about ever since. TrowelBlazers tells the other side of the story, the one where women have been an important part of paleoanthropology (and related fields) since people first started digging up fossils.

When I had the opportunity to teach a class on human evolution, particularly one that focused on gender and sex in human evolution, I knew I wanted to incorporate a more gender-balanced and accurate history of the discipline, because representation in science matters. TrowelBlazers became my go-to resource for adding stories about how important fossil were discovered by people who were regularly missing from my students’ textbook. My favorite TrowelBlazer story is how some of my favorite Neandertals (I’m looking at you, Tabun) were discovered by a team of women led by Cambridge’s first woman professor Dorothy Garrod. The Tabun skeleton was discovered by a woman whose surname remains a mystery, but I am thankful for Yusra’s expertise.

I decided that in addition to sharing trowelblazers’ stories with my students, I wanted to give them an opportunity to really engage with a woman researcher or excavator from the past. I developed a class project that assigned groups of students to research potential trowelblazers and then write an article appropriate to submit to the TrowelBlazers website. I taught this same class twice, and while I tweaked a few of the assignment specifics, I had both classes write articles with great success.

Each semester I started by introducing the website. Students were required to explore the website and read multiple articles to prepare them to share their favorites with their classmates. After this exploration phase, we discussed in class what made a “good” TrowelBlazers article; generally, the students preferred posts that were shorter and focused on one aspect of the woman’s research. With this agreed-upon criteria in mind, students working in groups of 3-4 started researching a woman paleoanthropologist I assigned them. After a few weeks, groups submitted an annotated bibliography showing that their research had been successful (something I’ll admit I was initially concerned about since the whole point is that these women are difficult to research). Yet my students always seemed to find a way to locate the information they needed – their bibliographies included articles authored by the subjects themselves, biographies, C.V.s or personal websites, and in some cases obituaries. At the end of the semester, students gave an in-class presentation on their subject and turned in a written Trowel Blazer-style article on their subject, along with an annotated bibliography to demonstrate the research they did.

Students received extra credit for including a photograph (complete with contact information so that the TrowelBlazers team could gain permission to use the photograph on their website). I also gave extra credit for suggesting future research subjects. Both semesters I received between 15-25 names of potential trowelblazers that could be researched in the future. My students learned some of these names from other courses they’d taken and learned about others while researching their subject. Many were names that even I was unfamiliar with. To me, this indicates that this is a viable project to continue including in the future, as there appear to be plenty of people that still need to be researched.

Student commented that they enjoyed the project and learned a lot about women in paleoanthropology, even beyond their group’s subject. One of the most valuable aspects was that my students had the option to submit their writing to an actual webpage for publication; not only did they learn about the history of paleoanthropology, they contributed to a public understanding of that history as well. This kind of assignment is important in paleoanthropology because women become more interested in science fields when they learn about women role models in those fields. Men are more willing to recognize women as scientists when they are exposed to women in science. This project does both while also uncovering the history of hominin fossil finds that may have been obscured due to past sexism in the academy.

Posts in the series include:

Leslie Aiello
Carol Ward
Adrienne Zilhman
Katerina Harvati
Mary Leakey
Kay Behrensmeyer
Frida Avern Leakey
Elaine Morgan
Elizabeth Wayland Barber
Dorothy Liddell

Leslie C. Aiello is an evolutionary anthropologist and paleoanthropologist born in California in 1946. Aiello completed her BA in Anthropology and then MA in Anthropology with an emphasis on Paleolithic archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her PhD in anatomy from the University of London. Apart from her pioneering research, she has been a part of many different important projects and organizations. As a  professor of Anthropology at the University of London, she became the head of the anthropology department from 1996 until 2005, and then the head of graduate school from 2002-2005. In April of 2005 she became the President of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Wenner-Gren is the largest private foundation that focuses support on international anthropological research. One of their most recent programs is their Institutional Development grant, awarded to doctoral anthropology programs across the globe that have limited academic resources for development.

Leslie Aiello has also spent a substantial portion of her life in field research, beginning in 1964 in Cedar City, Utah and San Miguel Island in California, continuing for the next decade in places such as Solvieux, Dordogne, France, and Mycenae, Greece. Her last field research location was a palaeontological excavation at the Miocene site of Pasalar, Turkey.

Among her many important contributions in the field of paleoanthropology, one of the most influential and noted was her Expensive Tissue Hypothesis. The general explanation of the hypothesis is that large brains co-evolved with the shrinkage of the gut. Examining the body, the human gut is the only metabolically expensive organ that is small in relation to our body size. This was potentially a metabolic requirement or trade-off for having a larger brain. Aiello states that the gastrointestinal tract is just as metabolically expensive as the brain. The trade-off that comes with having a smaller gut is changing diet. Diet is directly related to gut size. Having a smaller gut means that diet needs to shift to high quality, easier to digest food; this is why Aiello believes that we evolved to eat animal products.

Aiello has also done work involving Neanderthal thermoregulation and their glacial climate, energy consequences for reproduction as a Homo erectus female and the degree to which estimating age by fossilized bones is correct (Aiello & Wheeler, 2004; Aiello & Key, 2002). She has made contributions in many books, academic talks and has even filled in gaps in data and information found in previous research.

Aiello has won many awards and became a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2000. Her long list of honors proves how influential she has been in her field and how many important contributions she has made.

Written by Ann Meinholz, Mishell Smith, and Taryn Gordon for the course “Gender and Human Evolution”, taught by Caroline VanSickle and published as part of the Women in Paleoanthropology special collection.


Aiello, L., & Wheeler, P. (2004). Neanderthal Thermoregulation and the Glacial Climate. In T. Van Andel & W. Davies (Eds.), Neanderthals and modern humans in the European landscape during the last glaciation (pp. 147 – 166). Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archeological Research.

Aiello, Leslie C. & Key, Cathy (2002). Energetic Consequences of being a Homo erectus Female. American Journal of Human Biology, 14, 551-565.

Image of Leslie Aiello by Chris Clunn and used with permission. 

Some teachers have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of their students. Mabel Tomlinson was one such teacher. She taught geology at Yardley Grammar School, and many of her students found their calling in this class, crediting her enthusiasm as the starting point of their careers. Through her own research, and the work of a generation of scientist she inspired, Mabel Tomlinson truly contributing to shaping the field of geology. We recently received this tribute from a former student:

Dr. Tomlinson was an extraordinary person in that she was able to follow two career paths concurrently and to achieve resounding success in both.

She grew up in Polesworth, a town on the north Warwickshire coalfield. From 1913 she studied at Birmingham University and received her first degree there in 1916 (BA Combined Arts). In the following year she became a teacher at what was then Yardley Secondary School, a co-educational school in south-east Birmingham. She continued teaching at Yardley for forty-two years until retirement in 1959.

In her early student years she already had an interest ing geology, soon beginning, as an amateur, her own fieldwork in the vale of the Warwickshire River Avon. During two decades of investigations she unravelled the physical history of the Avon and its tributaries over the whole drainage basin. This was a complex history of changes in the routes and profiles of all the watercourses as they responded to the advances and retreats of invading ice sheets throughout the great Pleistocene Ice Age, a period of perhaps 2.8 million years. River-borne sands, muds, and gravels were frequently built up and then re-distributed, leading to the landscape we see today: floodplains, gravel terraces, moraines and out-wash fans.

Between 1919 and 1922 Mabel Tomlinson had somehow squeezed-in her second degree course, leading to her B. Sc. in geology, again at Birmingham. Thereafter she submitted, step-by-step, portions of her growing vale of Avon research work for higher degrees, gaining her M.Sc. in 1923 and Ph. D. in 1929. The accolade came in 1936 with the award of her D. Sc., which was based chiefly upon the works she published in the Quarterly Journal of The Geological Society of London in 1925 and 1935. In parallel with all this she remained a loyal and diligent teacher at Yardley.

Her most striking fossil find was a fine mammoth tusk form gravel beds near Claverdon. Careful work with the trowel must have been essential to extract that prize without damage.

In the nineteen forties the writer was a pupil of Mabel Tomlinson. Her lessons were well planned, clearly delivered and packed with information. However, it was during her field excursions, and in school laboratory work on samples of minerals, rocks, and fossils, that one felt the full power of her infectious enthusiasm and intellect. In appearance she was rather ordinary: medium build, not tall, neatly dressed, with well-kept grey hair. When preparing for the next field investigations she thought nothing of walking the 3 1/2 miles between her home in Solihull and school in order to be fit and ready for action. Appearances are sometimes very deceptive.

From the first formal geology lessons at Yardley in 1943, which was when the subject appeared initially on the curriculum for Higher School Certificate examinations, a majority of her sixth form pupils went on to read geology at university for B. Sc. Several of them continued, eventually to become key professional figures, some in academe, others in government surveys at home and abroad, one at the Natural History Museum London, still others in the oil industry. Most gained their Ph.Ds, and at least one a D.Sc.

In honor of Mabel Tomlinson her name appears as one of the two in the title of the Tomlinson-Brown Trust, a charity which works to engineer interest and participation in our science by young people, and when feasible by the public.

Mabel Tomlinson thoroughly earned the deep gratitude still felt by numerous Old Yardleians to this day. In her later years she became Senior Mistress and Deputy Head of the school, greatly respected for her quiet but firm authority, loyalty, and scholarly demeanor.

David Gossage, April 2016

Many thanks to Dr. David Bailey, who initially contacted us with David Gossage’s tribute. He credits Tex Wales, a trustee of the Tomlinson-Brown Trust, with putting them in touch. Although it was difficult to locate images of Dr. Tomlinson initially, we were later contacted by another trustee and Yardley geologist, Dr. Peter Oliver, with photos and a scan of an article published following her retirement in the Yardleian in September 1959, which also includes a few personal reminisces. Images and the article are reproduced here with permission.


tomlinson1  tomlinson3


Contemporary archaeology is far more than just adventure and discovery and, while many archaeologists work within the museum and university sector, there is another world of professional archaeology beyond those realms. Within Australian archaeology, one name stands out as playing a central role in the establishment of consulting (or private sector) archaeology as a profession: Dr Laila Haglund.

Born in Sweden, north of the Arctic Circle, Laila enrolled to study Latin, Greek and Classical Archaeology at the University of Lund. She interrupted her studies to visit Australia in 1956–57, there working on Cypriot pottery with Professor Jim Stewart and his wife Eve.

Her interest in Australian prehistory was kindled by recognising scatters of flaked stone in the Bathurst area as Aboriginal artefacts and so she decided to change her goals. Her interest was fostered by V. Gordon Childe, a fellow guest of the Stewarts. Taking his invaluable advice, she moved to England to study prehistory and conservation at the University of London. During these years she participated in excavations of prehistoric Roman and medieval sites in Great Britain but also spent summers in northern Sweden, surveying and excavating prehistoric sites in areas of hydroelectric developments.

Having completed her studies and by that time married to an Australian who was to take up a post at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, she emigrated to Australia in 1965, happily settling in Queensland.

Being the only qualified archaeologist in the state (early 1965), she was asked by UQ to take on directing salvage excavations of the Broadbeach Aboriginal Burial Ground on the Gold Coast. This site was uncovered when local contractors were removing soil for sale as lawn top-dressing. At this time, there was no legislation in place to protect the remains, and the site was at considerable risk from vandals and weathering, as well as through the soil removal.

Laila was told there would probably be only a few burials so, although six months pregnant, she took it on as an urgent task, likely to be finished before her child was due. All such calculations were wrong. The work required was immense and could only be done with student volunteers during University vacations. The excavations were carried out between April 1965 and August 1968, requiring six seasons of two to three weeks each. Laila’s daughter Karin went into the field when three weeks old, wrapped in a blanket, stuffed into a New Guinea string-bag (donated by a student) and hung in a tree while work went on.

For most of the duration of the excavations, Laila was the only person on site with any archaeological training or experience in excavation, though she was assisted by Dr W. Wood, an anatomist who would take on studying the bones. Archaeological excavation being a new subject, the University had only the most rudimentary equipment available. Much had to be begged, borrowed, bought or improvised by clever students. Recording sheets had to be designed to cope with the varied and often unexpected aspects of evidence coming to light. Broadbeach remains one of the largest excavations of its kind anywhere in Australia (Bowdler and Clune 2000).

Laila went on to receive a MA (UQ) and PhD (Stockholm University) based on her excavations at Broadbeach; the report was published in 1976. In 1988, the remains excavated from Broadbeach were returned and reburied by the local Aboriginal community (the Kombumerri people). The excavation and subsequent repatriation associated with the Broadbeach excavations were key events in the history of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

Having frequently raised concerns about the status of Aboriginal sites in Queensland (i.e. by harassing the relevant bureaucrats), Laila was asked to draft relevant legislation, which she did. That legislation was enacted in 1967, making it Queensland’s, and indeed Australia’s, first legislation aimed at protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage (Bowdler and Clune 2000). Laila then served as a Member of the Advisory Committee to the Queensland Minister for Conservation, Marine, and Aboriginal Affairs from 1967–74, and lectured at the University of Queensland until leaving for Sydney. Laila and members of her family remain involved in working with Aboriginal communities today,  in relation to linguistics and schools.

Laila was teaching at the University of Sydney when heritage legislation was introduced in New South Wales. Legislation led to an increased demand for archaeological consulting work, which was being sought from university-based archaeologists. What happened next was really important for the development of archaeology in Australia: Laila recognised that this demand needed to be met with greater professionalisation of archaeology. As she explained in a 1992 interview with Alice Gorman:

‘It seemed to me that there was absolutely no point just going out and getting archaeological information and then not really dealing with it. Obviously that was not either what the clients or National Parks expected. We had to work out where we stood and how we could deal with these things well. Doing that was not going to be any kind of amateur business—if we were going to do it properly we had to do it as professionals.’ (Gorman 1992:15)

This determination (with the support of numerous colleagues, including her sister who was a consulting archaeologist in the United States) led to the establishment of the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc. (now known as AACAI), of which she was the inaugural President in 1979–1986. The creation of AACAI and the increasingly professional status of archaeologists in Australia were important in changing people’s perception of archaeology as being a viable full-time career option outside of universities or museums. In this reflection Laila emphasises this point:

‘I think it took quite some time before it came to be thought of as a viable career but I think the professional status was established before anyone thought of doing it full time. I don’t think that people would have been so willing to go into it full time if it had not been seen as a professional thing.’ (Gorman 1992:16)

In 2015 it was estimated that Australia had a working population of 735 archaeologists, with 55% employed in consulting (Mate and Ulm 2016). As members of this not-so-old profession we all owe an immense debt to the foundational work of people like Laila. Her immense and ongoing contribution to professional archaeology in Australia is celebrated annually with the Laila Haglund Prize for Excellence in Consulting.

Written by Jacq Matthews (@archaeo_jacq), Alice Gorman (@DrSpaceJunk) and Lynley Wallis (@LynleyWallis) (with editorial advice and fact-checking from Laila herself)


Bowdler, S. and G. Clune 2000 That shadowy band: the role of women in the development of Australian archaeology. Australian Archaeology 50:27–35

Gorman, A. 1992 Laila Haglund: progress and professionalisation in consulting archaeology. Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc. Newsletter 50:15–16.

More information:

The 50th anniversary of the Broadbeach Burial Ground excavations was commemorated 15 November 2015 and this news article and a Qld State Gove media release provide more information on the significance of those excavations.

Images courtesy of Laila Haglund and reproduced with permission.

Laila Haglund, Dressed in white reindeer skin smock and learning to ski.

Laila Haglund learning to ski as a child in Sweden.

Here for the final week of our crowdfund we have our last two women of #RaisingHorizons, joined by their fascination with the long-gone plant life of our planet.

Dr Marie Carmichael Stopes and Professor Jane Francis

Marie Carmichael Stopes in the laboratory, around 1904. Image from Wikipedia; source Marie Stopes International; used in accordance with upload to further knowledge of Dr Stopes.

Marie Carmichael Stopes in the laboratory, around 1904. Image from Wikipedia; source Marie Stopes International; used in accordance with upload to further knowledge of Dr Stopes.

Marie Carmichael Stopes was a pioneer of many things: education, palaeobotany, science communication, fieldwork and later in life, women’s health and reproductive rights. We’ve written about her before, but her story is no less impressive second time round, and frankly the more you investigate, the more amazing it is.

Born in Scotland to intellectual parents, Marie’s studies began at University College, London where she did a joint degree in geology and botany with a scholarship, in only two years and still got a first. She went on to become the youngest person in Britain to gain a DSc from the same institution in 1903, then completed a PhD in palaeobotany in one year at the University of Munich and following this became the first female academic at Manchester University as a lecturer between 1904-10. Phew, that’s a lot of firsts…

By this time she had specialized in researching Carboniferous plants, and in particular the nature and formation of coal. It is not surprising at all that this woman who was used to smashing glass ceilings requested to join Robert Scott’s last expedition to the Antarctic so she might pursue geological work. She was refused, but Scott’s team did collect specimens (he visited her at Manchester for a tutorial in fossil plants), and the material was recovered from his ill-fated expedition.

During her time at Manchester, Marie went on an 18 month long field trip to Japan, financed by the Royal Society, in pursuit of evidence for the earliest origin of flowers. Her remarkable experience can be read in her account of the trip “A Journal From Japan”, published in 1910. In the same year she also published “Ancient Plants“, often referred to as a textbook, but in fact very clearly aimed at general readers too; in the introduction she dedicates it “especially to all those who take an interest in plant evolution because it forms a thread in the web of life whose design they wish to trace.” Marie had already in 1906 published a book about studying plants for young people, and this belief in bringing information to those who might not otherwise be able to access it would continue later in her life.

1910 was also a pivotal year for Marie because while she was in Canada, having been brought in specifically by the Geological Society there to sort out disputes about the ages of important deposits, she met and got engaged to her first husband. While her scientific career continued to gain strength over the next few years (and she kept her name), her increasingly unhappy personal life began to edge forwards as a driving force for action too. In 1913, as she was starting divorce proceedings, she wrote what was to become the book which would kick start her life’s work in relationships and women’s sexual health. She continued her scientific work during the first world war (producing landmark research on coal, still used today to optimize power stations), and it was only in 1920 that she resigned her position as a lecturer at University College London, to pursue the establishment of Britain’s first birth control clinics, with her second husband. Her palaeontological publications continued however until 1935.

The rest of Marie Stopes’ life is just as remarkable as her early years as a palaeobiologist. There’s not the space here to go into the enormous impact she had on society through her work in promoting women’s health and sexual reproductive autonomy, but her forthrightness and commitment is a reflection of how she pursued her earlier trowelblazing career, which she still deserves to be better known for.

Professor Jane Francis.

Professor Jane Francis.

In probably one of our closest links between the Raising Horizons women, our contemporary trowelblazer Professor Jane Francis has actually worked on the same deposits as Marie Stopes. Her career perhaps offers an idea of the success Marie might have found if she had remained in palaeontology; we know she would certainly have gone to Antarctica had she been able to.

Jane’s degrees in geology were at the University of Southampton, and she later moved as a postdoctoral researcher, to Bedford College, the first higher education institution for women in Britain, with links to many trowelblazers and other Raising Horizons women.  She then had a position at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and at the University of Adelaide, before working at University of Leeds for over twenty years where she became Professor of Palaeoclimatology and Dean of the Faculty of Environment. In 2013 she was appointed Director at the BAS, the first woman to hold this position, and has also been the first woman to chair the Operations Working Group of Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings, which is an international forum focusing on the legal and logistical practicalities of working in Antarctica.

Jane’s research focuses on examining the environment and climate of the past through studying plant fossils. Her work in particular looks at how the the polar regions of the Earth have had hugely different conditions in ancient times when carbon dioxide levels were higher. Some of her fascinating projects include examining the traces of insect damage on plant fossils as a way to examine the evolution of ancient polar forests. In total, combining both hemispheres, she has been to these northern and southern extremes of the globe more than 15 times (Ellesmere Island, Axel Heiberg Island and Svalbard in the Arctic and the Transantarctic Mountains and the Antarctic Peninsula). Jane’s research is important not only for understanding the past condition of the Earth, but also significant as it points to how climate change may affect us in the next centuries.

Jane has received many awards, including early in her career the Palaeontological Association’s President’s Award. Since then she has won the US Navy Antarctic Medal, the Antarctic Service Medal from the NSF, the Coke Medal from the Geological Society of London, been named “Explorer Scientist” by The Science Council and awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University Of Plymouth. In 2002 Jane was awarded The Polar Medal, only the fourth woman our of over 4000 recipients, recognising her contribution to British polar science.


Written by Becky.

These Raising Horizons trowelblazers are connected through their explorations of archaeology, its practice and meanings across many different channels, from academic articles to artistic endeavours.

Jacquetta Hawkes and Dr Colleen Morgan

Jacquetta Hawkes, likely shown here at the excavation of Harristown Passage Tomb, County Waterford, Ireland, which she directed in 1939. Photographer unknown. Many thanks to Alison Cullingford, Special Collections Librarian at the University of Bradford, home to the Jacquetta Hawkes Archive, for supplying this photo. She also runs the blog Celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes.

Jacquetta Hawkes, likely shown here at the excavation of Harristown Passage Tomb, County Waterford, Ireland, which she directed in 1939. Photographer unknown. Many thanks to Alison Cullingford, Special Collections Librarian at the University of Bradford, home to the Jacquetta Hawkes Archive, for supplying this photo. She also runs the blog Celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes.

Jacquetta Hawkes is not truly an unknown trowelblazer, having had obituaries in the broadsheets when she died in 1996, and contemporary ‘re-discoveries’ of her work. Yet given the breadth and vision of her oeuvre– a true antiquarian, according to one commenter–, it is surprising that she is not a more widely celebrated cultural figure today, as she was decades ago (listen to this radio programme on Jacquetta by her biographer Christine Finn).

Fittingly given her interdisciplinarity, Jacquetta’s background included an eminent scientist (her father, a Nobel prize winner) and poet (her cousin Gerard Manly Hopkins). She recalls a fascination with archaeology even as a child, digging in the garden under cover of darkness (and blistering her hand, something familiar to all novice trowelers). She was the first woman to enroll on Dorothy Garrod‘s new archaeology and anthropology course at Cambridge, and following her degree (first class), she was awarded a travelling scholarship and joined Garrod’s excavations at Mount Carmel, Palestine in 1932. This experience had a profound effect on her contemplative psyche, in particular her involvement in the excavation of a female Neanderthal skeleton, the first found outside Europe (working alongside Yusra who found the first tooth), and she wrote about how she felt deeply connected to this ancient woman.

Jacquetta’s primary archaeological career in terms of fieldwork and scholarly writing was before the 1950s. In 1939 she was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (supported by Garrod), the same year she was directing a Neolithic excavation in Ireland, and published a book on the archaeology of Jersey. She had already worked on many different sites, including in collaboration with her first husband, Christopher.
Following WWII, she was recruited by the British government to turn her talents to yet another medium– television–  in charge of the post-war reconstruction effort in “Visual Education”. She wanted to bring an aesthetic element, which included making a ground-breaking film on prehistory called The Beginning of History. In 1947 her importance to British culture was apparent, being on the UK Committee co-organising the first ever UNESCO conference in Mexico, 1947.

In 1949 she began to focus more fully on writing, having just published her only book of poetry, and went on to establish a role as a key national cultural figure. In particular she was archaeological advisor to the 1951 Festival of Britain, archaeology correspondent for the Sunday Times, and was involved in many other pursuits including scriptwriting and co-authoring plays with her second husband. She never lost touch with archaeology, even if she was never really part of academia, and became involved in the great debates of the 1960s with an article about the tensions between new scientific techniques and the intuitive, interpretive nature of archaeology. In 1971 she became Vice President of the Council for British Archaeology, and was still writing popular archaeological books into the 1980s.

Jacquetta’s most enduring creation was probably her first book, A Land, published in 1951 (republished in 2012).  A bestseller, it merged Jacquetta’s passions- time, geology, history, archaeology, literature and a bodily-embedded consciousness, to explore the foundational interconnections between humans, other life and the physical world. It’s origins can be seen even in her journals as a 16 year old, recording a visit to watch a total eclipse in 1927, where she wanders the landscape, picking up and photographing baby birds in the grass, and noting a fossil-filled limestone wall.

Dr Colleen Morgan; image used with permission.

Dr Colleen Morgan; image used with permission.

If Jacquetta Hawkes had been around for the explosion of new technology in the digital age, and the debates about its applications to archaeology, you can be sure she would have extended her talents to exploring it- probably in the online world of blogging and social media.

Digital archaeology is where our 21st century counterpart, Dr Colleen Morgan, has followed her own creative path through archaeology and the many forms of the arts. Now a postdoctoral researcher  at the Centre for Digital Heritage, University of York, she has crammed an astonishing amount of left-field thinking into her career already. Colleen’s undergraduate dissertation on Iron Age Japanese popular culture, feminism, and materiality points to her already diverse interests, and after working in the commercial/heritage sector, she undertook her PhD at Berkeley, University of California. Here Colleen’s exploratory work flourished under two trowelblazing supervisors (Meg Conkey and Ruth Tringham, whom she has written about for TrowelBlazers), and she focused on exploring digital media and archaeology via object biographies.

Before her current position, she joined York under the EC’s Marie Curie funded EUROTAST project, which used multi-disciplinary approaches to explore the Transatlantic slave trade. Colleen’s role was in project dissemination, connecting back to her principles of research which she shared during her speech at the UC Berkeley 2013 commencement ceremony: “Participate. Make. Share.”. True to this, as well as her work on the use of digital media for heritage in Qatar, she coordinates outreach and digital documentation as part of the Origins of Doha Project. She is also passionate about knowledge transfer in teaching settings, revelling in the moments where she too learns something new from this reflexive process.
Colleen’s focus on digital aspects of archaeology has led her to consider diverse facets of archaeological practice, and in particular how new methods and technology impact this. She has published on a huge range of topics including photography and film, locational technologies, methodologies for ‘excavating’ media objects, the lived environments of archaeology (dig houses), best practice in online archaeology, and ‘DIY’, punk and anarchist approaches. In an echo of Raising Horizons, Colleen also worked on Faces of Archaeology, a photographic project documenting the diversity of those attending the 2013 World Archaeological Congress.
Colleen’s way of thinking is showcased in her award-winning blog, Middle Savagery, which contains an archive covering more than 13 years of her writing on a diverse and fascinating range of topics. Maintained since her undergraduate studies at the University of Texas, she has written posts about archaeology, as well as the practising and experiencing of living and making archaeology, including from feminist perspectives. Just as striking as the topics, the creativity of her language shines through: in one very Hawkes-like post, she recalls her PhD thesis acknowledgements, considering the material surroundings of the Berkeley department and the community living within.
Perhaps her most experimental research has been part of the ground-breaking Çatalhöyük project (the excavation of which  Raising Horizons participant Shahina Farid directed), including working while at Berkeley on the digital re-creation of the Neolithic settlement inside the online world of Second Life. This included exploring how a virtual world could be used to think about fact and fiction in archaeology via hosting lectures, a museum, and tours, well as creating “machinima” (films created within Second Life itself): people interacting with the world in an embodied way, via the avatars of the Neolithic residents, blurring boundaries between identity, reconstruction, heritage and experience. Jacquetta would surely have approved.
Written by Becky.

These two women are connected not only through their professional vocation, but also directly through the institution of the Museum of London, sponsors of Raising Horizons.

Tessa Verney Wheeler and Jessica Bryan

Tessa Verney Wheeler, at Verulamium during the 1930s excavation, pointing at a burial. Image: UCL open access.

Tessa Verney Wheeler, at Verulamium during the 1930s excavation, pointing at a burial. Image: UCL open access.

Anyone wanting the full picture of Tessa Verney Wheeler‘s contribution to archaeology should check out the wonderful biography of her by L. C. Carr (thanks to Kate Sheppard for the loan!). As we don’t have a proper TrowelBlazers post on her yet, this piece will have to remain a sketch.

Tessa Verney Wheeler was another of the Raising Horizons trowelblazers who benefitted from the openness of the University of London in accepting women students, trained there between 1911-14, where she also met R. Mortimer Wheeler and got married. Following the First World War and after his appointment to the National Museum of Wales, together they excavated at several Welsh sites. From the beginning it was a partnership where in modern terms, she was the Excavation Director, to his Principle Investigator. After her husband’s promotion to the London Museum, she stayed in Wales over the winter of 1926 to undertake the excavation of Roman site Caerleon, which they had planned together.

Tessa started lecturing at the Museum in 1928, and together they established the new Institute of Archaeology (now part of UCL) in 1934. Until her death in 1936, her role in developing fieldwork techniques at the same time as a teaching, both in lecturing but much more significantly training students on excavations, in particular Verulamium and Maiden Castle, is Tessa’s greatest legacy. She instilled in a generation of future archaeologists the careful, controlled approach to excavation that she developed along with her husband (what would later be known as the Wheeler-Kenyon method, after it was refined by one of those students). But more than this, Tessa is remembered by those who experienced working under her as supportive and encouraging, offering a strong example of the correct way to do things on site.

In particular, for the young women whose first experience of archaeological excavation – that strange blend of physical exertion, boredom and intense excitement – was under Tessa’s guidance, it may be no co-incidence that a large number went on to significant careers of their own (among them Kathleen Kenyon, Margaret Guido, Molly Cotton, Margaret Drower, Joan du Plat Taylor, Beatrice de Cardi, Veronica Seton Williams, Olwen Brogan and Mary Leakey). Seeing a highly capable woman managing enormous sites and teams (while also dealing with her volatile celebrity colleague/husband), may have offered an instructive role model for many.

Ironically a major barrier to wider recognition of Tessa’s work outside specialist circles is her last name, Wheeler. As the first wife of a man who by all accounts was incredibly charismatic (while also having some questionable ethics), discerning her real role in their archaeological partnership is like trying to see the glow of a white dwarf star against the glare of its red giant companion. Tessa was apparently happy to remain behind-the-scenes of the public ‘Wheeler show’ as much as possible, and in this way her marriage was a professional collaboration; while she fully appreciated the power of PR for promoting archaeology, she was also sometimes subject to its negative focus on her as a woman, including headlines like The Daily Mail ‘s “GIRL EXCAVATORS” in 1930, when she was 37 years old.

Perhaps the most significant factor which resulted in her being known far less widely than her husband was her early death, just the year before the Institute took its first students. While some of their excavations were published jointly, as Mortimer continued and grew more celebrated in later years, she was no longer by his side, and her importance was often overlooked. But the countless contexts which fail to acknowledge their excavations as joint projects also go against Mortimer’s own acknowledgement of the debt he owed her as an equal partner (watch this lovely video on a letter he sent to her from the trenches).

Jessica Bryan, Senior Archaeologist, MOLA.

Jessica Bryan, Senior Archaeologist, MOLA.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and it’s at MOLA, the 21st century field and built heritage services unit of the Museum of London, that we find our contemporary Raising Horizons counterpart, Jess Bryan. Currently Senior Archaeologist, with an MA and 12 years experience in professional field archaeology, she has worked for multiple commercial archaeological units, gathering a wide skill set including managing and supervising, as well as being a qualified chainsaw operator.

While her Masters degree and training at University of Glasgow between 2007-8 was focused on the end-point of excavations – archaeological finds – Jess is most passionate about field archaeology. After several years gaining experience with different archaeological units, in 2010 she worked for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Kent, and the same year became a Senior Archaeologist with MOLA. She speaks of the thrill that discovering the material past brings, with the knowledge that there will always be something surprising whatever the site, whether large or small, urban or rural, major infrastructure.

Jess is also committed to positive working practices, and is Secretary of the Archaeologists Branch of Prospect Union, a supporter of Raising Horizons. She understands the importance of having a supportive mentor, not just for training but motivation: on her first ever excavation, when she presented her supervisor with a natural pebble they were still encouraging!

Jess has worked on some of London’s most important digs of recent years, including the Crossrail development at Broadgate, and the Bloomberg development (called “Pompeii of the North”, with 10,000 finds!). Like Tessa, she is also involved in outreach activities, although she takes more of a lead: writing for Day of Archaeology (including about sewers– promise it’s worth reading!), and MOLA’s Walbrook Discovery Programme. She’s also contributed to TrowelBlazers with a post on Audrey Williams, who excavated the famous Roman Mithras Temple in London, which Jess herself worked on when 1960s reconstruction was moved during major excavations by MOLA. And in a nice link back to Tessa, Audrey Williams also worked at Verulamium Museum. Everywhere you look, there are trowelblazing connections!

Written by Becky.

This pairing of women for our Raising Horizons exhibition are connected by some of the most incredible extinct creatures of the Jurassic world: pterosaurs, or “flying dragons” as they were once described.

Mary Anning and Dr Lorna Steel


Sketch of Mary Anning by Henry De la Beche. Used with permission of Roderick Gordon

Among pioneering women in science, Mary Anning has gained some measure of recognition, with increasing coverage in popular media including articles and books. Yet she is still not widely known (our Raising Horizons partner, Leonora Saunders, had not heard of her), and while her story is dramatic and engaging– beginning with a baby struck by lightning– some details are just as important to issues central to Raising Horizons today, nearly 200 years after she was alive.

We’ve written briefly about Mary before, and for once her wikipedia entry is respectably comprehensive. She was born in the year of the French Revolution, and was raised in a family of religious dissenters, who as a group were explicitly discriminated against (even if she had been educated- and male- she would still have been barred from university). Intriguingly, the Congregationalists promoted education for the poor, and Mary is known to have read an essay written by her own pastor urging the study of geology. With this background, plus a father who (despite a respectable profession as a cabinet maker) got involved in protests against food shortages, Mary may have been raised in an unusually socially-aware situation. It seems also somehow symbolic that the family home was sited in a marginal location: on a bridge so close to the sea, that it was flooded during storms.

Anning’s career as a professional palaeontologist (she both collected and studied her fossils) began as a child, helping her father as a way to earn a bit of extra money. When he died leaving them with no income, although her mother and brother had also been collecting, it was Mary who took charge and developed this into a business, in the process becoming a genuine expert. She was by necessity self-taught, and not only examined carefully the fossils she found, but also consulted the scientific literature when she could, even copying articles by hand. In addition, she undertook dissections of animals to better understand the things she was finding; for example she deduced that certain unusual stones were in fact coprolites.

In 1826, sixteen years after her father’s death, and by this time well-known within scientific circles the discoverer of extraordinary finds furnishing many collections and museums, she opened up her own shop premises: “Anning’s Fossil Depot”. Nearly 20 years later, she informed a king visiting her shop that “I am well known throughout Europe”. Yet Mary was also keenly aware that she was getting a raw deal in scientific terms, with upper class men being able to publish and take the credit for her discoveries once she had sold them. Even where she was occasionally mentioned in the literature, she was never offered the opportunity to co-author her finds, and it was only in 2015 that a significant fossil was named after her (Ichthyosaurus anningae). However Anning did form some supportive fossiling relationships, including with other women, some of whom she trained and collaborated with, like Elizabeth Philpott and Charlotte Murchison (another Raising Horizons woman).

If Anning had been born in more fortunate circumstances, she might never discovered her skills as a palaeontologist. However it is certain that she had intelligence, curiosity and drive (and perhaps a biting wit, according to contemporary Gideon Mantell). If she had lived in the later 20th century, she would not have faced the same level of exclusion from scientific circles (it was only on her death that the Geological Society moved to publically recognize her achievements).  We can perhaps imagine her finding a role in an illustrious museum which permitted her to pursue fieldwork and research, surrounded by amazing fossils she didn’t have to sell… much like her contemporary Raising Horizons counterpart.

Dr Lorna Steele

Dr Lorna Steel with a Rhamphorhynchus (pterosaur) fossil from Germany, which was purchased by the museum about ten years after Mary Anning died

Lorna Steel is Senior Curator in Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum, London, and is responsible for various fossil collections such as crocodiles and their relatives, as well as the important pterosaur collection, including one of the “flying dragons” found by Anning.

Lorna’s background is in studying these amazing creatures. Following undergraduate and Masters degrees, her PhD examined the palaeohistology of pterosaurs– the microanatomy of the fossils. What Anning would have made of this can only be speculation, but given the detailed attention she paid to her specimens it is likely she would have jumped at the chance to examine them in this way (and the first microscopic studies of pterosaurs do date back to the mid-19th century, on British material, so this was cutting edge in her time too, even if the microscopes were a bit different!).

After her PhD, Lorna worked at the Dinosaur Isle Museum as Education Officer and Curator, before joining the Natural History Museum, London in 2006. As part of Lorna’s role, she collaborates on different research, including in 2015 a large scale digitization project called “eMesozoic”, as part of wider aims put the whole of the Natural History Museum’s British Mesozoic (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous) fossils online. Most recently, she has been working with external researchers using the collections, in particular the fossil crocodiles and fossil birds.

Lorna is also committed to public outreach as well as academic research, and operates two of the Museum’s special collections twitter accounts. In a lovely echo back to the young fossil-hunting Mary Anning, Lorna was the curator who accepted the donation of Vectidraco daisymorrisae, a new pterosaur species discovered in 2008 by 5 year old Daisy Morris, and named after her in 2013.


Written by Becky.

This pairing of Raising Horizons women are linked through their connections to questions of African identity and colonial archaeology.

Gertrude Caton Thompson and Dr Peggy Brunache

RAI 36032 Portrait of Gertrude Caton Thompson. Photograph by Ramsey & Muspratt, Cambridge, 1938. Copyright The Royal Anthropological Institute. All rights reserved. Not to be reused without permission. 

RAI 36032 Portrait of Gertrude Caton Thompson. Photograph by Ramsey & Muspratt, Cambridge, 1938. Copyright The Royal Anthropological Institute. All rights reserved. Not to be reused without permission.

We have written about G. C. T. (she calls herself that in her photo albums, so we feel it’s ok!) twice before on TrowelBlazers, but there’s so much more that can be said about this pioneering archaeologist of the early-mid 20th century.
Her extensive links to other trowelblazers are significant, as they point to the influence that senior women had on her, and she in her turn had on the next generation of archaeologists. Just as she was taking an active role in the burgeoning women’s suffrage movement, her interest in the past was increased by attending lectures given by Sarah Paterson at the British Museum. After a war-time hiatus, from 1921 she was taught by Dorothea Bate and Margaret Murray, later joining the latter and likely Hilda Petrie on excavations in Egypt that winter, before continuing her education at Newnham, Cambridge. Blanche Athena Clough was President at this time, and she must also have met other women studying history, classics and archaeology, like Jane Harrison.

During the 1920s Caton Thompson ensured she was superbly well-trained in a wide range of fields, and gained experience in different regions: she dug in Malta with Margaret Murray and Edith Guest in 1922, then in 1924 returned to Egypt, including with Winifred and Guy Brunton. Here she began to develop her interests in scientific investigation of settlement and landscape, and over the next several decades she brought her multi-disciplinary knowledge to bear on many sites in the Middle and Near East, with a scientific, systematic approach to excavation and frequent collaborations, including with Elinor Gardner.

While Caton Thompson’s career extended for many later years, it was in 1929 that she took one of the few individuals she directly trained with her to the field- a young Kathleen Kenyon. Together with another young woman, Dorothy Norie, the small team funded by the British Association aimed to undertake work at the iconic site of Great Zimbabwe, whose cultural origins had been under dispute. A mix of racist presumption and biblical mythologies had led to claims of non-local influences.

Just getting to the then-Rhodesia was a trial: it was a solid month’s journey from Egypt, battling floods and rail strikes, but enlivened by stopping at Kharga on Christmas Day in order to scope out future fieldwork potential (and consume a packed dinner of champagne, turkey and plum pudding). Once at Great Zimbabwe, the project was extensive and challenging: in addition to working at Great Zimbabwe itself, the team surveyed and dug five other sites, which included overnight sleeping in cars and avoiding leopards.

In the end, by using the cutting-edge stratigraphic techniques Caton Thompson was a world expert in, she confirmed earlier work suggesting that these imposing structures had indeed been built by the indigenous Bantu population. Whilst there is some tension with an outsider in a colonial context deciding on the authenticity of native culture, the importance of this archaeological finding in political terms is shown by the re-naming of Rhodesia in the 1960s to its current “Zimbabwe”. Even if she was acting from a scientific motive rather than an anti-racist one, Caton Thompson’s legacy remains to this day.

Dr Peggy Brunache, photo used with permission.

Dr Peggy Brunache, photo used with permission.

Issues of identity and origins are central to the work of Dr Peggy Brunache, lecturer at University of Dundee and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. A Haitian-American who was raised in Florida by working class immigrant parents, Peggy’s career has focused on the history and archaeology of diasporic communities of America and the Caribbean, from colonial to modern times. In particular, she explores how food, and its archaeology, is about who we are. She notes: “Food has never been about the simple act of consumption and survival. It unites communities and conjures up nostalgia.”

Peggy was always interested in science, but after being unable to pursue screen writing at college, she took anthropology courses and got interested in archaeology as a hands-on pursuit. Following museum experience, she took Kathleen Deagan’s fieldschool at St. Augustine, Florida, and was hooked. Following this, in the early 1990s Peggy wanted to develop her experience of the sector through working in cultural resources management (heritage and commercial archaeology), rather than immediately pursuing another degree. This allowed her expand her skills with various companies along the eastern seaboard of America (listen to Peggy speaking her about her experience as a Black woman in CRM, and her wider career.)

Drawn to study the history and archaeology of diaspora communities, Peggy then gained an MA at University of South Carolina looking at the transatlantic slave trade by examining the spatial archaeology of a palace complex in Benin, West Africa. For her subsequent PhD at the University of Texas with Professor Maria Franklin, she focused on Caribbean archaeology, and chose Guadeloupe to research how enslaved women expressed their identity through their cuisine (read her thesis here).

She moved to Scotland in 2007 for personal reasons, began a family, and finished her PhD thesis. Since then she has taught American and Caribbean history and archaeology to students at different institutions (read about her experience teaching at Edinburgh here), echoing her desire to make academia accessible.

In 2015 Peggy was a Visiting Scholar at Northern Kentucky University and worked as a senior collaborator with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on the Parker Academy project, investigating the site of one of the first schools to offer racially and gender integrated classes to children in the US. In 2016 she received a prestigious Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship to direct future excavations, archive research and public outreach in collaboration with the Freedom Center.

Peggy’s research has indicated that modern day “Creole” and “Soul Food” has a heritage that stems from the foods eaten by enslaved populations of the Caribbean plantations, and today she also shares her interests in culture and food outside academia, appearing regularly on BBC Radio Scotland’s Kitchen Café, and acting as culinary consultant to the acclaimed Scottish ‘Southern Fried’ Food Festival. She can be seen in upcoming BBC 2 series ‘A Black History of Britain’.


Written by Becky

Kathy Schick completed her PhD in 1984 under the supervision of two legendary palaeoanthropologists, Glynn Issac and Desmond Clark. Her experimental research has vastly enriched our understanding of site formation processes. She used a variety of experiments to help understand just what happens to stone tools and animal remains after they are discarded by early hominins at Stone Age sites. These included laboratory tests, such as placing replica artefacts in a plastic flume to see how they responded to water flow, as well as constructing of dozens of experimental sites in northern Kenya that were left over several years before being returned to. Using the results of these experiments, Kathy was able to demonstrate how natural processes affected artefact deposition in fluvial, lacustrine and marine environments, and how this affects our interpretation of hominin behaviour. Comparing her experiments results with data from the Oldowan sites at Koobi Fora enabled her to show how they had formed post deposition. In doing so, she was able to indicate where sites held more or less behavioural information, based on the level of disturbance present.

While producing a key text on one of the fundamental concepts in archaeology for your PhD is something every student aspires to, Kathy didn’t stop there. After undertaking visiting professorships at both Berkley and the University of Cape Town, Kathy moved to Indiana University Bloomington, where she co-founded the Centre for Research into the Anthropological Foundations of Technology in 1986. There she continued to focus on exploring early stone tool technologies, leading to experiments with the bonobo, Kanzi. She also found herself at the cutting edge of technology, using tests involving PET scans, wires and needles to study muscle responses and map brain activity during tool production. Such experiments are still conducted by leading scientists today and have been used to show how early tool manufacture might be linked to the evolution of the brain’s capacity for language.

By 1989, Kathy was one of the first American archaeologists to be allowed to work on archaeological sites in China. Four years later she co-wrote Making Silent Stones Speak, an indispensible and easily digestible text that discusses stone tools and what they can tell us about the past. She currently co-directs the Stone Age Institute with her husband, Nick Toth, which she co-founded in 2000. In the same year the New York Times selected her as one of today’s groundbreaking scientists.

Kathy continues to foster research into hominin evolution and broaden public knowledge of science. Her continuing efforts to advance our understanding of human evolution resulted in her becoming a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2004. This, combined with her many contributions towards our understanding of the Palaeolithic and our hominin ancestors, marks her as a truly legendary archaeologist and anthropologist in her own right.

Written by Frederick Foulds

Photo of Kathy Schick and Nick Toth by Steven L. Raymer and used with permission. Originally published in Bloom Magazine

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.

Kathleen Kenyon. Image from: Reynolds, A. 2011. From the Archives. Archaeology International 13:112-118, DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/ai.1321

Kathleen Kenyon. Image from: Reynolds, A. 2011. From the Archives. Archaeology International 13:112-118, DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/ai.1321

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

Sources include Michael Baltar’s “The Goddess and the Bull” and Miriam Davis’ “Dame Kathleen Kenyon: Digging Up the Holy Land”

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.

Rachel Pope and replica sword.

Rachel Pope and replica sword.

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

Beginning this week’s Raising Horizons pairings, we have two women joined by their pursuit of our earliest history: that of humanity’s ancestors.

Dr Mary Leakey and Ella al-Shamahi

Mary Leakey with a cast of the Laetoli footprints. (Photo By Lyn Alweis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Mary Leakey with a cast of the Laetoli footprints. (Photo By Lyn Alweis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

As a member of the great palaeoanthropological Leakey dynasty, Mary Leakey is known and celebrated widely. Yet while she is frequently depicted (sometimes literally) somewhat in Louis’s shadow, Mary had been drawn to the past since childhood, including having the rare opportunity to furtle amongst the spoil of a French Palaeolithic excavation, her first encounter with truly ancient objects. She appears to have been uninspired by her early schooling and did not gain a strong enough academic record to attend university, yet she pursued her own interest in archaeology through attending lectures and classes – even though not an official student – at University of London and the Museum of London, there being taught by Mortimor Wheeler. Through this connection she began her fieldwork experiences, being trained first by the expert excavator Tessa Verney Wheeler at Verulamium, and then by Dorothy Liddell on a Neolithic site over several seasons, as well as the Palaeolithic Swanscombe site. It was through Lidell that Mary’s potential was noticed by Gertrude Caton Thompson on the basis of her illustrating skills, who took her on to work on the figures for her great Fayum desert survey publication. It was also thanks to her connection with Caton Thompson that Mary met Louis Leakey, but it’s clear that she was already a trained archaeologist before this point.

Mary was truly the equal to Louis, excavating together for years as a couple and over time, as a family unit with their children.  As was often the case with spousal scientific partnerships, Mary’s contribution was often overshadowed officially during this period; for example it was Mary who found the famous “Zinjanthropus” fossil. Yet her individual capacity was without doubt, and after Louis’ death, she continued working for many years, including discovering the world famous Laetoli footprints, dating to over 3 million years ago.

Our modern ‘counter-part’ to Mary Leakey is also concerned with changing narratives around human origins. Dr Ella al-Shamahi is a PhD student in Anthropology at UCL, and a 2015 National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

Ella al-Shamahi

Ella al-Shamahi

Ella’s research interests focus on more recent phases of our deep past than Mary Leakey, specifically Neanderthal archaeology, and the possible routes which were taken by early Homo sapiens leaving Africa. Her scientific focus has a personal aspect too, as her own background is Yemeni, and this is one region where relatively little research has been conducted into early human origins, in part because of past and current instability. Ella’s links to the country give her an edge in being able to conduct research and fieldwork on a context where virtually all international teams have left; even if she has to do it wearing a burqa.

But it’s not only science which motivates her- the terrible humanitarian toll in Yemen from current conflict has been ongoing for years and Ella points out that development in such situations is not only about politics or economics, but also culture and heritage. She brings a unique talent to try and effect a positive narrative, through stand-up comedy. Her “Fossil Hunting in the Yemen: Archaeologists Without Borders” performance has been featured on TED-X, BBC Radio 4, and SciFest Africa, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and brings not only the science of human origins in the Middle East to a new audience, but also raises awareness of its 21st century cultural context.

Written by Becky

Our pairing of women for today’s Raising Horizons portrait are connected through the area they work in, and their activism.

Dr Margaret Murray in 1933 not long before her official retirement. By permission of the Petrie Museum.

Margaret Murray in 1933 not long before her official retirement. By permission of the Petrie Museum.

Dr Margaret Murray and Dr Amara Thornton

Born in India in 1863, Margaret Murray had an early life that seems surprisingly “globalized” today; spending the first 30 years travelling between Britain, Germany and the Indian subcontinent. It was after this in 1894 that Margaret followed her earlier interest in archaeology, and became a student at the new Egyptology Department at UCL, taught by Flinders Petrie. Within a year she had her first publication, and shortly afterwards became the first female archaeology lecturer in Britain. She taught various subjects including Egyptian linguistics, as well as evening classes. In 1902 Margaret had her first taste of fieldwork in Egypt, and despite not liking it much, went on to undertake many excavations, including discovering major sites. It was also in the field that she began to develop a feminist position, which she became more active in both personally and professionally over time, including successfully campaigning for UCL to open a common room for women, which was named after her.

Margaret’s career was very long and extensive; lecturing at other institutions, cataloguing Egyptian materials at many museums, effectively running the journal Ancient Egypt for many years until she became Editor, and travelling to diverse countries including Jordan (digging at Petra), the Soviet Union, Scandinavia, and South Africa for a meeting of the then British Association for the Advancement of Science. She was still publishing into her very advanced years, including the year she died, her autobiography titled My First Hundred Years.

Margaret was committed to advancing public knowledge through research, and wrote non-academic books on Egyptian language and myths, as well as being the first woman to publically unwrap a mummy (in front of 500 people). She is also notable for many professional collaborations with other women, for example while in Egypt she excavated sites with Hilda Petrie, trained Gertrude Caton Thompson and later excavated with the latter and Edith Guest in Malta. You can read more about Margaret Murray in Kathleen’s Sheppard’s biography.

Our modern trowelblazer, Dr Amara Thornton, has many links with Murray through her research into the individuals and networks operating in the archaeological world of the early 20th century, and her research interest in and active practice of public outreach.

Dr Amara Thornton

Dr Amara Thornton

Originally from the US, Amara is an Honorary Research Associate at UCL having recently completed a British Academy postdoctoral fellowship there. A social historian of archaeology and current Co-ordinator of the Institute of Archaeology History of Archaeology Research Network, she excavates from the archives the hidden stories of archaeology in the early 20th century. She is especially interested in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East between 1870 and the Second World War, and focuses on examining in detail the contributions of individuals, such as George and Agnes Horsfield. She also specializes in prosopographies– studying the connections between people and things (something close to our hearts at TrowelBlazers), uncovering the networks that formed the foundations of archaeological relationships both professional and personal in this period. She won an honourable mention in the 2012 Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize from the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, which is awarded annually to the writer of the best PhD dissertation on a Middle Eastern topic in the Social Sciences or Humanities in Britain.

Amara is also- like Margaret Murray- committed to public dissemination of her fascinating research, as well as studying how this occurred in the past and present, and the wider societal and political implications: her postdoctoral research examined the history of popular publishing in archaeology. She has published herself on historic film, photography, tourism, archives, colonialism, and more recent practices such as archaeological blogging and wikipedia. She regularly gives public talks including at the Petrie Museum, and shares her findings on Twitter. She also maintains her own blog stuffed with intriguing posts (warning- major rabbithole!). Amara is currently Principle Investigator on the Filming Antiquity project, which is digitising excavation footage held in the UCL archives.

Check back on Monday for the next week of Raising Horizons’ women to be revealed!


Written by Becky

Elizabeth Philpot was born in 1780, and moved to Lyme Regis around 1805, when her brother John, a London solicitor, rented a house in Silver Street for his four sisters. Three of them, Mary (1777-1838), Margaret (?-1845) and Elizabeth (1780-1857), settled there for life, and soon became involved in fossil collecting.

At this time, Mary Anning (1799-1847) was still a young girl, but it is clear from later letters that over the years a close and affectionate relationship developed between Mary and the Philpot sisters, transcending any barriers of age, social origins or educational background (Edmonds, 1978).

As the Philpots’ collection grew it started to become known within the geological community. One familiar visitor was William Buckland (1784-1856), Reader in Geology at Oxford. Since his student days (1801-1808) he had often spent vacations around Lyme, and it seems that he regularly examined the Philpot collection; his earliest published reference to the Misses Philpots is in his 1829 paper on the pterosaur found at Lyme by Mary Anning.

It would be interesting to know whether Buckland usually went to Lyme Regis alone, or whether his wife, Mary, went with him. Their daughter Elizabeth records how, after the death of her 6 year old brother Adam in 1844, the whole family went by coach to Lyme for a change of air. Buckland took the children fossil hunting and introduced them to Mary Anning (Gordon, 1894). Mary also visited in 1840 to do her famous drawings of the Great Landslip to the west of the town. But might she have met the Philpots before this?

Letters from Elizabeth Philpot to William Buckland often send greetings to his wife, and one letter from 9 December 1833 is addressed to Mary herself. The main purpose of writing is to enclose a sketch of an ichthyosaur head, painted by Elizabeth with ink from a fossil squid of the same age as the ichthyosaur (her modesty about the sketch perhaps reflects the fact that Mary was herself a geological illustrator):

But there is so much more to the letter…

First, it provides colourful news of Mary Anning:
“Yesterday she had one of her miraculous escapes in going to the beach before sun rise and was nearly killed in passing over the bridge by the wheel of a cart which threw her down and crushed her against the wall. Fortunately the cart was stopped in time to allow of her being extricated from her most perilous situation and happily she is not prevented from pursuing her daily employment”.

Next, it sends a reminder to William Buckland, a man well-known for forgetting things:
“May I beg you to remind Dr. Buckland that he has borrowed from me some Plesiosaurus vertebre. As it is some time since I will mention that it is a section of a vertebre, one with the process, ten others, and a chain set in a box.”

Finally, it sends “best compliments” to husband and wife from her two sisters, so often forgotten in the Philpot story.

These letters from Elizabeth Philpot are now in Oxford University Museum of Natural History, along with the Philpot collection. This contains around 400 fossils, mostly from Lyme Regis, including more than 40 type specimens: a remarkable total for any collector. A brief list of people known to have examined the collection is practically a roll call of the key figures in 19th century palaeontology: William Buckland, William Conybeare, John Lindley and William Hutton, Richard Owen, James Sowerby and (from Switzerland) Louis Agassiz.

But the collection was also made available to the ordinary people of Lyme, and the handwritten labels by Elizabeth Philpot sometimes included detailed explanations of what these extinct animals would have looked like. Both the letters and the specimens remain deeply evocative today, conjuring up visions of what it must have been like to call on these three remarkable sisters. Because of the risk of light damage the material is not normally on display, but it can be viewed by appointment with the appropriate Department (email: library@oum.ox.ac.uk or earth@oum.ox.ac.uk)



Buckland, W. 1829. On the discovery of a new species of Pterodactyle in the Lias at Lyme Regis. Trans. Geol. Soc. Lond., ser. 2, 3, 217-222.

Edmonds, J.M. 1978. The fossil collection of the Misses Philpot of Lyme Regis. Proc. Dorset Nat. Hist. & Archaeol. Soc., 98 (for 1978), 43-48.

Gordon, [E.O.]. 1894. The life and correspondence of William Buckland. John Murray, London, 287 pp.


Images provided by Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Written by Eliza Howlett, Oxford University Museum of Natural History


Today’s Raising Horizons trowelblazers are connected through their domain of expertise, and their commitment to the promotion of women’s education.

Dr Catherine Alice Raisin and Professor Cynthia Burek

Bedford College Principal, art professor and science staff (1903). Catherine Raisin is on the right-hand end of the back row. Image courtesy of RHUL: PP60/2/1/1/4/3/1 Archives, Royal Holloway, University of London. Not to be re-used without permission.

Bedford College Principal, art professor and science staff (1903). Catherine Raisin is on the right-hand end of the back row. Image courtesy of RHUL: PP60/2/1/1/4/3/1 Archives, Royal Holloway, University of London. Not to be re-used without permission.

It’s amazing really that Catherine Raisin’s name is not more widely known, given her achievements. From quite a quite humble background, through education she worked her way to a very senior career, managing this at a time when most women were only just beginning to tap at the glass ceiling, never mind break it.
Catherine had to wait until her mid-twenties to get a degree, because until that point- 1879- they were not open to women. She took geology and zoology, and made waves by not only being the first woman at the University of London to gain a geology degree, but that year, 1884, the highest scoring student. 15 years later, having specialised in the microscopic study of rocks, she became only the second woman ever to receive a Doctor of Science qualification, after already winning the Lyell Fund from the Geological Society, and the previous year being appointed Vice Chancellor of Bedford College, University of London.
She was Head of the Geology Department at Bedford, but also jointly held both the Botany and Geography Headships during different periods. In 1919, the year before she retired, she became a Fellow of the Geological Society, one of the first women to be admitted. Throughout her life she was committed to advancing women’s education, founding the lady’s intellectual society The Somerville Club aged just 25, and taking action for the rights of women to study at and be employed by universities.

Our modern counterpart, Professor Cynthia Burek, has had a similarly long and distinguished career, with similarly diverse interests and ‘ordinary’ origins in the East End.

Professor Cynthia Burek.

Professor Cynthia Burek.

Cynthia works at the University of Chester and the Open University in Wales teaching geology, forensic science, sustainable development and conservation. Her geological research includes limestone pavements, and she combines her interest in geology, ecology and the environment as the world’s first Chair in Geoconservation. She is involved at national and international level in many large organisations and projects including UKGAP (Geodiversity Action Plan) steering group, English Geodiversity Forum, Geoconservation Wales/Cymru Forum, Association of Welsh Regionally Important Geodiversity Sites (RIGS), and Stakeholders committee for the Irish Sea Conservation Zone. She directs the Heritage Lottery Fund project Saltscape landscape of Cheshire, and the UNESCO recognised GeoMôn (Anglesey) Geopark. She is also a Fellow of the Geological Society.

In addition to her many research-related roles, she has a deep commitment to promoting education, especially concerning gender equality and women’s access. She is Deputy Director of the Centre for Science Communication, is on the Athena Swan committee at University of Chester, is a Director of the British Federation of University Women and British Federation of Women Graduates and is Chair of the International Fellowships Committee at the Graduate Women’s International (GWI) conference, aimed at empowering women through education. She gave the 2015 Sybil Campbell Annual Lecture for the University Women’s Club, and has published several papers on the role of women in geological history, including in particular, Catherine Raisin.


Written by Becky


Our fourth pairing of women for the Raising Horizons portraits, revealed!

Lady Charlotte Murchison and Dr Natasha Stephen

One of Charlotte Murchison's geological drawings, from Roderick Murchison's "The Silurian System"

One of Charlotte Murchison’s geological drawings, from Roderick Murchison’s “The Silurian System”

Charlotte Murchison was a Regency geologist, in one of the ways it was possible to be back then for women. She was clearly already interested in the natural world and science, with a mother who was a botanist. It was through her husband, Roderick Impey Murchison, that Charlotte satiated her interest in geology. By some accounts in was only through her persistent encouragement that he took up the pursuit, and by 1825 he published his first paper, probably with at least some input from Charlotte. Together they went on many field trips, including in the same year Lyme Regis, where she sketched the cliffs. Charlotte met Mary Anning here, likely during a fossil collecting trip, and they remained friends corresponding for many years.

It was through her artistic talents that we can clearly see Charlotte’s intellectual capacity, for example her drawing of Stackpole Rock in the book authored by her husband shows she was focused on the geologically important features of the outcrop, and she was probably responsible for some other very beautiful images of fossils. Charlotte was also a well-known figure within the natural history circles of the day, and in 1828 the couple went on an extended field trip with Charles Lyell where she collected, sketched and prepared fossils. It was due to her wish to attend Lyell’s geological lectures that they were opened up to women in 1831 (it was only the Geologists’ Association at this point which had equal membership rights for women). Charlotte’s fossil collections (she had her own cabinets) were studied by many male scientists of the day such as William Buckland, meaning she knew his wife Mary, another fossilist, and one ammonite she collected on the Isle of Skye was named after her.
By 1855 her husband’s career had progressed such that he was appointed director-general of the British Geological Survey and director of the Royal School of Mines and the Museum of Practical Geology, meaning that Charlotte, who acted as hostess at their London residence, was part of the keen discussions of the era around the apparently enormous expanses of time represented by the geological record that she and others were uncovering.

Our contemporary trowelblazer for this portrait pushes the boundaries of geology not so much in time, as in space.

Dr Natasha Stephen; photo used with permission

Dr Natasha Stephen; photo used with permission

Dr Natasha Stephen is a Lecturer in Advanced Analysis (Earth and Planetary Sciences) at Plymouth University. Her research examines the geology of extra-terrestrial bodies throughout the solar system, through studying meteorites originating from Mars, the Moon and asteroids. She has published on new methods such as using meteorites as a ground-truthing dataset for robotic survey missions. She is interested in  the geological evolution of Mars, as well as other volcanic regions in the solar system, and also comparing them to those on Earth.

As meteorites are a precious resource, Natasha uses non-destructive analytical techniques including electron microscopy and the Diamond Synchrotron (funded by the Science & Technology Facilities Council) to examine the structure and makeup of these objects. In 2014 she was awarded the Outstanding Achievement medal from Imperial College London for her contributions to public engagement and outreach, and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and Geological Society of London.


Written by Becky

Day 3 of our challenge to identify all the Raising Horizons women… and here is our next pairing!

Dorothea Bate and Professor Anjali Goswami

It takes some guts to walk up to the premier research institution in the world and demand a job while still in your teens, but this is what Dorothea Bate did. However, she knew her stuff, and despite the Natural History Museum of 1898 being a woman-free zone, she was accepted to work on their collections, and later began to do her own ground-breaking field research.

Dorothea Bate with Sir Temi Zammit (Museum Director) & Dr. Joseph Baldacchino (Curator of Natural History) at the National Museum, Valletta. Malta, April 5th 1934. Copyright of the Ghar Dalam Museum and Heritage Malta: used with kind permission - not for re-use.

Dorothea Bate with Sir Temi Zammit (Museum Director) & Dr. Joseph Baldacchino (Curator of Natural History) at the National Museum, Valletta. Malta, April 5th 1934. Copyright of the Ghar Dalam Museum and Heritage Malta: used with kind permission – not for re-use.


Among her many discoveries, Dorothea is known for her Mediterranean fieldwork, which was not only extraordinarily adventurous for the time (solo trekking, swimming to caves, dynamiting…), but also resulted in many key discoveries of incredible “island fauna”, animal species unique to the islands and with unusual adaptations. As well as dwarf hippos and elephants, she also discovered the strange Myotragus, an extinct goat, which had forward-facing eyes, large rodent-like incisors and was probably ‘cold blooded’ like reptiles. She remained a world expert in fossil mammals for her whole career, but was also a keen interdisciplinary collaborator, teaching and working with several other trowelblazers of her era including Dorothy Garrod and Gertrude Caton Thompson. Yet for the majority of her career she was forced to continue on temporary contracts; finally she was given a full position just before she turned 70, some 50 years after starting at the Museum, and she died three years later with a list of publications still to do on her desk.

Our contemporary woman is linked to Dorothea through an interest in the evolution of mammals, including how their morphology changes over time. She also presents an example of how Dorothea’s career might have gone, had she been permitted to hold proper positions and progress within academia. Anjali Goswami is a Professor in Palaeobiology at UCL, and runs her own laboratory, the Goswami lab.

Anjali Goswami on fieldwork in India. Used with permission.

Anjali Goswami on fieldwork in Peru. Used with permission.

Like Dorothea, Anjali is an expert in mammalian palaeontology. Her research focuses on varied aspects of the evolution and development of diversity in forms and adaptations in mammals, especially marsupials, carnivores, and early placental mammals (eutherians), but also those living today. She uses multiple apporaches including morphometrics, 3D scanning and imaging, embryology, and genetics, and has done fieldwork in Svalbard, India, Madagascar, the US and South America. Anjali is a member of the editorial boards for Biology Letters, Evolution Letters, Paleobiology, and Palaeontology, Member-at-Large on the Executive Council for the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology, and a fellow of the Linnean Society of London. In 2016 she won their Bicentennary Medal, awarded to to a biologist under the age of 40 years in recognition of excellent work.



Written by Becky

We hope you’re enjoying playing the guessing game! The next two women we are excited to feature in the Raising Horizons portraits are linked through their maritime archaeological research.

Honor Frost and Dr Rachel Bynoe

We’ve written about Honor Frost before, not to mention Gabe Moshenska’s fine troweltoon, but haven’t covered the extent of her contributions to maritime archaeology. After discovering a love for the underwater world following a chance trip down a well in a diving suit, Honor followed her passion for many years, creating waves through the discipline (ok, couldn’t resist a pun).

Honor Frost in action, complete with (modern) stone anchor! Permission to use this image was kindly provided by the Honor Frost Foundation (All Rights Reserved) — they are trying to find out who took the photo (and when/where). Could it be ‘A. Farrar’ who took a number of photos of HF? Can you help? If so, do get in touch!

Honor Frost in action, complete with (modern) stone anchor! Permission to use this image was kindly provided by the Honor Frost Foundation (All Rights Reserved) — they are trying to find out who took the photo (and when/where). Could it be ‘A. Farrar’ who took a number of photos of HF? Can you help? If so, do get in touch!

Beginning her professional life as an artist, Honor switched to focus on diving after trying it out in the south of France in the late 1940s, and visiting a Roman wreck. By 1957 she was working with Kathleen Kenyon at the Jericho excavations, and here she realised that the same scientific rigour in archaeology could be applied underwater as on land. She took part in the Cape Gelidonya wreck excavation, a key project that broke new ground (waves?!) in where archaeology could go.
She moved to Lebanon and began a long career, including large surveys of sites, excavations, and her research focus on the interface between land and sea, via ports, harbours and anchors. Significant achievements included a UNESCO survey of the Pharos lighthouse site and other submerged ruins at Alexandria in 1968. Honor Frost published many papers on her work, and was involved with many of the founding learned societies and organisations in maritime archaeology. She remains a fundamental figure of influence in the field today, and her generosity in creating the Honor Frost Foundation through the sale of her art collection continues to support maritime archaeology, including the work of new submarine trowelblazers.

While working in seas much colder and on worlds much older than Honor Frost did, her Raising Horizons modern counterpart Dr Rachel Bynoe is also a pioneer of methodologies.

Rachel Bynoe, photo used with permission

Rachel Bynoe, photo used with permission

Rachel Bynoe trained in maritime archaeology as part of her doctoral research at the University of Southampton, and was a member of both the Centre for Archaeology of Human Origins and the Centre for Maritime Archaeology. She is interested in the submerged Pleistocene (ice age) archaeology of the Channel and North Sea; using data on patterning within the trawled offshore faunal record, her PhD showed that many of the submerged deposits were potentially intact. Since then, she worked with Historic England, including projects investigating near-shore deposits at Happisburgh and Clacton. Now based at the Natural History Museum, London, Rachel is working on a Calleva-funded project to ground(sea?!)-truth this data through looking at beach collections, trawled fauna, diving and coring, part of the Pathways to Ancient Britain project. She is also active in the archaeological diving community, working on other projects such as HMS Invincible.


Written by Becky

It’s the end of that glorious time of year, fieldwork season (ok, if you’re in the northern hemisphere…), but not everyone who trowelblazes does so in the dirt.

This summer we have been working non-stop to get the Raising Horizons project – our collaboration with photographer Leonora Saunders, supported by Prospect Union – ready to go, and we have loads of stuff we can finally share.
Edited to add: CROWDFUND LINK!


Margarethe Lenore Selenka was an extraordinary person. She was the first woman to excavate in Indonesia, and later became a prominent pacifist and advocate of gender equality in Germany.

Selenka was born in Hamburg (Germany) in 1860 (1). Under the influence of her second husband, Emil Selenka, a zoologist at the University of Erlangen whom she married in 1893, she began to study palaeontology, anthropology and zoology and became his assistant. She was an active participant on several trips to Japan, India and China organized by her husband.  When Emil fell severely ill on a trip to Borneo in 1892, and had to return to Germany, she took over the leadership of the expedition, and spent several months on Borneo studying orangutans and exploring the jungles (2).

Back in Germany, the Selenkas moved to Munich in 1895. Here, Margarethe befriended peace activists Anita Augspurg and Lida Gustava Heymann, and she became involved in the German feminist-pacifist movement. Margarethe campaigned for women’s suffrage and legal gender equality in the German empire, and was the first woman to launch an international peace protest in 1899 (3).

Emil and Margarethe were fascinated by the work of Eugene Dubois, the Dutch anatomist who discovered the remains of Java man (Pithecanthropus erectus, now Homo erectus) at Trinil, Java, in 1981. Not all scientists agreed with Dubois´ interpretation of P. erectus as the missing link between apes and humans. The Selenkas decided to continue the work in Trinil to settle the scientific dispute. They organized an expedition to Java, but unfortunately, Emil died in 1902. Margarethe decided to continue the plans, in honor of her husband, and to lead the expedition, which took place in 1907-1908, herself. The Selenka expedition did not yield more evidence of H. erectus at Trinil, but the expedition unearthed an enormous amount of Pleistocene vertebrates, and contributed significantly to the understanding of the Java man stratigraphy (4).


  1. Albers, P.C.H. & de Vos, J. 2010. Through Eugène Dubois’ Eyes: Stills of a Turbulent Life. Brill, Leiden, pp. 185.
  2. Selenka, E. & Selenka, L., 1905. Sonnige Welten: Ostasiatische Reiseskizzen [Sunny worlds: East Asian travel sketches] Wiesbaden C.W. Kreidel. https://archive.org/details/sonnigeweltenost00sele
  3. Katzel, U. 2001. A Radical Women’s Rights and Peace Activist: Margarethe Lenore Selenka, Initiator of the First Worldwide Women’s Peace Demonstration in 1899. Journal of Women´s History, 13(3), pp. 46-69.
  4. Selenka, M. L. & Blanckenhorn, M.L.P. 1911. Die Pithecanthropus-Schichten auf Java. Geologische und paläontologische Ergebnisse der Trinil-Expedition (1907 und 1908), ausgeführt mit Unterstützung der Akademischen Jubiläumsstiftung der Stadt Berlin und der Königlich bayerischen Akademi der Wissenschaften. W. Engelmann, Leipzig. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5962/bhl.title.60936


Written by Hanneke Meijer
Edited and posted by Suzie

Image of Selenka from Through Eugène Dubois’ Eyes: Stills of a Turbulent Life (1). The image of bones is from Die Pithecanthropus-Schichten auf Java (4). Both are out of copyright.  

Die Pithecanthropus-Schichten auf Java, 1911

It’s been said a million times that art and science do not mix. Yet, we know there are tremendous benefits that can arise from the concoction of the two. Take the work of Helen Michel as just one of many examples.

Born into an evolving world of science in 1932, seven years before the start of the Second World War, Helen Vaughn Michel was exhilarated by the vast array of applications and changes brought about by the scientific advancements of the times. She became especially attracted to the chemistry after witnessing school science experiments gone awry – even failures motivated this woman! A future pioneer in such diverse fields as chemistry, geology, paleontology, plant biology, and archaeology, Michel entered the University of California at Berkeley with as much enthusiasm as an archaeologist on her first expedition – A LOT!

It was while at UC Berkeley that she first set foot into the Radiation Lab (now known as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and received her first true taste of the work she had only dreamed about. Her work in the chemistry lab immediately became her life. Here she landed her first professional job, met her future husband, and conducted ground-breaking, outstanding research.

Courtesy of Berkeley National Labratory

Michel and close colleague Frank Asaro.

Though many may not recognize her name, Helen Vaughn Michel, with her extended expertise and interest in nuclear radioactive decay, devised (with her close colleague Frank Asaro, above) an indispensable analytical approach in determining the presence of trace elements, a now globally practiced method called “neutron activation analysis,” or NAA.

Michel’s Neutron Activation Analysis operates as follows: environmentally aging samples of relative abundance from almost any location are penetrated with neutrons, the neutrally-charged particles that have an effect on an atom’s mass and radioactivity. By attacking a sample’s atoms with neutrons, which are located in the nucleus, the existing neutrally-charged particles collide with the forcefully introduced neutrons, speeding up the radioactive process by pushing the neutrons out of the nuclei. As more neutrons fill up the atoms’ nuclei, the atoms become increasingly unstable, as the nuclear force cannot control the constant changing of charges and must release neutrons in order to reach stability. It will turn into a new element that can achieve stability. This transformation from one element to another can be monitored as well as the type of radioactive emission the nuclei release as they decompose. By following the breaking down of the isotopes of each element, you can estimate the types and amounts of all elements present in your sample. This extremely accurate measurement led Michel and her research crew to prominence and success. Her meticulous method was used in varying research applications, including extensive studies on the origins of precious stones and pottery and surveying of trace elements dating back to the Stone and Bronze Ages in Mexico, Central America, South America, and Egypt. Michel also made a legendary contribution by solving the mystery of “Drake’s Plate,” a brass sign found in 1936 San Francisco that was engraved with an apparent note and signature of the renowned sixteenth century explorer Sir Francis Drake, claiming North America’s West Coast for Queen Elizabeth I; Michel proved it to be a fraud through analytical spectroscopy and the dating of its foundation.

Michel’s most famous contribution is undoubtedly her iridium analysis that helped to form the Alvarez hypothesis – the theory that a huge asteroid smacked into Earth 65 million years ago and brought hazardous fallout around the world, driving a mass extinction of at least 50% of all species, including the dinosaurs. Notable layers of the element iridium found in Earth’s crust that dated back to the Cretaceous – Paleogene Boundary (the end of the Mesozoic Era, beginning of the Cenozoic Era) proved this by illustrating that because iridium was of rare abundance on Earth, but existed in copious amounts on asteroids, the spike had to trace back to an asteroid impact. This theory is considered one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in history and has not been denied by the majority of the scientific community since its founding in 1980.

Helen Vaughn Michel was the only woman among her counterparts at the lab. With all her accomplishments, she is inspiring for future women in science  as we step up in stride to better our worlds around us, one element, one bone, one leaf, one print, one rock, one artifact at a time.

Written by Alana Wexler

Edited and posted by Suzie


First image: Asteroid Impact research team, left to right: Helen Michel, Frank Asaro, Walter Alvarez, and Luis Alvarez. All images courtesy of Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and used with permission. 

Lisa White grew up in San Francisco, near the California Academy of Sciences, where she spent much of her time as a child; it was here that her initial interest in geology and paleontology was sparked. As the Director of Education at the Museum of Paleontology at University of California, Berkeley since 2012, she credits her career in the earth sciences to taking a geology class to satisfy a core requirement.  Her passion resulted in an internship with the US Geological Survey where she studied microfossils from Menlo Park. White obtained her BA in Geology at San Francisco State University, which she returned to as faculty after earning her PhD in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1989. For 22 years, she was a professor of geosciences, specializing in micropaleontology and particularly fossil diatoms, teaching paleontology and historical geology, and eventually becoming Associate Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at the SFSU.


In addition to her academic contributions, White has coordinated a number of notable outreach efforts, ranging from professional organizations to projects involving school-aged children. From 1988 to 1995 she coordinated the Minority Participation in the Earth Sciences program (MPES) with the US Geological Survey and has been involved in programs to help bring science to minority groups ever since. She supervised the NASA Sharp-Plus program at San Francisco State in 1994, which allowed for high school students to work with SFSU and NASA to increase the number of underrepresented minority students in the math and science fields. She was also appointed Chair of the Geological Society of America (GSA) committee on Minorities and Women in the Geosciences in 2000. The SF-ROCKS program, a five-year grant on which White was PI, was designed to bring science to kids in San Francisco. She even made an appearance on Bill Nye the Science Guy as one of the “way cool scientists” to prove to even more students that science can be fun and interesting. Currently, White continues her efforts to educate and nurture a passion for science in all students through her work at the UC Museum of Paleontology.

We couldn’t find any footage of the Bill Nye episode, but! here are a few other instances where Dr. Lisa White “rocks” the camera:

Jurassic Park in Real Life?! Fact or Fictional with Veronica Belmont 

How to Make Gold (Nova’s Making North America)

Written by Jessica Mintz

Edited and posted by Suzie

Image of Lisa White provided by photographer Diane Fenster and used with permission. The landscape background image of diatoms is from Wikimedia Commons (user Wipeter) and reproduced under CC-BY-SA.




Best known for her work on Southwestern and Paleoindian archaeology, Hannah Marie Wormington was born on September 5, 1914 in Denver, Colorado. From an early age, she was fluent in both English and French,  a skill that would eventually help jump-start her career: while completing her B.A. in Anthropology at the University of Denver, a professor named E.B. Renaud suggested that Wormington travel to France to work at the Paleolithic excavations in the Dordogne, where she spent her 21st birthday. It was during this trip that she met her mentor Dorothy Garrod, and she eventually established other connections in Paris, including Harper Pat Kelley and Henri Martin.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Wormington in 1937.

After graduating in 1935 Wormington was hired at the Colorado Museum of Natural History, now called the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, in the recently formed Department of Archaeology. In 1936, she was promoted to Curator of the Archaeology Department and held this position, on and off, for 33 years. While working at the museum Wormington published two books, Ancient Man in North America and Prehistoric Indians of the Southwest, which became standard texts in undergraduate and graduate archaeology courses for years to come. She eventually went back to school and earned her M.A.  in 1950 and then Ph.D. in 1954 from Radcliffe College (Harvard) in Anthropology, the first woman to do so. During this time women were not welcomed by the men in the Anthropology Department;  despite having established herself as an archaeologist and holding a curatorial position at the Denver Museum, Wormington was required by at least one of her teachers to sit outside of the classroom to take notes.

H.M. Wormington at Turner site

H.M. Wormington at the Turner site.

In 1968, her fortune took a turn as the Department of Archaeology closed its doors and Wormington was dismissed; it was that same year that she became the first women to be elected President of the Society for American Archaeology.

Wormington held a number of temporary positions until 1988,  when the now Denver Museum of Nature and Science granted her with the status of Curator Emeritus, a title she held until her death in 1994. The museum began a named lecture series in her honor that continues to this day.

H. Marie Wormington in the field, Montrose area of Colorado

H. M. Wormington in the field, Montrose area of Colorado.

Written by Jessica Mintz

Edited and posted by Suzie

All images provided courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature and Science and used with permission. 


Winifred Goldring is famous for bringing the fossils she loved to life in museum exhibits – but she also made great strides for women in the world of paleontology.

Born in 1888 near Albany, New York, Winifred had intended to study classical languages when she arrived at Wellesley College, but she became fascinated by geology and switched her major — a truly earth-shattering decision that changed her life.

Following her geological studies at Wellesley and then Columbia University, she accepted a short-term summer position as a “scientific expert” at the New York State Museum in 1914. Far from being a temporary arrangement, she remained at the museum for her entire career, only leaving upon retirement in 1954.  Over the first decade or so, she rose through the ranks of the museum to become first Assistant Paleontologist, then Associate Paleontologist, Paleobotanist, and Assistant State Paleontologist.

Winifred produced a major monographic study on Devonian crinoids, studied the famous Petrified Sea Gardens stromatolites, and mapped New York State geology. But it was her paleobotanical work on plants from the Devonian age forests at Gilboa, New York, that sealed her rock-solid scientific reputation.

Winifred in the field at Rensselaer Falls, New York, in 1939, the year she was named State Paleontologist of New York. Image courtesy the New York State Museum.

When she first arrived at the museum, she was tasked with designing exhibits for the museum’s Hall of Invertebrate Paleontology. Instead of just filling glass cases with fossils as her superiors suggested, Winifred made the effort to create more educational displays.  Her exhibits “What is a Fossil?” and “What is a Geological Formation?” were considered models of museum education.  Her most famous exhibit was the 1924 diorama that recreated a living fossil seed fern forest from the Devonian, possibly the first-ever habitat diorama of ancient life.

By 1939, Winifred was appointed the first female State Paleontologist of the State of New York, making her the first woman in U.S., and arguably in the world, to hold such a position.  She also served as the first female president of the Paleontological Society in 1949 (the first of only three women to hold this position to date) and as vice president of the Geological Society of America a year later in 1950.

Comfortable in the laboratory, the museum floor, and in the field, Winifred Goldring advanced not only the profession of paleontology for women, but pioneered scientific education in museums as well.

Submitted by Joanne Kluessendorf, Ph.D.

Edited and posted by Suzie and Shelby Watts

Further reading:

Kohlstedt, S. G.  1980.  Goldring, Winifred, Feb. 1, 1888-Jan. 30, 1971.  Paleontologist.  In:  B. Sicherman and C. Hurd Green (eds.), Notable American Women: The Modern Period: a Biographical Dictionary, Harvard University Press, pp. 282-283.

All images were provided by the New York State Museum and used with permission.

Encounters with the Orient – Emilie Haspels” is an exhibition running at the Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands until 18 September 2016.

Treading in the footsteps of the 19th-century travellers, Professor Emilie Haspels (1894-1980), a pioneering Dutch archaeologist, organised four expeditions into the inhospitable highlands of Phrygia in central Turkey between 1946 and 1958. Her original plan was to publish only the Phrygian fortresses and the religious rock-cut monuments of the highlands, but when she came across remains of both earlier and later periods, she decided that she had to include them in her publication. As she wrote in The Highlands of Phrygia. Sites and Monuments (Princeton, 1971): ‘I had to record what I found: I am the last of the travelers.’ It took her more than 20 years to complete her research. She described, recorded and photographed all the fortresses and religious and sepulchral monuments in the Phrygian Highlands, from the prehistoric to Ottoman periods, often under very primitive circumstances, travelling with one assistant or alone, by ox or horse cart, and lacking proper food and other basic necessities.

Emilie Haspels, in Midas City (Yazılı Kaya), Turkey, 1938

Emilie Haspels was born into a literate, artistic Dutch family in 1894. She was an independent young woman, and in the late 1920s she travelled to China, Canada and the United States. After majoring in classics and minoring in archaeology and ancient history at the University of Amsterdam, she focused on Greek pottery under the supervision of Sir John Beazley at Oxford for her PhD research. In the summer months of the early 1930s, she stayed at the French School in Athens as a ‘foreign member’ and participated in archaeological excavations organised by the British, French and German institutes in Greece. This is also the period during which she became good friends with other female pioneers, including Winifred Lamb and Lucy Talcott. The expanded version of her PhD dissertation, Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi, which was published by the French School in Athens in 1936, is still considered a masterpiece.

Emilie Haspels at the Broken Lion Tomb in Köhnüş Valley, Phrygia, 1953

Impressed by her field experience and expertise in pottery studies, the French Archaeological Institute in Istanbul asked Haspels to direct the excavations at Midas City (Yazılı Kaya), Turkey. She was the first Dutch female archaeologist to lead excavation campaigns in Anatolia (no less than five between 1937 and 1939). This is also how she became acquainted with the Phrygian Highlands. Following Beazley’s advice, she kept a diary during her fieldwork in Turkey. Her observations about the region and its inhabitants – a mixture of Circassian and Balkan immigrants, nomads and indigenous Turks – still have sociological and historical value. During her last campaign (1939), which was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War, she was assisted by another trowelblazer, Halet Çambel.

The German occupation of the Netherlands made it impossible for Haspels to return home and she spent the war years in Turkey. In order to survive in Istanbul, she taught part time at the Istanbul University and also worked as a translator for the war office of the American Consulate. After the liberation of the Netherlands, she was finally able to return home. Soon after, she was appointed as the first female professor of archaeology at the University of Amsterdam and the first female director of the Allard Pierson Museum. She devoted the rest of her academic career to reconnoitring and recording the monuments in the Phrygian Highlands. Her pioneering work, as well as her diachronic, regional approach, is still appreciated by scholars. Her monumental publication The Highlands of Phrygia. Sites and Monuments remains the standard reference work for the sites and cultic landscape of Phrygia.

Photograph taken on her 64th birthday. ‘There it all lies now. Seen from here, the world is small. And isn’t this my world? Hasn’t it been since I first came here, 21 years ago now? For it holds on to you like nothing else; it won’t let you go; you’re captured by it, and then you surrender, and you lose yourself in it.’ (Emilie Haspels, quotation from her unpublished diary Boekie)

Jaap M. Hemelrijk was Haspels’s assistant on her last two expeditions and later succeeded her as professor of classical archaeology and museum director at 1965. He described Haspels thus: ‘She was an archaeologist of the old type, a type that has all died out now, one of those with a deep belief in the significance of their activities, with an absolute and unrelenting devotion to their destinies, gifted with great courage and surprising ability to “rough it” as she would say. Fundamentally they were adventurers and there clearly was a streak of the romantic in them.’ (J.M. Hemelrijk, In Memoriam Professor C.H.E. Haspels (15 September 1894–25 December 1980), BaBesch 56, 1981)

Written by Filiz Songu and René van Beek

Edited and posted by Shelby Watts

Images provided by the Allard Pierson Museum Archive and used with permission. 

Christian Maclagan (1811–1901), arguably Scotland’s first female archaeologist, was born at Underwood, near Denny, Stirlingshire, in 1811. She was the daughter of George Maclagan (d. 1818), distiller and chemist, and his wife Janet, herself the daughter of Thomas Colville, printer, of Dundee.

Her family’s wealth ensured she had independent means to pursue her own interests and transcend society’s barriers. She spent much of her life engaged in researching and recording the prehistoric archaeology of Scotland. In later life she resided at Ravenscroft, near Denny, and devoted much time and money to the removal of slums in Stirling, providing houses for the working-classes outside the burgh.

Her archaeological researches into prehistoric Scotland remain important to this day, although she tended to over-domesticise sites, arguing, for example, that stone circles were robbed out brochs. However, she was amongst the first archaeologists to consider archaeological stratigraphy, with her section drawings of Coldoch broch being published five years before Pitt Rivers – generally credited with the introduction of this field method to British archaeology – began his excavations at Cranborne Chase.

Drawing of Keir Hill, Gargunnock, by Christian around 1870. Maclagan, Miss C, "On the Round Castles and Ancient Dwellings of the Valley of the Forth, and its Tributary the Teith." Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 9 (1870-72): 29–44. Available online at AHDS

Drawing of Keir Hill, Gargunnock, by Christian around 1870. Maclagan, Miss C, “On the Round Castles and Ancient Dwellings of the Valley of the Forth, and its Tributary the Teith.” Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 9 (1870-72): 29–44. Available online at AHDS

She was also amongst the first to argue for a domestic, native origin for brochs. However, her chief claim to fame was to develop new methods for recording sculptured stones. Despite these accomplishments, she failed get due recognition. For example, her role in the excavation of Coldoch broch was ignored and she lamented that:

 He* is chronicled by the Society as the discoverer, while the writer of these notes was completely ignored.” (Maclagan 1884, 22).

Coldoch Broch as it looks today

Coldoch Broch as it looks today

A better preserved broch from Glenelg

A better preserved broch from Glenelg


 In what seems an incredible act of discrimination, she was denied full membership of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and complained with bitter sarcasm that she was:

” … a woman, and therefore unworthy of being a member of any Antiquarian Society…”, (Maclagan 1894, 38).

As a result of being snubbed for her sex by the Scottish archaeological establishment as represented by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland –she was only allowed in as a Lady Associate– she sent all her rubbings from stones to the British Museum rather than Edinburgh. This may be, in part, why she is so little known today. However, this is beginning to change and there is a small permanent exhibition to her in the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum as well as plans for a carving dedicated to her in Stirling’s Back Walk sculpture trail which welcomes any support from the TrowelBlazers audience!

It should, of course, be stressed that times are very different now, and much of this is because women like Maclagan pushed for female inclusion in the Society of Antiquaries as full Fellows. Females have been welcome since 1901, sadly  the year of Maclagan’s death, but her legacy remains: all are currently welcome to join.

Christian’s personal life is slightly more difficult to unravel. She was a self-taught archaeologist, and a member of the literalist Free Church of Scotland, which seems to have heavily influenced her interpretation of  archaeology. She lived with a companion, Jessie Hunter Colvin, another antiquary, until the latter’s death; but even at the age of 80 Christian was still touring the United Kingdom lecturing on her findings.

*It is not clear whether she means Sir James Young Simpson or John Stuart.
Read More about Christian by Therese:
Read More:

Elizabeth L. Ewan, Sue Innes, Sian Reynolds, Rose Pipes. 2006. The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Unversity Press 

Images from: Maclagan, C. 1875 The Hill Forts, Stone Circles and Other Structural Remains of Ancient Scotland. Edmonston and Douglas, Edinburgh.


It was a barren world. Dark igneous rocks, treacherously jagged and raw from the relentless battering of the wind and rain, spanned across the land. There may have been a flash of blue or a tint of orange nearby some hot sulphuric volcanic spring, evidence of small colonies of bacteria thriving on an otherwise inhospitable planet. Sharp objects of varying sizes smashed against each other in storms, constantly moving across this harsh, barren landscape. The only thing that stilled this ceaseless bombardment of solidified lava was water, where the sediment finally settled to rest.

This is no alien planet. This is Earth in the Late Ordovician, somewhere around 450 million years ago. Here the land was without plants. No roots to hold down the broken rock fragments. The planet was empty. Almost. Beneath the calm warm waters of the seas, there lay a hidden world teaming with life. Beautiful, enigmatic creatures of the most delicate and bizarre shapes darted through the water as if it were air, while below others scurried to hide beneath the soft sediment. Long, spindly sea lilies drifted back and forth while armour-headed fish swam past. Trilobites with elaborate spines poking out here and there swam gracefully, effortlessly over the sediment, whilst hidden under their hard outer shell, dozens of little legs kicked furiously.

Clinging to the water’s edge were seaweeds; thin, floppy red and green seaweeds that were periodically exposed to the baking heat of the sun by the fluctuating tide. Liverworts were around too: flat with green, translucent lettuce-like leaves, but a closer affinity to algae than plants,  protected by water, venturing only a few tens of metres from the edge where they had the safety of incoming tides or regular flooding.

Perhaps the greatest event ever to have happened on our planet was when plants adapted to life on land. Walking through thick woods, where trees are covered in moss and lichen, where we can smell the wild garlic around us while watching bees and dragonflies zip through the dappled light, or sitting on a hill overlooking endless rolling hills of luscious green grass, would not be possible if it wasn’t for this event. For starters, you wouldn’t be here reading this.

But it was no easy move for our very distant relative to get a firm grip on solid land. One woman has spent her life studying just how this happened, and what it meant for life on Earth.

Professor Dianne Edwards (born in 1942) is a research professor at Cardiff University. Born in the coastal city of Swansea, Professor Edwards spent much of her youth enjoying and exploring the spectacular Gower Peninsula. With gorgeous turquoise waters, unspoilt clear sandy beaches, and gloriously green grassy cliffs, this is a stunning part of the world. And clearly an inspirational place too. After completing her undergraduate and doctoral degrees at Canterbury University, she went on to lecture at Cardiff University. Here, she teaches undergraduates, and supervises postgraduates whilst continuing her research into the evolution of land plants.

Since 1965, Professor Edwards has been publishing articles about early plants. From the anatomy of some of the earliest plants, to 400 million year old fossilised millipede poo, she has helped shape our understanding of these early ecosystems of the land as plants took a firm hold. One exceptional site stands out,  with evidence of these colonies of cells we take for granted every day. And Professor Edwards has studied them in detail.

The picturesque quaint village of Rhynie, Aberdeenshire sits on top of sediments that are over 400 million years old. Known as the Rhynie Chert, this is a frozen glimpse into the past when things were beginning to happen on land for the first time. To hold the Rhynie Chert in your hand, you would see a light grey rock with splashes of a slightly darker grey. Not so impressive. But slice it up, grind it down until it is wafer thin, and press your eyes against the microscope, and evidence of a lost world is brought to life. Cross sections of tiny plant stems lay there, along with mites, early spiders and arthropods. You will see something else too: small balls with clear structures to them. These little balls are one of the keys for colonising the land.

Land plants (Embryophytes) all produce spores (or the more familiar pollen equivalent). Looking for these microscopic reproductive balls is what Professor Edwards did. And with good reason: their very presence provides clues as to how the first plants arrived on land.

Professor Edward’s zeal for understanding early plant life never wilted. After 50 years, her publications are still going strong. She studied the fossilised tissue of Cooksonia (named for #trowelblazer Isabel Clifton Cookson!), a very early genus of land plant from the Silurian, around 430 million years ago, which she discovered was the earliest plant with vascular tissue. Peering through her trusty microscope, Professor Edwards also analysed the essential adaptation for survival; the teeny, tiny holes on plant leaves which allow the plant to exchange chemicals without being drowned by the rain or scorched by the sun: the stomata.

As well as a founding fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, and its inaugural Vice-President for Science, Technology and Medicine, Professor Edwards is also the President of the Linnaean Society. Keen on sharing her passion for botany through education activities, she was one of the founders of the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, for which she received her CBE in 1999: here people can explore the parks and find out more about plants. Nature is more beautiful the more closely we look.

Written by Jan Freedman, who says:

“There are those teachers at school and University that make a real impact on you when you are growing up. More often than not, we do not get the chance to really thank those inspirational people. In my undergraduate palaeontology modules at Cardiff University, I was extremely lucky to have been taught by Professor Edwards. Whether in a practical lesson peering down a microscope at fossil spores, or engaging with her class about the first incredible plants, to us, Professor Edwards was a legend. We all were astounded by her endless knowledge and her ability to share her enthusiasm and passion onto her students so we understood it with ease. We all knew. But she never did. Because we never told her how amazing she was. Or that she was inspirational. Or that after a lecture she gave, we got it. Until now. It is never too late to say thank you. From a student of yours you very likely never knew (1999-2002), thank you Professor Edwards.”

Edited by Suzie

Images provided by The Royal Society and Dianne Edwards and used with permission. 

This special post is brought to you by Steve Roskams, who brings the larger-than-life legend that is Beatrice de Cardi back to a slightly more human scale for us. His recollections are a wonderful reminder that for every amazing TrowelBlazer, doing astonishing and incredible things, there is a real woman inspiring real people to do real science. 

An appreciation of Beatrice De Cardi

Beatrice (born June 5th, 1914), is in a long tradition of ‘grand old ladies’ of British archaeology, bridging the pre-WWII era and the creation of a fieldwork profession from the 1960s. Early in her career she worked with trowelblazers Tessa Verney Wheeler and Veronica Seton-Williams at Maiden Castle in the 1930s, and assisted Mortimer Wheeler. I worked with her on survey and excavation in Oman in the 1970s, part of her contribution to a range of research in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf. By this time, she had already run two careers in parallel. While a government administrator in India, helping to sort out the impact of WWII, she also carried out field surveys in the region (she mentioned, in her usual understated way, that she had once travelled by camel across Baluchistan [Ed: sounds remarkably like Gertrude Bell!].

Beatrice de Cardia at Shimal. Photo by Christian Velde.

Beatrice de Cardi at Shimal. Photo by Christian Velde (British Foundation for the Study of Arabia).

After this she was instrumental in laying the foundations of British archaeology, as the first Secretary of the Council for British Archaeology, serving for nearly 15 years (1949 to 1973), and actively promoting archaeology both to the government of the day and at the grassroots, community level.

Beatrice de Cardi- 100th birthday- Society of Antiquaries of London 2

Beatrice de Cardi celebrating her 100th birthday at the Society of Antiquaries of London. Photo by Renée La Due, © 2014, Society of Antiquaries of London.

Beatrice de Cardi- 100th birthday- Society of Antiquaries of London

Shortly after being awarded the Society’s Gold Medal for Archaeology. Photo by Renée La Due, © 2014, Society of Antiquaries of London.

Yet it was fieldwork that remained her passion, often in wild, and occasionally dangerous, landscapes. Thus I found myself camped with her in the bed of a waadi in the desert between Oman and Saudi Arabia, sitting in the evening cool outside a tent after a hard day’s work, eating a meal made from reconstituted dried egg (a wartime legacy) and sipping, incongruously- and perhaps illegally- cherry brandy that she had somehow procured. Beatrice has retained her enthusiasm for fieldwork despite her 102 years, and I am proud to have played a part, albeit it very small one, in her huge contribution to our discipline.

–Steve Roskams

We have had a post on Beatrice in the works for a long time, and we aimed to get it up to celebrate the birthday of this AMAZING woman. We almost managed! But either way we raise a glass of cherry brandy to the First Lady of the Field, Beatrice de Cardi!

Read More:


Gulf Times

Edited by Brenna, Becky, and Suzie

The black and white portrait was provided by the Council for British Archaeology and used with permission. Additional photo credits are provided in the captions and are provided courtesy the British Foundation for the Study of Arabia and the Society of Antiquaries of London. 

Martinetti, A., Lebeau, G., and Franc, A. 2016. Agatha. London: Self Made Hero. 119 pages, £12.99 (UK).

All images copyright Hachette Livre (Paris) 2014.

So, in an ideal world, how would you bring to light some of the ways women contributed to the Trowel Wielding Sciences in the past?

  1. Add a touch of celebrity.
  2. Make the story accessible – not dumbed down, but easy to grasp.
  3. Make it a life, not an anecdote.
  4. Make it pretty.
  5. Make it a TrowelToon!


Team TrowelBlazers was very excited when a big brown envelope turned up in the post — wrappings torn off, we revealed a brand new graphic novel  from Self Made Hero: Agatha, by Anne Martinetti, Guilaume Lebeua and Alexandre Franc. There has of course been a lot written about the Agatha of the title — she is Agatha Christie, Queen of the Murdery Mystery, who had a surprising secret life as TrowelBlazer. Christie’s life is certainly worthy of recounting, traipsing as it did from an idyllic pre-war England to the edges of crumbling colonial world; her privileged position in this changing world did not fully protect her from either personal tragedy or the those of the wider 20th century world. Agatha recounts the key moments of Christie’s life, sketching in a series of bande dessine (think TinTin) style vignettes of the child, woman, and celebrity.

Illustration is a rather different approach to biography, of course; alongside private moments from her early life that are clearly drawn from an emotional interpretation of her character, we see discussions between the lady and her  famous fictional detectives, and the characters inner thoughts appear solidly materialised in the traditional thought bubble. While many of the scenes pictured are clearly the work of interpretation by the authors, none ring overly false –each episode from Christie’s life, whether a memory of her father, or even our particular favorite, getting stuck in a sandstorm with Hercule Poirot, takes a real event in her life and imagines it distilled into a few set pieces. Each little episode carries a sense of a very human Christie, disappointed in love, complaining to her imaginary friends (and frenemies, in the case of a certain egg-shaped mustachioed detective), and of course a graphic novel is better suited to these flights of fancy than traditional print biographies. That said, there is quite a bit of life packed in — a timeline in the back gives key dates for the disoriented.


This is not a book for those looking for the exacting details of Christie’s life; the what-where-when-how of her trials, tribulations, and triumphs. It is rather a graphic novel for those happy to immerse themselves in the imagined world of a woman who did things, who lived a very full life and created imaginary worlds for millions of people around the world. Her TrowelBlazing activities do not make too much of a splash when set against her literary career, or even the drama of her personal relationships, but that is in its way very fitting; sometimes we have to remind ourselves that the TrowelBlazers we celebrate today were women too, in their time.

Short Version:

Go find someone with a sense of adventure to give this to.

Review by Brenna

Wow. Three years. THREE. That’s longer than most academic contracts these days… (Joke! Kinda. Weep. Move on.) It has been three incredible years for women in the Trowel Wielding sciences.  On the home front, your fearless anarchic collective have gotten pretty dang busy with life achievements of their own – several babies, some tenure track, and some super exciting new TV programmes – it’s been a whirlwind! But even more impressive are all the things we’ve had the chance to learn, to do, and to see because of the unwavering awesomeness of the TrowelBlazer community, including kicking it at the US Ambassador’s place in London and actually Walking Through Time.  Hopefully we’re now getting to a point where we’re going to be able to really give back to the community, with enormous dream projects in the pipeline AS I TYPE. We’re talking bursaries for fieldwork. We’re talking funded training days. We’re talking the incredible generosity of institutions from all over the place allowing us to reset those imaginations.

So, yeah, we’ve done amazing stuff this year, but…

YOU wrote the posts that brought overshadowed lives back into the light!

Posts from 2015 and 2016

Posts from 2015 and 2016

YOU inspired us to create #RealFossilHunterLottie – a top ten buy in 2015!

11846532_10100733648406540_6405526409588755608_n 11898672_10100732941932320_7959781701822629770_n IMG_3063

(and a top ten member of Brenna’s field team too)

Next up: world domination! We will be at WAC 8 in Kyoto in August/September of 2016, and hopefully in a museum near you with our new exciting collaboration with Prospect Union and the artist Leonora Saunders. There’s tons of other cool TrowelBlazing stuff happening too – like the very exciting new fundraising campaign by Lyme Regis Museum to build their new Mary Anning Wing!  You could even reserve your place for their gala black tie dinner where Tracey Chevalier will discuss the inspiration for her fossil-hunting heroine in the award winning Remarkable Creatures – just email Margaret of the Museum Friends for details! (friends@lymeregismuseum.co.uk)

mary anning wing

The planned Mary Anning Wing for the Lyme Regis Museum

More details to come, but for now, BIG LOVE from your Team – Brenna, Tori, Suzie, and Becky.

Constanza Ceruti (born 1973, Buenos Aries) is an anthropologist and mountaineer who currently lives in Salta, Argentina. She is a pioneer in the field of high-altitude archaeology, and the only woman, for over 20 years, to study Inca ceremonial centers on the summits of Andean peaks over 6000 meters. Oh yea, and did we mention? She’s climbed over 100 mountains above 5000 meters within the context of systematic archaeological research.  In addition to South American summits in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, she’s also explored mountains in Mexico and Nepal. Most of her field research has included mountains that had never been explored before-at least not by archaeologists.

With an early love for anthropology, and determined to go into high-altitude archaeology by age 14, she graduated from the University of Buenos Aires with a degree in anthropology in 1996. In 1999, she teamed up with National Geographic, co-directing an expedition to Llullaillco (at an altitude of 6739 meters). This expedition climbed to heights that no other team of archaeologists had worked at before and yielded tremendous results. Working with Johan Reinhard, Ceruti discovered three of the best preserved mummies in the world, all dating from the Inca period, alongside rich assemblages of funerary offerings including gold statues and pottery that even held remnants of food.

Constanza Ceruti climbing Llullaillaco (copyright Constanza Ceruti)

Constanza Ceruti climbing Llullaillaco

In 2000, she became the first woman to be awarded the Gold Condor mountaineering award, the most important award of the National Army of Argentina. In 2001, she received her PhD from the University of Cuyo in Mendoza, making her the first archaeologist to specialize in high-altitude archaeology. Adding to her list of esteemed awards, Ceruti became an Emerging Explorer of the National Geographic Society in 2005 and was honored at the Prince of Asturias Award Ceremony in 2006. In 2007, she received the Courage Award from the WINGS WorldQuest, an association that celebrates the accomplishments of women explorers, and in 2013 she was selected to be a Member of the Society of Woman Geographers.

Ceruti reading compass on summit- credit to ceruti

Reading a compass on a summit

Constanza Ceruti can now be found working as a scientific investigator for CONICET in Argentina and as a Professor of Inca Archaeology at the Catholic University of Salta. She is the founder and ad-honorarium director of the Institute of High Mountain Research at the Catholic University, has produced over 100 scientific publications and is also a Distinguished Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of West Georgia.

Post submitted by @DrEmmaBrown
Edits by Jessica Mintz and Suzie Birch

Images provided by Constanza Ceruti and used with permission. 

Born in America in 1884 to avid travelers Fanny Bullock Workman (a trailblazing mountaineer who trekked and cycled across Eurasia in skirts-seriously, check her out) and William Hunter Workman, Rachel Workman followed in her parents’ adventurous footsteps by studying glacial geomorphology in Scotland and Sweden. There appears to be some discrepancy in dates from sources, but she seems to have started her career at the University of London (Royal Holloway), where she earned her degree in Geology in 1902. She apparently spent some time at the University of Edinburgh and went on to do her postgraduate research at Imperial College, London. In 1911 her first academic paper, “Calcite as a Primary Constituent of Igneous Rocks,” was published in Geological MagazineShe published a number of other papers, illustrating her findings in petrology and mineralogy, based on fieldwork in Scotland and Sweden. She became Rachel Workman MacRobert when she married Sir Alexander MacRobert, also in 1911.

As an avid and active geologist, she was friends and colleagues with trowelblazers Catherine Raisin as well as Maria Ogilvie Gordon, with whom she also collaborated.  She attended the International Geological Congress both in Stockholm in 1910 and in Toronto in 1913.  Apparently also in 1913, she attended the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Geological Society, writing “An attempt was made to eject me. The Secretary rushed up and said I was not a fellow, so I explained this was through no fault of mine but the Society’s and waved him aside and marched in…They need not try any tricks with me because I am a woman, I have always gone to the Annual Meetings and intend to do so if in London!” (Millington 1972 in Lewis and Knell 2009). It would be a few more years before she would be admitted to the Society as a Fellow in the first group of 8 women in 1919.

Though now she is best known as the foundress of the MacRobert Trust and as a staunch supporter of the RAF after the death of her three pilot sons in civil and wartime service, funding the purchase of a bomber named “MacRobert’s Reply”, her contributions to geology-and her participation in the academic research networks of the time-should not be overlooked.

Submitted by Alison McCall
Edited and additional content by Jessica Mintz and Suzie Birch

Images kindly provided  by and used with permission from The MacRobert Trust.

The process of fossilization is not kind to the brain. Nor indeed to any soft tissues, the anatomy of which are usually not preserved in the fossil record. How then to go about examining and unravelling the evolutionary history of the vertebrate brain? Nowadays we might first think to tackle this problem using 3D imaging techniques to virtually reconstruct the endocast of a fossil to capture the external features of the brain that have been imprinted on the internal surface of the cranium. But how accurately does a fossil brain endocast reflect the anatomy of the unpreserved tissue, and to what extent can features of an endocast be used to make palaeobiological inferences about its extinct owner? Answers to these and other questions are possible through the pioneering work of the German palaeontologist Tilly Edinger (1897-1967), who founded modern paleoneurology (the study of fossil brains) in the 1920s, tackling for the first time issues that still form the basis of research today.

tilly edinger

Much like wax pouring into a mold, sediment can fill fossil crania and become cemented hard over time, preserving the internal features in what is known as a natural endocast. Such specimens are rare, and Edinger’s interest in fossil brains was first sparked by the study of a natural endocast of the Mesozoic marine reptile Nothosaurus as part of her doctoral dissertation at Frankfurt University. Following her graduation in 1921, Edinger later published a description of the endocranial cast of Nothosaurus [1] in what was to be her first research paper. Importantly, she realized that despite a large literature on such fossil specimens, these were mainly considered curiosities and had not been examined in a comparative or geological (temporal) context. She endeavored to collate and synthesize this information into a book (Die fossilen Gehirne, Edinger 1929), it defined a new field and detailed the questions that Edinger set about to answer over the course of her research career [2].

It was, however, far from plain sailing. Although Edinger could continue her research, having secured several unpaid research assistant positions following her graduation, by 1933 her position as curator of fossil vertebrates at the Senckenburg Museum of Natural History in Frankfurt had become increasingly difficult under the restrictive racial laws of the Nazi regime. By 1938, after Kristallnacht, she was unable to return to work and forced to flee.

Following a short spell in London, Edinger landed on American shores in 1940 and took up her first salaried position, at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. Within months of her arrival she went on to attend the founding meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, at which she was the only woman present [3]. Later she would go on to be the first female president of the society (1963).

During the next years at Harvard, Edinger continued to publish highly detailed, thorough anatomical works. Among the most famous of those was a monograph, ‘Evolution of the Horse Brain’ [4], spurred by a meeting with George Gaylord Simpson. Edinger described a series of horse brains, showing differences in size and external anatomy, using a framework of stratigraphic sequence to reconstruct the pattern of evolutionary change in geological time. She concluded that many features of the brain must have arisen independently and in parallel in different mammalian lineages. Her work illustrated the value of the fossil record in understanding brain evolution, identifying features and trends that would not have been possible by consultation of extant material alone. The importance of paleoneurology was clear, and Edinger was to rewrite her 1929 book in English [5], a task that took many years and many museum trips around the US and Europe, where she was able to re-connect with colleagues, spread her ideas on the fossil brain and challenge earlier theoretical frameworks of brain evolution. Until her death in 1967, Edinger dedicated her time to producing the volume, and its contents remain the essential first step for any researcher embarking on work in the field of paleoneurology today.

Though she had started to lose her hearing as a teenager, and reported that she was entirely deaf without hearing aids, Tilly made her amazing contribution with her brain for rocks (and rocky brains)!

Tilly’s eventually became President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, and her achievements were eventually recognised by many organisations including the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Association of University Women, while her work ensured an enduring legacy.


[1] Edinger T. 1921. über Nothosaurus. Ein Steinkern der Schädelhöhle. Senckenbergiana 3: 121-129

[2] Edinger T. 1929. Die fossilen Gehirne. Ergebnisse der Anatomie under Entwicklungsgeschichte 28: 1-249

[3] Buchholtz E., Seyfarth E.-A. 1999. The gospel of the fossil brain: Tilly Edinger and the science of paleoneurology. Brain Research Bulletin 48(4): 351-361

[4] Edinger T. 1948. Evolution of the horse brain. Geological Society of America Memoir 25: 1-177

[5] Edinger T. 1975. Paleoneurology 1804-1966. An annotated bibliography. Advances in Anatomy, Embryology, and Cell Biology 49: 1-258

Post submitted by Laura Wilson

Edited by Brenna

Image Permissions granted from the Archives of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University. The portrait is dated 1948. Published in Tilly Edinger: Leben und Werk einer jüdischen Wissenschaftlerin by Rolf Kohring & Gerald Kreft, Stuttgart 2003.

We’re very excited to (finally!) be able to tell you all more about our Big Project(s)…

For 2016-7, in collaboration with Leonora Saunders, an award-winning photographer concerned with gender equality (see some of her fantastic work here) and Prospect, the UK’s trade union for scientists and heritage professionals, we are organizing a national touring photographic exhibition, launching this autumn. It will portray historic portraits of a dozen key women in the trowelblazing sciences from the 19th to mid-20th century, posed by a range of modern women working in these fields.
To contextualise the portraits, there will be selected mini-biographies, real objects associated with the historic women where possible, and specially produced video interviews with the modern women, recording the oral history of their own research networks and experiences in the field. We’ll be releasing more information about exactly who is going to be featured in due course- stay tuned, it’s an inspiring line-up!

At present we plan to have the exhibition move around different locations until mid-2017, including venues such as museums and science festivals. To ensure as many people as possible can be involved, there will also be events linked to each showing, including apperances by the modern women, public talks, workshops, and hopefully activities involving young people and children.

We hope that Raising Horizons will reach many more people than we usually do, helping them discover the story of how our archaeological, geological and palaeontological heritage owes a huge amount to pioneering women, then and now. We want to transform attitudes about the history of the geosciences, highlighting not only the impact of past figures, but the ways in which their training, mentoring and research networks formed unique communities, linking to women working today. It also offers an opportunity to discuss how we can further improve diversity within these fields, in terms of gender and beyond.

Prospect Pioneers calendar

“Prospect Pioneers”, Leonora Saunders’ commissioned project with Prospect Union, focusing on members in STEM roles



A further aspect to our activities in 2016, which we’ve been plotting a long time, is the creation of TrowelBlazers Bursaries, aimed at young people from backgrounds poorly represented in archaeology, geology and palaeontology, enabling them to visit a real-life trowelblazer in the lab or field, or host a visit at their school. Being able to see the diversity in people and types of trowelblazing careers firsthand can make a big difference, and we hope that this scheme can continue the impact of the exhibition in the future.

Behind the scenes, we’ve been working for the past 6 months on how all this is going to actually happen (!), and so far have had amazing responses from individuals and key organisations, including the women who will be photographed, Historic England, The Geological Society, Society of Antiquaries of London, Palaeontological Association, Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, the Prehistoric Society and others. We’re submitting a grant application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the exhibition, but we’re also looking for support from YOU, our magnificent community.

We will be launching in the next few months a TrowelBlazers online shop, where you can grab awesome stuff and at the same time help support our activities. In addition, we will run a sponsorship structure, to enable individuals or organisations to contribute financially to either the Raising Horizons exhibition or the Bursaries (or, both!). Donations of any size will be welcome, and we’ll have special perks built in for those who want to give larger amounts such as tickets to the exciting launch events- in fact, we already have our first Bronze Trowel organisational sponsor signed up (to be announced)! Further details of how you can support us financially will be released soon.

And of course, we really value the myriad other kinds of support that people can give to both projects, for example at exhibition-related events (speakers, helping organise local activities like heritage walks, school visits, volunteering at some of the showings) or in relation to the TrowelBlazers Bursaries, for which we are still at the early stages of planning. If you have ideas of ways you’d like to help, we’d love to hear about them!

So… we hope you are as excited as us about the next year or so, and agree that together we can get both inspirational projects – exhibition and bursaries- off the ground. Please get in touch with us if you would like to be involved, using our normal email address, via Twitter or Facebook.



Prospect’s (prospect.org.uk) members are engineers, scientists, managers and specialists in areas as
diverse as agriculture, defence, education and children’s services, energy, environment, heritage,
shipbuilding, telecoms and transport. Prospect is a non-party political experienced campaigning
body, which promotes and protects the interests of professionals at work, including in heritage, for
example the “Imperial ar Museum Under Fire” national campaign. It is independent and forward looking
with diverse membership, and is committed to fighting for equality of opportunity for
women both in the workplace and within society generally.

Leonora Saunders (leonorasaunders.co.uk) is an award-winning photographer who has created
multiple commissioned projects related to gender equality and highlighting the role of women in
careers traditionally dominated by men. Specialising in portraiture, Leonora’s work has featured in
The Guardian, The Sunday Times, and The Evening Standard as well as The Royal Photographic
Society Magazine and other photographic journals. Leonora’s work has been exhibited nationally and
she currently is artist in residence at Harris Academy, Bermondsey.
Her previous work includes:
– “Prospect Pioneers”, a calendar for charity featuring women in STEM (science, technology,
engineering and mathematics) based roles for Prospect Union; highly commended at the TUC Media
Awards, 2014
– “10%… and rising” book project of portraits and interviews with women working in professions
where they make up less than 10% of the workforce.
– “The Athena Project” in collaboration with CMS Cameron McKenna, celebrating women in the
legal and financial sectors; nominated for ‘Best Diversity Project‘ at the 2014 Lawyer Management
– “Against the Odds”, comprising portraits and filmed interviews of female alumni for Birkbeck,
University of London.


The prehistoric galleries at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes hold a stunning collection of artefacts including finely crafted pieces of gold, amber and human bone from burials in the area around Stonehenge, including a number from the graves of what the museum display calls ‘Women of Power’.
The woman of power behind many of the finest collections in the Museum was Maud Cunnington (1869-1951), one of the earliest and most important excavators of the Stonehenge landscape. The legacy of her research, excavations, writings and the sites that she protected are a foundational part of British prehistoric archaeology.
Maud Pegge was born in Glamorgan and educated for a time at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. At the age of 19 she married Benjamin Cunnington, part of the Wiltshire antiquarian dynasty, and the couple settled in Devizes. Their son Edward took an interest in archaeology, and it was this that apparently inspired Maud to become involved in excavations.  From c.1908 she was engaged in rescue archaeology, recording the destruction of prehistoric monuments during the construction of a golf course and an early army airfield.  She spent her winters writing up her excavations and analysing the ceramic assemblages, which became one of her areas of expertise, and publishing her findings in the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine.
Building on this rescue work, Cunnington began to conduct excavations of sites such as the Knap Hill Neolithic causewayed enclosure and the late Bronze Age/early Iron Age site of All Cannings Cross. Her work was interrupted by the First World War and the death of Edward. In the 1920s and 30s Cunnington and her husband excavated sites including West Kennet Long Barrow, Woodhenge and the Sanctuary, and laid out the latter two with concrete markers showing where the timber posts once stood. The Cunningtons purchased the sites of Woodhenge and the Sanctuary to ensure their preservation, and later presented them to the nation; Maud published monographs on both sites.
Illustration by Gabe Moshenska

Illustration by Gabe Moshenska

By this time Alexander Keiller had begun his excavations at the nearby Windmill Hill and later at Avebury. The two archaeologists loathed one another: Cunnington banned Keiller from her excavations, and he in turn paid her excavation site foreman to spy on her work and send him written reports, which he read and annotated in great detail.
Maud’s honours in archaeology included honorary memberships of the Cambrian Archaeological Association and of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and in 1948 she was awarded a CBE for services to archaeology (the first woman to do so). At the time of her death in 1951 she left most of her wealth to the Wiltshire Museum, which today houses much of her collection and honours her achievements.
Written by Gabe Moshenska
Editing and additional content by Suzie
Image of Maud Cunnington courtesy Wiltshire Museum and reproduced here with permission.   Photo of West Kennet Long Barrow taken by Suzie in 2009. 

Francisca Oboh-Ikuenobe is geoscientist specializing in palynology and sedimentology as a means of reconstructing paleoecology and paleoclimate, and her career, marked by a number of distinguished awards and achievements, has taken her from the Cretaceous in Nigeria to the Eocene of the U.S. Gulf Coast to modern-day West Australia.

She earned her BSc in Geology at Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo) University in Nigeria, where she received the Federal Government of Nigeria Scholarship for Outstanding Undergraduate Students, and then went on to obtain her MSc in Applied Geology before becoming an assistant lecturer there. 

In 1988, she left her home country to study for her PhD in Geology at Cambridge with a full scholarship from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission. In her early career she worked as a Shipboard Sedimentologist on the high profile international Ocean Drilling Programme, which collected the deep sea sediment cores that are now central to our understanding of long term climate change.  She joined the faculty at Missouri University of Science and Technology in 1991 and is now a Professor of Geology. Until recently, she served as the Program Head in Geology and Geophysics there (she’s now the Interim Chair of the Department of Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering).

As well as her academic achievements, she is regularly involved in education and outreach initiatives, and was Director for the Association for Women Geoscientists Foundation from 2005 to 2009. She also works very closely with her students, leading a research group comprised of undergraduates and graduate students whom she works with on a daily basis. When asked about her advice for students about to enter the geoscience field, Oboh-Ikuenobe requested that her students be cordial, seek out a mentor, make time for themselves, and ultimately: “Collaborate. Go outside your comfort zone occasionally and choose your collaborators carefully. Your chances of obtaining competitive research grants are higher and your research and publication productivity will increase, too.

Written by Lisa-Marie Shillito

Edited by Jessica Mintz and Suzie Birch

Make sure to check out the Wikipedia article created by Lisa-Marie along side this TrowelBlazers post!

Image Credits: 

Dr. Oboh-Ikuenobe kindly provided permission for the photo of her at the microscope.

Landscape image of the Life in Extreme Environments Team in West Australia used with permission from Kathleen Benison.

It’s always and forever International Women’s Day here at TrowelBlazer Towers. One of the things we’ve been trying to do a little bit more of is to use the amazing platform we’ve got here to push the world more towards the shape we’d like to see it in.* That means talking about the lessons we’ve picked up from our own experiences, and those that people have shared with us, to make big giant bullet points that we repeat ad nauseum until people stop telling kids what they can and can’t be when they grow up based on their biological phenotype.

For #IWD2016 this year, I won the raffle to accompany the fantastic Suw Charman-Anderson of the Finding Ada Project to the official residence of the US Ambassador to the UK.


Suw Charman-Anderson and Brenna chilling with a fern and a portrait of George Washington.

Ambassador Matthew Barzun and his wife Brooke do immense amounts of work to promote women in leadership, in science, and regularly host events at Winfield House, in swank-tastic Regent’s Park, that bring together some very impressive people.


Winfield House


Scenes from Winfield House – of course there is a skateboard ramp #USAIMG_5934Brenna’s personal favorite thing: dress made of 10,000 adamantine dressing pins in the Green Room

Over the course of the day, I met women with a lot of letters before and after their names; women representing their countries, their companies, universities, themselves — the guest list was a roll call of achievement (and me). Ambassador Barzun led a fascinating dialogue that allowed each of us to reflect our own experiences, before refereeing a wide ranging discussion of how the hell you get to equality from here.

Key Things:

  • Get a mentor. Be a mentor. Networks matter.

The women we spoke to were pretty unanimous in affirming what we here at TrowelBlazers have said for a long time. It takes support to infiltrate a foreign culture, be it the Academy or a Fortune 500 company; mentors are critical to getting you that internship / training / interview. So start a conversation, ask for a 15 minute coffee, find a mentor. And when that bright eyed undergraduate comes knocking at your door, don’t just turn off the overhead lights and hope to god no one saw you come in — she may not have anyone else to help her out.

  • Role models reset imaginations.

This is such a TB obsession…for a reason. So many of the women at Winfield House talked about how important it was to see and be seen, just to let the next generation know what can be possible. It’s critical to support (read- don’t make fun of or generally denigrate the time spent on outreach) staff/employees who are willing to go that extra mile to widen participation because IT AINT HAPPENING OTHERWISE OK? And don’t forget you can’t just expect someone to want to do outreach, or to make a *deal* about being a woman / minority / under-represented group. Support those who do, but remember that’s an extra burden.

In the spirit of advice recounted from President Obama, sometimes you need to ‘just listen’; so here’s some of the things we heard:

  • Solidarity is key – bringing together different disadvantaged sectors can make any one group more of an ally of the others.
  • Hearts and minds can be changed, and the dinosaurs are dying out; it’s too shameful to be seen as a misogynist these days…and that’s a good thing.
  • Unconscious bias training is absolutely critical to reshaping attitudes

Finally, the Embassy staff asked participants ‘What would you tell your 20 year old self?’.


Apparently my answer? Let your hair grow long 😉

Reportagery by Brenna.

*Essentially, the shape of a woman in a fancy hat wielding a mattock sliding down a pyramid.

It’s March 8th! Which means it’s International Women’s Day. We here at TrowelBlazer Towers have made a point of celebrating women’s achievements EVERY DAY, but sometimes it’s nice to sit back and look at the big picture.

So here’s a big picture:


It’s lovely, isn’t it? As are each and everyone of you. For International Women’s Day we’d like to celebrate the amazing experience of looking out into the void that is the internet and seeing so many dedicated, engaged, and generous people who are willing to take the time and energy to contribute to our little project. So thank you. Thank you to the archivists who find treasure in bad handwriting and worse typography. Thank you to the museums and collections who have gone out of their way and down into the stores to bring forgotten stories back to life. Thank you to the researchers and writers who have uncovered secret histories and mislaid lives. Thank you to the few, the proud, the inspired — the members of the Order of the Blazing Trowel, and everyone who has taken the time to write for us.

Mostly, we just want to thank you. Thank you for being a part of our community. Thank you for caring about equality, about historic inequity, and resetting imaginations. Thank you for providing a better future for the next generation, and giving a voice back to the generations before. It may not seem like much, but, in the words of Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Keep on TrowelBlazing!


with much love from @brenna, @suzie, @becky, and @tori


Betty Cable Baume Clark 


When ‘great’ men die and obituary writers review their lives, the women who married them often become a footnote, someone who survived or did not, the one who had the children.

So, though disappointing, it is perhaps not surprising that most mentions of Betty Baume Clark that one finds are citations for being the partner (for 64 years) and mother of the children of renowned prehistorian J. Desmond Clark. A notable exception is found in the journal Before Farming, which published an individual obituary for Betty herself, and in tributes from individuals who knew them. But she warrants more recognition, that we hope to provide here.

Without Betty’s skills as a project manager (typing, field camp-managing) and – most significant in archaeological terms – superb skills as a draftswoman, Desmond’s work might not be quite the pillar of African prehistory that it is today.

Betty was already a scholar, studying languages at Newnham College, Cambridge, when her archaeological adventures began by meeting Desmond, who became a museum curator. In 1938 they moved for his job to Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Betty married him and was acting curator while he was away on service during World War II. When he returned, she took up a post as the museum’s secretary, having obviously shown her capacity in the role.

But it wasn’t only in museum contexts that Betty’s legacy is felt; as with so many 20th century trowelblazing marriages, she also worked in the field, one of the most famous sites being Kalambo Falls, a huge waterfall now on the Zambia-Tanzania border. Alongside managing the camp during the 1950s, it was Betty who produced the many, superb lithic illustrations that grace the publications of what is one of the most significant sites in African prehistory, covering over two hundred thousand years. Her “ability and dedication to technological presentation” are described in the acknowledgements to the enormous Volume III.

Desmond remained active in research for decades, in other African contexts (including collaborating with Mary Leakey) and abroad, and Betty often continued her effective role as a research assistant, including fieldwork manager in Ethiopia (where an actual toilet seat was provided!) and visits to India. She also made further contributions to publications including preparing data tables, illustrating artefacts and typing manuscripts, for example at Swartkrans in South Africa. In the 1960s Betty and Desmond moved to Berkeley, California, where they remained for many years, and hosted seminars for colleagues at their house, including Barbara and Glynn Isaac and Anna Behrensmeyer.

I have also worked at Kalambo Falls on much later field projects, and catered for the teams of archaeologists there. It is not a convenient place. It would have taken considerable organisation to ensure food was provided and other basic requirements met. Or not so basic, judging by her legendary comment about the lack of white Chianti!

That she produced such accomplished drawings while coping with a crew of archaeologists and children is, frankly, extraordinary. The world of African archaeology should be well and truly grateful, and Betty’s contribution to the archaeological reputation of her husband deserves to be more widely recognised.

Pool above the lip of Kalambo Falls. Photo by permission of Mary Earnshaw.

Pool above the lip of Kalambo Falls. Photo by permission of Mary Earnshaw.

Submitted by Mary Earnshaw

Editing and additional content by Becky


On the 12th of December 1990, the weather forecast threatened high winds and potential flooding along the North Norfolk coast. For many locals this would not be a cause for celebration, but for Margaret and her husband Harold it meant only one thing: an early start for some fossil hunting.

Born and brought up in Derbyshire, Margaret moved to the North Norfolk coast in the early 1960s, where her love of palaeontology began. She has always had a passion for natural history, and in her adult life this translated into knowledge about many groups including birds and fungi, which she was more than happy to share. The move to North Norfolk brought Margaret and Harold close to the coast and the fossil rich West Runton riverbed, and sparked the enjoyment in fossils. The couple would often stroll along the beach near their West Runton home searching for fossils.

On the morning of the 13th of December, Margaret and Harold were up early with tools and heading down to the beach. The storm had exposed more of the fossil riverbed, and when Margaret spotted a bone sticking out of the cliff she knew she had found something special. It took 4 days of secret digging to unearth the pelvis, with the help of the curator of Cromer museum. The presence of an anklebone next to the impressive pelvis hinted to the true extent of the find, but it was not until more bones were unearthed after a further storm eroded the cliff that an explorative excavation was carried out in January 1992. A three-month excavation in 1995 followed this, and after the first six weeks of digging Margaret joined the excavation, eager to learn more about the find.

The West Runton Forest bed (the dark band of sediment at the base of the cliffs) has yielded many fossils - but none so remarkable as Margaret's mammoth! Image: Wikipedia

The West Runton Freshwater Bed (the dark band of sediment at the base of the cliffs) has yielded many fossils – but none so remarkable as Margaret’s mammoth! Image: Wikipedia

The excavation revealed the most complete specimen of the largest mammoth species, a steppe mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii), ever found, with around 85% of the skeleton surviving. This individual was a 40 year old male, standing an impressive 4 metres high and weighing about 10 tonnes. The fate of this animal is told through the bones; an injury to the right femur suggests that the already injured animal fell into the river and could not stand up, leaving it at the mercy of other trampling mammoths and hungry hyenas.

The mammoth was found in the West Runton freshwater bed, a layer of dark mud which was deposited by a river 6-700,000 years ago. The excavation was thorough; with soil samples containing pollen and bones of small animals such as frogs and birds, and coprolites of the hyenas scavenging on the dead mammoth provide a detailed picture of how the landscape would have looked at the time of the mammoth.

Before they retired both Margaret and Harold Hems worked in education, and were passionate about communicating natural history. After the discovery of the mammoth they were eager to share their knowledge of the history of the North Norfolk coast and the story of the West Runton mammoth, talking to locals and tourists visiting the dig site and to school children from the area. The importance of engaging children in the history of their local area is something that drives Margaret to this day, and she still hopes that one day the whole mammoth can be displayed for everyone to enjoy. Currently some of the bones are displayed at Norwich Castle Museum and Cromer Museum, but the majority of the skeleton is still in storage at Gressenhall.

The significance of the mammoth for palaeontologists is easy to see, but for Margaret the most wonderful part of the discovery is its ability to inspire another generation of Natural History enthusiasts. As she said ‘children love dinosaurs, but the children here have their own treasure’.

Written by Hannah Norman, Margaret’s granddaughter! (@Norman_Han)

Edited by Tori

You can see TrowelBlazers’ own Tori Herridge interviewing Margaret Hems about her mammoth discovery in Channel 4’s Walking Through Time, Saturday 6th Feb, 8pm.

The full scientific findings on the West Runton Mammoth are published in this special issue of Quaternary International. Sadly most are stuck behind a paywall, but if you have access it’s a wonderfully complete study!

Editor’s note: A full-sized replica of the West Runton Mammoth is part of the Norfolk Museums 5-year plan, and so – funding permitting- the Britain’s best mammoth may soon be on display to be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

Betsy Garland received a B.S. in geology from Wellesley, an M.A. in Anthropology from Radcliffe, and a Ph.D. from Harvard in anthropology in 1967, under Stephen Williams. She was Alfred Romer’s assistant at the Museum of Comparative Zoology when it was announced that Australopithecines were bipedal. Betsy’s dissertation, The Obion Site: An Early Mississippian Center in Western Tennessee, was one of the first dissertations written by a woman base upon original fieldwork and done at Harvard in the early twentieth century. She became the first archaeologist on the faculty of Western Michigan University, founded a chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society, edited the Michigan Archaeologist from 1970-1975, was president of the Conference on Michigan Archaeology from 1976 – 1980, and was the author of numerous publications. Betsy retired from Western Michigan in 1992 and is currently living in Florida.
I was one of her early students at Western and she was the reason that I, and many others became archaeologists.

Elizabeth Garland_3

Photographs courtesy of West Michigan University Library and Archives.

Post by Bill Mangold

Did you know? Betsy was named the second-ever West Michigan University’s Outstanding Emeritus Scholar!

Read more:


edited by Brenna

Mary Ann Woodhouse, better known as Mrs Gideon Mantell, was born on April 9, 1795. In 1816, she married  surgeon-geologist Gideon Mantell.

In the summer of 1822, during a walk while her husband was visiting a patient, Mary found the first Iguanodon tooth. In her book “The Dinosaur Hunters”, Deborah Cadbury described Mary’s unusual finding:

“As she walked, her eyes were irresistibly drawn to a strange shape in a pile of stones that had been heaped by the side of the road. Picking up the stone, she brushed away the white dust, gently removing any loose rock with her fingers. Gradually a shape emerged never previously seen by human eye. It was very smooth, worn and dark brown, rather like a flattened fragment of a giant tooth.”

Gideon Mantell sent the teeth to Georges Cuvier, who first suggested that the remains were from a rhinoceros, but in a letter from 1824 admitted his mistake and determined that the remains were reptilian and quite possibly belonged to a giant herbivore. A year later, Mantell described them and named them Iguanodon (“iguana tooth”) because their resemblance with  those of living iguanas. The tooth turned out to be around 130 million years old and incredible scientific discovery.

Fossil Iguanodon Tooth, maker unknown. Gift of the Mantell Family, 1930. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH004839)

Fossil Iguanodon Tooth, maker unknown. Gift of the Mantell Family, 1930. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH004839)

Mary helped Mantell illustrating his book on The Fossils of the South Downs (1822). She made over 364 fine lithographs from her husband’s drawings. Etheldred Benett commented to Mantell that with a little practice Mary’s sketching would be ‘stronger and bolder . . . all that is wanting to make them a great ornament to your work’. Unfortunately, it seems that Mary didn’t contribute to Mantell’s second book of Tilgate Forest fossils.

In  1839, she left her husband and the children remained with their father as was customary at the time.

Gideon Mantell died in 1852 from an opium overdose. Mary died 16 years later.


BUREK, C. V. & HIGGS, B. (eds) The Role of Women in the History of Geology. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 281, 1–8. DOI: 10.1144/SP281.1.

by Holder of the Order of the Blazing Trowel Fernanda Castano

edits by Brenna

 Read more on Fernanda’s blog about Mary Ann’s other TrowelBlazing connections!



On the 19th of January, Team TrowelBlazers got an excellent start on 2016 with an invitation to Winfield House, the residence of US Ambassador to the UK Matthew Barzun. As part of the Embassy’s Young Leaders UK project, a variety of exciting and inspirational speakers have graced the oddly swirly-patterned carpeting of the reception room just past the enormous portrait of a man doing a sort of muscle pose amongst flowers.

Kehinde Wiley's portrait of Santos Dumont, hanging in the US Ambassador's Residence in London

Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of Santos Dumont, hanging in the US Ambassador’s Residence in London

But the REAL excitement was the chance to hear #TrowelBlazer Ellen Stofan address a room full of young leaders (and other folks determined to improve access to STEM careers).

Dr Stofan had so much to say that was totally fascinating — they had the first flower in space like two weeks ago!!! — that it was particularly cool she managed to devote so much of her time to addressing an issue that is clearly important to her: making science a welcoming space for EVERYONE, including women, ethnic minorities, and other underrepresented groups.  It was such an excellent dialogue that I didn’t take very clever notes, but I think the one thing I wanted to share with you guys is the thing that meant the most to me: actual words of actual hope for female early career researchers not planning on a monastic existence. Here’s what I found out:

  • Dr Stofan’s biggest career challenge? Work-life balance.

  • She has 3 kids. None of them are axe-murderers.

  • She worked part time for 16 years so she could have a family life AND SHE STILL BECAME CHIEF SCIENTIST OF NASA.

If that’s not a message of hope for all of us out there looking at the leaky pipeline (discussed earlier this week in the UK parliament actually – check out the #WomenInScience hashtag), I don’t know what is. Dr Stofan went on to say that she now realises careers aren’t necessarily on some exponential trajectory, but can be full of peaks — and troughs. One of her regrets was actually how angsty she’d been when her first post doc ended and she was stuck thinking ‘well, that was awesome, but I’ll never do anything that awesome again’. OK that’s totally paraphrasing but as a post doc, well — got me right in the feels! There were also some very wise words about how important it is to get out into schools, churches, communities, and show people that science can be welcoming and anyone can ‘look like a scientist’; and how unconcious bias training can help organisations avoid– you guessed it– unconcious bias.

Anyway, that’s the main stuff I wanted to share. BUT, in ‘other cool stuff I found out while chillin’ at the Ambassador’s house drinking from a gold rimmed teacup’ news:

  • So many awesome unbelievable space-tastic facts, plus, volcanoes, plus methane seas, plus see where a geology career can get you?
  • The last astronaut class was 50% women. BOO YAH
  • There are official NASA passports.
  • The first flower in space was a zinnia



Brenna (as in, all misquotes, misattributions, and misunderstandings totally the fault of …)


D.H Lawrence portrayed Zelia Nuttall as Mrs. Norris in his novel The Plumed Serpent: a great socialite living in a house full of archaeological and painted ceramic figurines in Mexico City, often surrounded by visitors who sat around her listening with admiration to her scholarly stories. This fictional image, somewhat romantic but definitely based on real aspects has been transferred to the academic literature where Zelia Nuttall appears as the “Queen” of Mexican archaeology. But her place in the history of archaeology is still full of silences and ambiguity.

Zelia Nuttall was born in 1857 in San Francisco and died in Mexico City in 1932. She divorced from French linguist Alphonse Pinart and had a daughter Nadine that accompanied her during most of her travels. She visited archives and libraries in Europe, North America and the United States, and presented the results of her archaeological interpretations of pre-Hispanic codices in international conferences.  Archaeological material she studied was exhibited at two international fairs of great scientific relevance at that time (Madrid 1892 and Chicago, 1893). Between 1886 and 1932 she published more than forty articles in the most prestigious journals in an emerging context of professionalization of archaeology. Despite her extensive experience and knowledge, Nuttall location in the history of the discipline is somehow poorly understood, probably because she was an “outsider within” and situated always “inbetween.” She was forever caught between Mexico and the United States, between the domestic space she managed as a well known society hostess and the museum where she pursued her scientific interests, and even between a national and an international context of science. In addition, Zelia set a different pattern than other pioneer women archaeologists who  travelled to distant places to explore or excavate, but returned to their home countries; she established herself in Mexico in 1904 and made it her country, the land of her research and a place to build a home, and she lived in the Casa Alvarada in Coyoacan, Mexico (now a museum) until her death in 1932.

Casa Alvarada in Coyoacan, Mexico

Casa Alvarada in Coyoacan, Mexico

As a foreign woman in Mexico she was acquainted with the Mexican archaeological community, and was committed with a type of knowledge that talked about and to the nation. Zelia Nuttall was a passionate advocate of the idea that the current inhabitants of Mexico were descendants of the Aztecs, and oriented her archaeological work to contest prevailing evolutionist prejudices that defined the Prehispanic cultures as savages and barbarians. Thus, while some scientists considered sacrifice as a widespread activity among ancient Mexicans, Nuttall said that this overshadowing discourse was harmful for the education of children and youth in Mexico. Instead, Nuttall used archaeological and historical knowledge about ancient Mexicans to promote ideas about a shared humanity among different peoples and communities in the world.

Despite being in a mostly male environment, Zelia Nuttall was able to do archaeology on her own terms. In a moment when archaeologists in Mexico and the United States became associated with institutions and fieldwork came to be seen as the primary method to acquire information about the past, Zelia remained at home. However, this was not a marginalized position for her, from that space she was also able to participate in various scientific communities with national and internationally scope, and she was involved in major archaeological research.

She was even so inspirational she’s made the list of ‘Disney’s Rejected Princesses’!

Zelia Nuttal as imagined as one of 'Disney's Rejected Princesses' by Jason Porath

Zelia Nuttal as imagined as one of ‘Disney’s Rejected Princesses’ by Jason Porath

Apen Ruiz (Universitat de Barcelona, Spain)

edited by Brenna

Read more:

Biography by A. Tozzer

From the Society for American Archaeology’s History of Arch Interest Group

From Amanda Adam’s book Ladies of the Field


The year’s closing in fast, and here at least it’s already getting dark and pelting with rain. Settling down to write our 2015 review, the only thing to say is WOW, what a year!

We’ve had 18 new posts, talked TrowelBlazers in venues from academic conferences to international radio, and started a viral hashtag…and that’s not even counting probably the year’s major event, the launch of Fossil Hunter Lottie (yes, she’s only been out since May!).
So read on for a review of some of our most exciting activities from 2015, and at the end, a mini-reveal about our very exciting NEW COLLABORATION for 2016!

First and foremost, our grateful thanks as ever to all of YOU, our amazing community. We’ve had a huge amount of posts submitted, tons of support for our activities, and many wonderful words of praise which we deeply appreciate; it was extra exciting to see recognition of how far we’ve come by being a finalist for this year’s Shorty Awards in the Science Category (alongside luminaries such as Bill Nye, @realscientists and  Neil deGrasse Tyson). TrowelBlazers started out and (perhaps amazingly!) still works as a group effort, and part of our continuing energy for what we’re doing comes from everyone who takes the time to share posts, suggest new ideas, and interact with us. And talking of interactions, the TB community has grown again: we’ve now topped 5000 followers on Twitter, plus 4800 Facebook likes. Welcome to all, and we hope you’ve been introduced to some amazing women geoscientists you’d not heard of before.

We started 2015 with a VERY busy spring. In March we celebrated International Women’s Day by listing our 5 TrowelBlazers You Should Have Heard Of.  This was swiftly followed by the fabulous Woman In Time, an event Tori created with Allison Cullingford from the University of Bradford for British Science Week. By weaving together poetry, archival material and science, Tori told the story of three women whose lives intersected in the 1930s at Dorothy Garrod’s dig in Palestine: Yusra, a local excavator, Jacquetta Hawkes, and the Tabun 1 female Neanderthal they discovered.


Three of Team TB at the SAA meeting, San Francisco!

In April the world held its breath as THREE of us managed to be in the same room at the same time…Brenna, Suzie and Becky were all present at the frankly overwhelmingly large Society for American Archaeology conference, held in San Francisco. While we were there partly with our academic hats on, we’d also been invited to talk about TrowelBlazers. It was a superb experience and once again we were really pleased to meet many faces we’d only known online, and hear how much people think what we do matters.

In the same month, we also spoke to a rather different audience (although with a probably high cross-over rate) at EasterCon, a massive science fiction and fantasy UK convention. We’re certain the world recognises the untapped potential for tales of steampunk trowelblazing…

2015 has been a year of inspiring feminist and science community action in the shape of some very amusing viral hashtags. TrowelBlazers is very proud of our own Brenna’s contribution, #InMyShoes, going back to our core theme of the importance of role models. This kicked off in response to hearing that a young girl, Sophie Trow, had been told the dinosaur kids shoes she liked had been designed only for boys. One tweeted photo of some sneakers & a plastic pterosaur later, and the science world stepped up to show that plenty of women into dinosaurs and all manner of other awesomeness did their thing in a dazzling variety of footwear shared across social media, and even covered in mainstream outlets.

A large proportion of people must have wanted to be in Tori’s fetching white wellingtons this summer when she took dinosaur-related trowelblazing to new levels, featuring as one of the experts who got to delve around in the postmortem of a life-size reconstruction T-Rex. With chainsaws, buckets of blood and serious science, the National Geographic program followed her role in last year’s amazing Mammoth Autopsy for Channel 4, and has cemented Tori’s credentials as Doyenne of Megafaunal CSI Fabulousness. Plus it allowed her to give this superb quote: “Getting shoulder-deep in a fake T. rex cloaca is one of the many things I did not expect to do when pregnant. Life is full of surprises.” [And in autumn we were very happy to greet our newest and ultra adorable Littlest TrowelBlazer – congratulations Tori!].

L cobbles 5

Fossil Hunter Lottie in the field

Undoubtedly the biggest TrowelBlazing event of 2015 was the launch in May of our Fossil Hunter Lottie doll, created following a collaboration with Arklu, makers of the Lottie Dolls. We’d been working on this for AGES, and had shared some sneak previews (Lottie came with Becky on a California roadtrip) and celebrated the release by sending her off on a Grand Trowelblazing Tour, which started at the Natural History Museum, and took in visits to real palaeontologists at universities and museums in Edinburgh, Leeds, Oxford, Bristol, and Cardiff. She finished up at Mary Anning’s home turf, Lyme Regis, where we went out doing some real fossil-hunting with local children, Lyme Regis Museum and the Jurassic Coast Ambassadors.
Fossil Hunter Lottie has had incredible feedback, and received tons of brilliant coverage and many reviews, which has been wonderful to see after the hard work we put into developing her with Arklu. This Christmas it’s been lovely to see even more trowelblazers young and old enjoying her!

Fossil Hunter Lottie works her magic on the BBC: behold the power of her teeny tiny magnifying glass

Fossil Hunter Lottie works her magic on the BBC: behold the power of her teeny tiny magnifying glass

In 2015 we had an astonishing +86K views of our website, with a large number of new visitors (hi!). This year without doubt our most popular posts were those profiling the Rising Star team, responsible for excavating the Homo naledi fossils which hit the news in September when they were published as a new species. We actually did the original interviews for these posts during the dig in 2013, and it’s fantastic to see these women being recognised internationally for their work (bar a few wails and gnashing of teeth from those who can’t quite believe an all-women team could be selected on merit…).

We covered a great range of new trowelblazers in this year’s posts, starting with Zonia Baber (who might win for 2015’s coolest photo), and ranging from 19th and early 20th century palaeontologist Elizabeth Anderson Grey, pioneer archaeological aviatrix Lady Mary Bailey, and Veronica Seton-Williams, another key trowelblazer, who epitomises the incredible mentoring and training networks in the UK during the 1930s-60s. Another woman we were pleased to feature is Tina Negus, the original discoverer of the some of the oldest creatures on Earth, and who would be a celebrated name in the history of palaeontology with a fossil named after her, but for the fact that she wasn’t believed by her school teachers.

So, only a few hours until 2016 and a new year of awesomeness begins. We know there will be surprises and strange/wondrous turns of events, but one thing we are sure of is a very exciting NEW COLLABORATION we have been working on. We’ll be announcing full details in the next couple of months, but here are a few teasers to whet your appetite: together with a major UK organisation, we will be creating an exhibition highlighting the contribution of 12 past trowelblazers, and 12 modern counterparts. Featuring studio-shot portraits of today’s women arrayed in the attire of their forebears, complete with period field gear (possibly including the obligatory camels/horses), the exhibition will include information on the research and impact of trowelblazers in archaeology, palaeontology and geology, as well as covering problematic issues that continue to resonate within the current professional workforce. It will run from late 2016-2017, and will travel to a range of venues in locations across the UK, so get in touch if you’re an institution/organisation interested in hosting or supporting this uber-exciting national event.

And with that, nothing remains but to wish everyone who has supported us a fantastic new year, wherever you are, and keep on ‘blazing!

“We live in a very comfortable tomb on the side of the cliff with nothing behind us but the desert until you reach the Red Sea.”–Olga Tufnell to her mother, in a letter dated 24th Nov 1927, from Qau el-Kebir, Egypt. 

Olga Tufnell was one of the many trowelblazers who came to archaeology by a sideways route, but fell in love with fieldwork in the Near East. She was from a very well-off background, and the wide cultural interests of  her mother, Blanche, which included travel, music and the arts, may have given her a head start. She had an elite education, including a semi-finishing school experience in Italy, where she took art classes, and in fact her considerable skills as a draftsperson became part of her archaeological career.

Olga’s mother also happened to be a close friend of (and related by marriage to) trowelblazer Hilda Petrie. At Hilda’s suggestion, a young Olga was taken on by the Petries – huge figures in Near Eastern and Egyptian archaeology- as the grand-sounding ‘Assistant Secretary to the British School of Archaeology in Egypt’. Her main role was fundraising, and helping with the annual exhibition of finds at UCL, but she sometimes also got to work on mending and illustrating pottery. Olga’s career-changing moment came in 1927 at the age of twenty two, when she was invited to join the final Petrie excavations at Qau el-Kebir in Egypt. She seems to have bitten by the archaeology bug, and stayed on to dig Tell Fara in Palestine, where she supervised excavations, and then the following two seasons at Tell Ajjul (until 1932), where she found an amazing burial complete with entire horse skeleton.

Equid burial at Tell Ajjul that Olga Tufnell excavated. Image courtesy of UCL Institute of Archaeology Collections (thanks to Rachel Sparks). Equid burial at Tell Ajjul that Olga Tufnell excavated. Image courtesy of UCL Institute of Archaeology Collections (thanks to Rachel Sparks).

Equid burial at Tell Ajjul that Olga Tufnell excavated. Image courtesy of UCL Institute of Archaeology Collections (thanks to Rachel Sparks).

These experiences were the seminal years in Olga’s training, and she took pride in being one of the ‘Petrie Pups’, along with others of her generation, some forming close personal and professional friendships – including the respected Egyptologist Margaret Murray.

Just after working at Tell Ajjul, Olga joined James Starkey (another of the Petrie crew) digging at Tell ed-Duweir, identified as the Biblical city of Lachish. Olga’s letters show she was given significant responsibility on site, and was part of the team that over six seasons discovered the famous Lachish Letters, although eventually the project ended just after Starkey was killed.

During WWII, Olga worked in diverse roles including with the BBC. After the war she began to publish on the results from Tell ed-Duweir along with other project members, which she continued for another 20 years. Her contested challenge to the accepted Iron Age chronology of the region was finally proven correct by later excavations.

Olga Tufnell at Tell ed-Duweir (the ancient city of Lachish). Used with the kind permission of the Palestine Exploration Fund, All rights reserved.

Olga Tufnell at Tell ed-Duweir (the ancient city of Lachish). Used with the kind permission of the Palestine Exploration Fund, All rights reserved.

Olga continued to work in Near Eastern archaeology, especially pottery, and in the late 1950s she dug at Nimrud, where she likely met yet another trowelblazer, Agatha Christie, who worked there alongside her husband Max Mallowan. She also developed an interest in more recent Near Eastern culture, and collaborated with Violet Barbour in the development of the Palestine Folk Museum. Her interest in ornament seems to have led directly to what became the final major project of her life. From 1962, she undertook an exhaustive and meticulous collaborative study on scarab seals in Palestine, which used her early training in pottery chronology to show how scarab seals could be used for the same purpose.

As with many early trowelblazers, she took an interest in young students and researchers and was much loved and respected by her colleagues. The Tufnell archive is housed at the Palestine Exploration Fund, and the Lachish archive and collection are at the British Museum.

Letter: Ref. PEF-DA-TUF-0093

Written by John MacDermot, Palestine Exploration Fund. All images were provided with permission of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
Editing and additional content by Becky, posted by Suzie.


Just a little over two years ago, I reviewed a copy of Jordan Jacobs’ debut novel, a book about a daring preteen in love with archaeology: Samantha Sutton and The Labyrinth of Lies. Her first adventure begins when “Sam” gets to spend her summer break on an excavation in Peru with her Uncle Jay, an archaeologist. The book is a nicely balanced mystery/adventure story with plenty of accurate—and engaging—information about the site of Chavín de Huántar, and it also deals with the difficult issues of looting, antiquities smuggling, and the treatment of human remains for young adult readers as Sam navigates a new culture and language.

When the second book, Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen, was published last year, I read it with a sense of anticipation if not a little extra scrutiny—the book was set in Cambridge, England, an alma mater of both Jacobs and myself. This time, Sam has to adjust to a very different cultural situation, as well as solve a dangerous mystery.  This book felt a bit darker than the last, and once again hit on some of the big issues in British archaeology, that of metal detectoring and the Portable Antiquities Act, while weaving in details of Britain’s prehistory and Roman legacy.

The long-awaited third book in the series, Samantha Sutton and the Temple of Traitors, is due out within the next couple of months. I was excited to to review a proof copy. This time, Sam is a little older and wiser, but despite the mishaps of her two previous adventures, cannot resist the opportunity to travel to another famous archaeological site, although she doesn’t know exactly where she is headed as her journey begins. Once she arrives in Cambodia, she realizes that her Uncle Jay is taking her to the legendary city of Angkor Wat. As in the previous books, Jacobs subtly teaches the reader about archaeological methodology, this time the application of LiDAR in archaeological mapping, while Sam comes face-to-face with some difficult topics and situations. Among these are the political nature of archaeological sites, the effect of war on both people and cultural heritage, and the portrayal of archaeology in video games and movies.

Young readers will enjoy the mystery and suspense that accompany Sam’s adventures, and identify with the tension that comes along with that in-between feeling of turning thirteen. Adults will appreciate Sam’s character and growth throughout the series: she is resourceful, smart, and brave, with a strong moral compass—not to mention she always does her research! And any adventure-loving archaeologist who reads the books would probably agree that Jacobs does a great job of including the realities of fieldwork, the complicated nature of cultural heritage, and the representation of archaeology in popular culture in his stories.

It just so happens that November is NaNoWriMo-National Novel Writing Month.  And since we love fictional trowelblazers as well as real ones, we decided (with the help of author Jordan Jacobs and the books’ publishers, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) to host a little giveaway in the spirit of the month. We’re giving away two sets of the first two books, Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies and Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen. As for the third, you’ll just have to wait until it’s published…

What we want to know is: who is your favorite adventure-loving, butt-kicking, (preferably #trowelblazing!) fictional heroine? Let us know in the comments below, tweet at us using the hashtag #SamanthaSutton, or post on our Facebook page to enter. We’ll accept responses throughout the month and announce the winners (chosen via random generator) on 1 December. Happy reading and writing!

Reviewed by Suzie

Images courtesy of the Pitt-Rivers Photo Collection.

Special Exhibition on until 2016 at the Pitt Rivers Museum – My Year in Siberia!

While the first battles of World War I were being fought, Maria Czaplicka was travelling the Yenisei Province of Siberia to study ways of life north of the Arctic Circle.   Maria spent much of 1914-15 in this little-studied region, recording the lives and languages of the people she met.

Born in 1884 in Russian-dominated Warsaw, Maria was one of the young Poles to study with the “Flying University”, an underground organisation which between 1885 and 1905 secretly provided education for men and women alike.   In 1910 she was awarded a Mianowski Fund scholarship.  This enabled her to travel to England to study at Bedford Women’s College, London; and then at the University of Oxford as a member of Somerville College.  She was awarded the Oxford Diploma in Anthropology in 1912.

In Oxford, where she was a contemporary of O.G.S. Crawford, she studied under Robert Marett, who encouraged her to review the available literature on the indigenous populations of Siberia.   This work was published in 1914 as Aboriginal Siberia: a Study in Social Anthropology.   In his forward to the book, Marett identified its importance as making accessible for the first time in English the Russian language work on the subject.   The book became the major reference work on these communities of Asian Russia.

This region was little understood especially by contemporary British anthropologists who tended to focus their research on parts of the British Empire.  Maria’s pioneering expedition to north-west Siberia began in May 1914.   Maud Haviland (ornithologist), Dora Curtis (artist), and Henry Usher Hall (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) met Maria in Moscow.  They travelled by train to Krasnoyarsk, the regional administrative capital.  From there, a three week journey by paddle-steamer north up the River Yenisei took them 1,500 miles to Golchika.  It was late June, but the boat had to negotiate ice floes on the river.  They spent the short Summer above latitude 70ºN in the tundra around the Yenisei estuary, exploring the people and the archaeology of the area.  Maria collected objects from the people they met, and from the platform burial sites on the permafrost; took photographs; gathered plant specimens and mammoth bones; and wrote down her experiences.

Maud and Dora left at the end of the Summer.  With Michikha, a Tungus (Evenki) woman, Maria and Henry spent Winter 1914/Spring 1915 travelling the mountainous area east of Turukhansk.  Although Maria made light of the conditions in her book My Siberian Year, she experienced considerable hardships and illness through the Arctic Winter.  Meals were eaten with nomadic reindeer-herding families; “Armed with this [knife] I caught hold of the meat with my teeth, and sliced off a mouthful, which I proceeded to masticate as well as its parboiled condition would permit”.  The miles of walking and sledding from tent to tent were exhausting.  Frostbite was an ever-present danger despite being “ensconced in a foot-bag made of the winter coat of a reindeer buck, and cased in thick Jaeger stockings worn inside a pair of dog’s-hair stockings and two pairs of hairy skin boots.”

Maria made a special study of shamanism and religion in the region, and also commented on the history and politics of Siberia.  She also wrote poetically about the short days in the Winter landscape, “There is a rosy light that was never anywhere else by land or sea, that flushes the mountain peaks of the ‘stony’ tundra to an ineffable glory during the brief twilight days that precede the return of the sun in the spring, while the valleys and the lowlands are filled with a blue sea of unlifting shadow.”   After her return to England in 1915, the objects she had collected with Henry were deposited in the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Pennsylvania University Museums, and the botanical specimens in the Fielding-Druce Herbarium (Oxford).

Maria seems to have completed some war work for the British Foreign Office’s War Trade Intelligence Department.  In 1916 she became the University of Oxford’s first female lecturer in anthropology.   Her three-year appointment came to an end in 1919.  She toured the United States to meet leading anthropologists.    In 1920 she was awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s Murchison Award, and she obtained a year-long teaching position at the University of Bristol.   Sadly this promising career was cut short when Maria committed suicide in May 1921, a few days after her naturalisation certificate was issued.   A fund in her memory was established at Somerville College.   Her collected works, edited by David Collins, were republished by the Curzon Press in 1999.

post by Katy Whitaker

The Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford, has a Showcase display about Maria’s Siberian expedition on until 28 February 2016 (http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/exhibitions.html)

Collins, D. and Urry, J. (1997) “A flame too intense for mortal body to support” Anthropology Today 13(6): 18-20

Czaplicka, M.A. (1914) Aboriginal Siberia: a Study in Social Anthropology   Oxford: Clarendon Press [available at https://archive.org/details/aboriginalsiberi00czap]

Czaplicka, M.A. (1916) My Siberian Year   London: Mills and Boon

“A Woman’s Travels.” Times [London, England] 8 Sept. 1915: 9. The Times Digital Archive. [Web] Accessed 16 October 2014 http://find.galegroup.com/ttda/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=TTDA&userGroupName=wiltsttda&tabID=T003&docPage=article&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&docId=CS152372520&type=multipage&contentSet=LTO&version=1.0

“Death Of Miss M. A. De Czaplicka.” Times [London, England] 30 May 1921: 8. The Times Digital Archive. [Web] Accessed 16 October 2014 http://find.galegroup.com/ttda/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=TTDA&userGroupName=wiltsttda&tabID=T003&docPage=article&searchType=&docId=CS135467198&type=multipage&contentSet=LTO&version=1.0

Home Office (1921) HO 334/92/8081 Naturalisation Certificate: Marie Anteinette Christine Elizabeth Lubicz de Czaplicka. From Poland. Resident in Bristol. Certificate A8081 issued 24 May 1921 [The National Archives] http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C11938471

Last week, Team TrowelBlazer’s Brenna braved the vagaries of southeastern Anatolian internet to chat to Patricia Karvelas, host of ABC radio’s RN Drive radio show. With the help of a bit of duct tape, we covered role models, Ada Lovelace, and actual fieldwork — a little something that shall be referred to hereafter as CSI: Mesopotamia. Listen or download our chat, from Mesopotamia to Melbourne, or read more about the program here!

Patricia Karvelas, host of RN Drive


At her memorial service in 1992 she was remembered as a redoubtable woman who made archaeology in the Middle East very much her own. And she had to. Veronica Seton-Williams faced considerable prejudice throughout her career.

Dr Veronica Seton-Williams  (1910-1992) devoted her life to teaching and excavation. She was born and educated in Australia, choosing to study the closest subject to archaeology that she could at Melbourne University: history and political science. In 1934 she moved to London where she enrolled at the Institute of Archaeology, giving her the opportunity to work under Tessa and Mortimer Wheeler at their famous Maiden Castle dig. It was thanks to Tessa Wheeler and another mentor of Seton-Williams, Margaret Murray, that she was chosen by the British School of Archaeology to join Flinders Petrie on his dig at Sheikh Zuweyed in Sinai (where Hilda Petrie was also working). Many more excavations were to follow: Jericho, Mersin (Turkey), Tell el-Duweir (Palestine) and in Ireland.  She completed a PhD on second millennium BC sites in Syria in 1957, but was disappointed not to be able to gain an academic foothold, narrowly missing being appointed to succeed Max Mallowan (husband of Agatha Christie) at the Institute of Archaeology.

At many of the sites Seton-Williams worked at, she took direction from the leading figures of the day, including Petrie, John Garstang,  John Starkey and Kathleen Kenyon, and she worked closely with a number of other trowelblazers, including Joan du Plat Taylor and Margaret Munn-Rankin. It was not until the mid-1960s, after considerable petitioning of the Committee by her students and colleagues, that the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) appointed her as a field director in her own right.

Ruins of mudbrick buildings on the northern mound of Buto-Desouk. Image: By Faris knight (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ruins of mudbrick buildings on the northern mound of Buto-Desouk. Image: By Faris knight (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Between 1964 and 1968 she took charge of the EES excavations at Buto, a site in the Egyptian Delta. Those that joined her during those seasons recall the tensions and personal hardships that she faced in this role. Seton-Williams, however, was committed to seeing the  work through because she believed that “as an archaeologist my main interest was in getting on with my job, to finish whatever I was doing, to record it, and, if possible, to publish the results”. She was still toiling over her final excavator’s report for Buto just before her death in 1992, labouring every day despite illness. It has never been published.

Veronica Seton-Williams at Buto, Egypt, sometime between 1965 and 1968. Photo courtesy of Joseph Clarke.

Veronica Seton-Williams at Buto, Egypt, sometime between 1965 and 1968. Photo courtesy of Joseph Clarke.

Written by Alice Stevenson, Curator of the Petrie Museum at UCL and on twitter as @alicestevenson

Editing and additional content by Tori and Becky

Further Reading: this wonderful extended biography of VSW by Barbara Lesko on the Breaking Ground website.

Lucy Allen was born in 1877 and set out to become a librarian when she began her studies at The Ohio State University in 1894, but along the way she became the first woman to serve as a curator at the Ohio History Connection (then the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society). She took up the post for several months in 1898, while working on her Master’s degree in Library Science. She would be the only female curator of archaeology until Martha Potter Otto, who held the post from 1974-2009.

The first curator of archaeology there, Warren K. Moorehead,  wrote that he was “particularly indebted to Miss Lucy Allen for her cooperation in the preparation of the state map for publication in this report and for her constant assistance in the museum,” and later recommended her for the final review of the map after his resignation in 1897, stating that she knew the data “better than any other person – next to myself.”

Moorehead was succeeded for a few short months by Clarence Loveberry. The 1898 Annual Report for the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society states that following Loveberry’s abrupt departure, “Miss Lucy Allen took charge of the Museum and performed the duties of Curator until June 1, 1898, when the Executive Committee elected Mr. W. C. Mills, Curator.” The curious phrase “performed the duties of Curator” suggests she was somehow less than a real curator, yet the Annual Reports of the Ohio State University indicate she was the “Curator arch. Museum” and as such she was paid $20 per month from February through June, a five month tenure as compared with her predecessor’s four months.

After leaving her position with the museum, she was hired as an Assistant Librarian at a salary of $40 per month – double what she was making as a curator. That gives you an indication of academia’s opinion of museum curators – at least in the late 19th century.

Allen served as librarian until 1901 by which time she had earned her Master’s degree. She went on to Harvard University where she studied under the noted historian Albert Bushnell Hart, but did not complete her PhD. Instead, she married George Smart, co-founder and editor of the Columbus Citizen.

After her husband died in 1925, Lucy became the Assistant to the Headmaster as well as the librarian at Kew-Forest School in Forest Hill, New York. In 1941, she was appointed Dean. In addition to her other accomplishments, Lucy became a nationally-known performer of living history portraying, among other notable American women, Priscilla Alden, Abigail Smith, Dolly Madison, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. She died at the age of 83 in 1960.

Lucy Allen Smart’s contributions to archaeology were not mentioned in her obituaries. And she has not been acknowledged as the Ohio History Connection’s third curator of archaeology until quite recently. The limited documentation from the period does not allow us to assess fully the contributions Lucy Allen made to Ohio archaeology, but the state map to which Allen devoted so much of her time as curator would become The Archaeological Atlas of Ohio, published by the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society in 1914. This landmark catalog of archaeological sites provided the foundation for today’s Ohio Archaeological Inventory, which is maintained by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. William C. Mills is listed as the sole author of the Atlas. In the preface, Mills briefly mentions Moorehead’s contribution, but he makes no mention whatsoever of Allen’s efforts.

It is clear that Allen did no fieldwork. This may be one of the reasons why she has not been acknowledged as a full-fledged curator. It also may be that she has been regarded merely as an interim curator serving for only five months, but Loveberry was curator for only four months and he has been recognized as the second curator of archaeology for the Ohio History Connection. I think the fundamental reason Allen’s contributions have been forgotten is that she was a woman in a field dominated by men. And those men may have found her presence a little embarrassing.

The Annual Report of the Trustees of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society stated that following Loveberry’s departure, “Mr. Raymond Osborn and Miss Lucy Allen were looking after the interests of the Society in the Museum in the absence of a Curator.” In a thorough review of all the correspondence and documentation from this period, I have found several letters from Allen on Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society letterhead. I have found correspondence addressed to “Lucy Allen Dept. Curator.” I have not found a single piece of paper referring to Osborn other than this mention in the Report to the Trustees.

Who was Raymond Osborn? He was a Professor of Zoology and Entomology at the Ohio State University. Just what he might have been doing on behalf of the “interests of the Society” is a mystery.

There was, in fact, no “absence of a Curator.” Allen was the “Curator arch. Museum.” And in the Report of the Curator, just eight pages away from the reference to Osborn in the same Annual Report, states unequivocally that “Miss Lucy Allen took charge of the Museum and performed the duties of Curator.” Maybe the Society’s trustees felt that they needed to reassure the Society’s membership that the interests of the Society were in the capable hands a man, in spite of the fact that a woman was running the shop.

Whatever the reason for history’s neglect of Lucy Allen, I hope that this blog post can begin to acknowledge her efforts to add to our knowledge of the past as a scholar and as a woman. She deserves no less.

Written by Brad Lepper

Edited & posted by Suzie

Check out Brad’s blog post about Lucy Allen here.


1898a Randall, E. O. “Annual Report of the Trustees.” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 7:284-5.

1898b “Work of the Curator.” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 7:292-3.

1914. Mills, William C. The Archaeological Atlas of Ohio. Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, Columbus.


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