Dorothy Garrod was the first-ever trowelblazer to be featured on this blog, so it’s only fitting we celebrate our 50th post by revisiting her groundbreaking career. This post is a taster of our chapter on research networks between women archaeologists and palaeontologists in the book A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention, being published this Tuesday (15th October) by the brilliant Finding Ada project, which has a mission very similar to our own. You can check out the book to learn more about this amazing network of women and discover the stories of a ton of other women scientists too, from biology to physics.
Dorothy Garrod was the first woman Oxbridge professor and conducted important excavations at many sites. But since starting TrowelBlazers, we have seen another side to her influence: the more we read, the more we have come to see her as a major hub of interconnections in the growing network of women archaeologists, paleontologists, and geologists we have been researching.
After training in France in the early 1920s and publishing her first book, The Upper Palaeolithic Age in Britain (1926), Garrod began excavations at Mount Carmel in 1929. Her excavations featured international teams of women, including Mary Kitson Clark and her cousin, Elizabeth Kitson. Mary later went on to become a Roman archaeologist, and we know that Elizabeth Kitson worked in East Africa with the Leakeys. Along with Mary Kitson Clark, Elinor Ewbank (later a chemist), Mount Holyoke College Dean Harriet M. Allyn and medical doctor Martha Hackett participated in the first field season.
We’ve also written about Yusra, discoverer of the famous Tabun 1 skull during those same excavations, and also one of the few local Palestinian women who worked with Garrod (and there were many) for whom we have a name on record. A young Jacquetta Hopkins, later Hawkes, gained her first excavation experience with Garrod at Mount Carmel and became an influential archaeologist herself, with particular expertise in Minoan archaeology. Other women who dug with Garrod at Mount Carmel and her later excavations in Lebanon and France who went on to become notable archaeologists include Joan Crowfoot Payne, Diana Kirkbride, and Lorraine Copeland.
Garrod had maintained a friendship with Gertrude Caton Thompson, excavator of Great Zimbabwe, even before working with her in France during the late 1950s. Garrod also collaborated with the palaeontologistDorothea Bate and geologist Elinor Wight Gardner, integrating faunal and geological data into her site interpretations well before this became standard practice in archaeology.
In 1968, she was awarded the Gold Medal by the Society of Antiquaries in London, marking another milestone as the first woman to receive that honor. She reportedly did not see herself as a crusader for women in archaeology, but whether through personal contact or indirect inspiration, her achievements had a huge influence on a generation of women archaeologists-and she is still inspiring us today.
Written by Suzie (@suzie_birch), edited by Becky (@LeMoustier)