Margaret Ursula Owen was born in Birkenhead in 1916. She studied Geography at Liverpool University. She married Tom Jones in 1940. She worked as a postal censor during the war, and subsequently as a journalist. Her initial excavations were in Buckinghamshire and Yorkshire in 1956.

Margaret was appointed as the director of the excavation of the multi-period site at Mucking in Essex, UK following an exploratory excavation at a site. The site, on a terrace overlooking the river Thames, had been discovered by aerial photography and was about to be lost to gravel extraction. The subsequent excavation lasted 14 years from 1965 to 1978. Margaret was joined by her husband Tom who was responsible for many photographs of the site and finds.

Excavation continued during winter and summer and was undertaken by many thousands of volunteers from Britain and abroad. Margaret sometimes remarked that it was more like a holiday camp than an archaeological dig. Margaret often gave directions using terse memos signed by the initials ‘muj’.

The dig was criticised in some quarters as “excavation without publication”, but Margaret Jones defended the need to excavate everything ahead of the gravel extraction and refused to spend valuable time preparing results for publication.

Margaret Jones died in 2001. Her obituary in The Independent said ‘for a generation of respectable middle-aged archaeologists … to have dug with Margaret Jones at Mucking remains a badge of honour’ (quoted by John Webb, here: ).

Three volumes of excavation results have so far been published – The Site Atlas, The Anglo-Saxon Settlement and The Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries . A further volume covering the the Roman and pre-Roman periods is planned.

See her obituary by Mike Pitts in the Guardian here: ;  which gives a lovely impression of a possibly stern, but very accomplished #trowelblazer!

Written by John Matthews (@RJM1947)

Edited by @brennawalks​

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