Book Review: Ladies of the Field

Ladies of the Field: Early Women Archaeologists and Their Search For Adventure, by Amanda Adams.

Recently I have needed something to remind me of why I love archaeology and why I do what do.  This book has done that for me and more.

Ladies of the Field, by Amanda Adams tells the story of seven of archaeology’s early women trail blazers. Women who broke down gender lines and stood out in what was then very much a man’s world. She examines how each of these amazing women got into archaeology and why they loved it so much.

The women in the book span about 70 years from the earliest days of archaeology in the 1870s with Amelia Edwards to Dorothy Garrod, working in the 1930s & 40s; but they are all wildly influential and inspiring. Their lust for adventure, travel and archaeology so often mimics my own. I see myself in their shoes, and I know that they, unlike so many people in my life, would actually understand me.

Adams suggests; “Perhaps a certain type of personality is attracted to archaeology – an adventurous one to be sure. A little headstrong. Passionate and willing to take risks.”

As an archaeologist myself, I know many women archaeologists and many of us fit this description, but I have also found that most of my lasting friendships have been with other archaeologists. – Even many of the friends I have met and worked with in the museums field are often archaeologists first. It just seems to be how things work.

In 1968 Dorothy Garrod was awarded the Grand Gold medal for her work in archaeology by the Society of Antiquaries of London – which up until that point had been an entirely male institution. During her acceptance speech she commented on the growing number of women in archaeology – She hinted that the flood gates were opening, it was just the beginning.

However, while reading Ladies in the Field it became very apparent that even though these women were some of the most important players in the development of archaeology as we know it today, I was largely learning about them for the first time.

Gertrude Bell set up the Baghdad Museum in Iraq (then Mesopotamia) and was single handedly responsible for drafting legislation that would keep Mesopotamian artefacts in the country – at a time when artefacts were whisked away to the West faster then the soil they came from could settle.

Dorothy Garrod worked tirelessly organizing data on prehistoric settlements throughout the old world, basically developing a chronology of the prehistoric world allowing for us to study the prehistoric world as a cohesive whole.

These feats are astounding! I have to wonder why I did not know these women’s names? Why have all the early archaeologists I have learned about in school been men? When these women clearly deserve to be counted in the ranks of Flinders Petrie and Leonard Woolley, etc..

It is some comfort that today archaeology programmes all over the world are dominated by women, so maybe Garrod was right – the flood gates have opened.  So let’s change the male domination of the history of archaeology and talk about these women with undergrads, write about them, as Amanda Adams has done, and allow them to take their rightful spots in history.

I will leave you with another quote from Ladies of the Field: 

“Archaeology has never been work for the faint of heart. It takes some daring. Its reward is the process (never the treasure alone): the experience of excavation and the little things you find along the way.”

Fun link for Monday: “Bath Is Illuminated As Part Of The 2012 Cultural Olympiad”

In 2007 I completed an internship at the Roman Baths (Bath, UK) as part of my MA programme. The Baths, and the city itself are amazing places, and I fell in love with both immediately. I hope some day soon I will get back there.

On Jan. 26th the Roman Baths were lit up by some alumni of Bath Spa University to celebrate the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The results add an ethereal effect to an already magical setting.

Click the image below to see more really cool photos of a really beautiful place.

Enjoy!

Illuminated Roman Baths

My offering to the Jerash Nymphaeum, Jordan

In 2004, while on field school in Jordan, we would spend most Saturdays traveling to many of the countries rich archaeological sites – in other words – It-Was-Awesome!

On one particular Saturday we drove north to the area around the 2nd century CE Roman city of Jerash. It’s amazingly preserved, complete with an hippodrome (racetrack) and a theatre, adjacent to the modern city (click here for more info on Jerash).

The morning of our trip to Jerash, in my half asleep stupor as I got ready for the bus, I put on my flip flops instead of running shoes. Now, flip flops are pretty much my default foot attire, but really not appropriate for climbing around archaeological ruins.

When I arrived at the Nymphaeum,  a fountain dedicated to the Nymphs, I stubbed my toe on part of the foundation. Leaving behind a nice blood offering to the city. I then spent the next half an hour asking around for a band-aid.

The moral of this story?

Always carry your own band-aids when visiting archaeological sites!

….What? Was I supposed to learn something else? 😛

Nymphaeum c.190 CE, Jerash, Jordan

Mithraeum site in London is on the move again

The infamous archaeological Mithraeum site in London, UK is on the move again. It was moved in the 1950s/60s to it’s current location and will now be returned.

The Roman Britain collection, which I have been working with, was donated to the Museum of Ontario Archaeology in 1950; was excavated from a Blitz crater near the this Mithraeum site.  It was originally found on Walbrook Street in 1954.

You can read more about the Roman Britain collection here.

Hopefully the archaeologists working on the project are able to recreate the site to more accurately represent the original temple. I hope to visit it one day!

Temple of Mithras today

Fun link for Monday: Hatay Archaeology Museum Online

This is the inaugural post of Fun link for Monday. There are no real rules or themes for these, although they will likely always be archaeological or museum related. So, for this first link I have chosen something that is both 🙂

The new online collection from the Hatay Archaeology Museum in Turkey. The museum, which is currently in development to open in 2013, has begun with this online collection. It is a really good example of an online photographic database. The collection features two main collections: the mosaic collection and other artifacts (mostly are from the Roman and Hittite eras).

The site features full 360′ viewing on many of the 3-dimensional artifacts and if you click through to the inventory listing you will find all the catalog information as well as a great magnification tool to see all the small details.

Enjoy!

Other Artifacts collection menu

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