Thursday, April 3, 2008

Women in Archaeology: Kathleen Mary Kenyon-Follow up

Prior post about Kenyon. Female excavator had many finds April 3, 2008 By Elizabeth Herring Reporter (Baylor University, The Lariat Online) The Hankamer Treasure Room in the Armstrong Browning Library, which is usually filled with writings and artifacts, held a large group of students and faculty Tuesday afternoon during Dr. Miriam Davis' lecture on Dame Kathleen Kenyon, one of the first female archaeologists in the Middle East. Davis, an associate professor of history at Delta State University in Mississippi, spoke on the life and work of Kenyon, whose work excavating in Jericho is "some of the most important in the 20th century," she said. Baylor is home to the Kenyon Collection, Kenyon's personal library. Janet Sheets, a reference librarian and associate professor of social sciences and humanities, said she hoped students "would learn about a scholar, like Kathleen Kenyon, and about Miriam Davis and the way (Davis) went about doing her scholarship (on Kenyon)." Beth Tice, an assistant director of the Baylor libraries, said she thinks it is important to show students the process of research. Tice said she hopes that Davis can show students how they can develop their research into different projects, like Davis did by writing the first biography on Kenyon, titled, Dame Kathleen Kenyon: Digging Up the Holy Land. "Why was Kathleen Kenyon worth a biography?" Davis said, to open her speech on Kenyon. "She became an archeologist quite by accident." Kenyon was the daughter of Sir Frederic Kenyon, the director of the British Museum. Many people thought that her upbringing made her predisposed to become an archeologist. Kenyon graduated with a third-class degree from Oxford, which is low. Davis said Kenyon spent more time playing lacrosse and tennis than she did studying. After graduating, Kenyon joined her first expedition to Great Zimbabwe, an ancient stone ruin in present-day Zimbabwe, with Gertrude Caton-Thompson, another important female archeologist. It was there that Kenyon "fell in love with field archeology and became interested in methodology," Davis said. On her second excavation, she worked with Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who developed a new method of digging that emphasized precision in order to gather more data about the artifacts that were discovered. Kenyon followed his method that she later developed into her own method at her digs in Jerusalem. She excavated in Jericho for seven field seasons. "The discoveries she made were breath-taking," Davis said. Among her discoveries were a series of seven human skulls that had been plastered and decorated with shells to look like humans. These were some of the oldest portraits ever found and made the front page of the New York Times upon their discovery. Archaeologists frequently argue about the historical existence of biblical characters. When in Jericho, Kenyon was asked to examine the work of previous archeologists in the area to determine if the biblical city of Jericho had existed. Kenyon determined that all the different walls of Jericho fell because of earthquakes in the area and that sections of the wall were built at different times. "Archaeology does not do a great deal here to illuminate archaeological biblical history," Davis said. "Some archaeologists now claim much of the Hebrew Bible is fiction." When in Jerusalem, Kenyon excavated at the site of the city of David. When digging, she found part of a wall that was from the middle bronze age when King David was said to have lived, Davis said. Kenyon had unknowingly discovered what present-day archaeologists think may be King David's palace. "Kathleen Kenyon's career continues," Davis said.

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