Kathleen Kenyon

(1906—1978) archaeologist

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(1906–78) [Bi]

British archaeologist who pioneered the application of stratigraphic excavation in the Near East. Born in London, she was the daughter of Sir Frederic Kenyon, who was Director of the British Museum. She was educated at St Paul's Girls' School and Somerville College, Oxford, where she read modern history and obtained a third-class degree in 1928. She took an active interest in the university's Archaeology Society and was the first woman to be elected President. After travelling to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) with an expedition organized by the British Association she joined the team of archaeologists working for Mortimer Wheeler at Verulamium. In 1931 she joined J. W. Crowfoot's expedition to Samaria, almost single-handedly introducing British excavation methods to the region. Having returned to work in Britain at Leicester and elsewhere in the late 1930s, she was drawn into Wheeler's plans for the Institute of Archaeology in London, of which she was Secretary between 1935 and 1948, and Acting Director 1942–6. Following WW2 she was appointed to a lectureship in Palestinian Archaeology at the Institute, but the political situation in the Near East prevented her immediate involvement in fieldwork. Instead she excavated at Sabratha, Libya, from 1948 until 1951. In 1951 she became Honorary Director of the British School in Jerusalem and in 1952 she began a programme of excavations at Jericho in the Jordan Valley, followed in 1961 by excavations in Jerusalem. In 1962 she left the Institute of Archaeology to become Principal of St Hugh's College, Oxford, where she remained until retirement in 1973. Although Kenyon was not always popular amongst her peers, her excavations and surveys fundamentally changed understandings of the prehistory of Palestine and the Near East. Her translation of the Wheeler box method of excavation to the Near East made such an impact that it is often referred to as the Wheeler–Kenyon method. In 1973 she was appointed DBE.

From The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Archaeology.

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