Isobel Foster Smith


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(1912–2005) [Bi]

Prehistorian and expert on British Neolithic pottery. Brought up in rural Ontario, Smith took a degree in English and French at University College, University of Toronto, in 1935 before attending the Sorbonne and the University of Grenoble on a scholarship. After working as a shorthand typist in Canada during WW2 she moved to London, where she saw a press story about the Institute of Archaeology and promptly enrolled there for a part‐time diploma. She became a research assistant to Gordon Childe, who supervised her doctoral thesis on the decorated Neolithic pottery of southern Britain, possibly the most cited unpublished dissertation ever written on any aspect of British prehistory. Within weeks of completing her thesis in 1956, Smith was asked to prepare a publication on Alexander Keiller's excavations at Avebury and Windmill Hill, a task she discharged with insight and energy, culminating in Windmill Hill and Avebury (1965, Oxford: Clarendon Press), which soon became a model for archaeological report‐writers everywhere. In 1966 she joined the staff of the RCHME, where she worked on surveys of long barrows in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, and the Iron Age and Roman monuments of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds amongst other projects, until retiring in 1978. She was active in the affairs of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society and in the protection of the countryside around her home in Avebury. Always a quiet and reserved person, Smith worked tirelessly on reporting assemblages of Neolithic pottery, and always provided help and advice to younger archaeologists prepared to visit her in her small cottage beside Avebury's ancient churchyard.


The Guardian, 17 January 2006

Subjects: Archaeology.

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