Kathleen Kenyon

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Dame Kathleen Mary Kenyon (5 January 1906 – 24 August 1978), was a leading archaeologist of Neolithic culture in the Fertile Crescent. She is best known for her excavations in Jericho in 1952-1958.



Kathleen Kenyon was the eldest daughter of Sir Frederic Kenyon, a biblical scholar and later director of the British Museum. She studied at St Paul's Girls' School, read history at Somerville College, Oxford, England, and became the first female president of the Oxford University Archaeological Society. Her final academic post was at Oxford: in 1962, she was appointed Principal of St. Hugh's College, Oxford. On her retirement in 1973, she was appointed a DBE. She was unmarried.[1]

Archaeological career

Kathleen Kenyon's first field experience was as a photographer for the pioneering excavations at Great Zimbabwe in 1929, led by Gertrude Caton-Thompson. Returning to England, Kenyon joined the archaeological couple Mortimer and Tessa Wheeler on their excavation of the Romano-British settlement of Verulamium (St Albans), 20 miles north of London. Working there each summer between 1930 and 1935, Kenyon learned from Mortimer Wheeler the discipline of meticulously controlled and recorded stratigraphic excavation. Wheeler entrusted her with the direction of the excavation of the Roman theatre. In the years 1931 to 1934 Kenyon worked simultaneously at Samaria, then located in the British Mandated Territory of Palestine, with John and Grace Crowfoot. There she cut a stratigraphic trench across the summit of the mound and down the northern and southern slopes, exposing the Iron II to the Roman period stratigraphic sequence of the site. In addition to providing crucial dating material for the Iron Age stratigraphy of Palestine, she obtained key stratified data for the study of Eastern terra sigilata ware.

In 1934 Kenyon was closely associated with the Wheelers in the foundation of the Institute of Archaeology of University College London. From 1936 to 1939 she carried out important excavations at the Jewry Wall in the city of Leicester. During the Second World War, Kenyon served as Divisional Commander of the Red Cross in Hammersmith, London, and later as Acting Director and Secretary of the Institute of Archaeology of the University of London.

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