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Women in Archaeology: IWW 2014

Women in Archaeology: IWW 2014

Merchant Adventurer’s Hall, York 15 March 2014

Today, I attended this conference in York to celebrate past female archaeologists, and to consider the present, and the future of women in the sector.

The day began with words by The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor of York, Julie Gunnell who opened the event and gave out two awards to York College A Level students


Deputy V-C of York University, Dr Jane Grenville discussed how her passion for ‘dirt archaeology’ morphed into a Vice Chancellorship (for a term). “I was never going to be in Academia, never work in a university, never do buildings archaeology….and yet, that’s how it turned out.” Grenville notes that when you’re the boss, “people listen”. Considering gender and archaeology, she noted that pre-history and social anthropology are really the study of domestic space, and that ibn the past, people’s work lives and domestic lives were more intertwined. To an extent, early archaeological field work also combined family and work, with children often at dig sites. Other folks who ‘washed up’ into the sector were the socially excluded: those with few friends, those alienated from society at large. Grenville then noted that work takes up the largest proportion of our days, and she wondered how we can return to a more balanced life of 8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep and 8 hours for ‘everything else’.

Grenville noted that university lecturing posts suffer from a gender imbalance. When she came to York, 6 were male, 2 were female; the men had children but the women either had only one, or were childless. Now, the ratio in the Dept is 13 men to 10 women; but the higher posts are filled by men. [note: this point was made last week in Swansea at a Gender and Diversity in the Workplace conference, by the older, female V-C of Bath Spa University. This point was also made by almost every commenter, and by all the presenter today].

Dr Rosemary Cramp discussed the archaeology pioneers; the changes in the field in the 1970s – 1980s; and the present. Cramp noted that all the pioneers shared several traits:
1. they came from academic or educated backgrounds
2. they came from privilege, wealth or were a socialite
3. they recognised that excavation far from the constraints of the UK brought freedom
4. they were single, or childless, or worked in the shadow of their husband; or were wealthy enough to afford a nanny.

Archaeology was a tale told by (mostly male) historians with a bias toward Cambridge. Cramp then listed pioneers: Ella Armitage (1841-1931) whose life was a juggling act of marriage, kids, and who worked all over the UK (Devon, Yorkshire, Cambridge). Armitage was self-educated, instructing herself and her siblings; she spoke 3 languages and could read another 5. As the wife of a clergyman she also wrote his sermons and some hymns. Her seminal work was the discovery that motte and bailey castles were Norman. Her findings were read out FOR HER by her male cousin since women weren’t allowed in the Scottish Society for Antiquarians. She is quoted as saying she had been “intended by nature for archaeology, but led to a life of hymns.”

Kathleen Kenyon was tied to the British Museum, as the daughter of a BM director. She viewed medieval archaeology as useless, and participated in digs abroad, trained in field methods by Mortimer Wheeler; and in theory by Gordon Childe. Kenyon was single and declared archaeology should ‘speak for itself’ and not be ‘based on the bible’. She recognised training was needed and helped found the Institute for Archaeology in London in 1934, and was its director in 1935. Kenyon was involved in post-WWII clear-up of London; set up the CBA; excavated at Jericho and was involved in the British School in Jerusalem. She ended up doing too much and left work unfinished.

in the 1950s-1970s, there were less females in the academic field of archaeology, but were spread so thinly in museum and professional posts so as to be invisible. It could take 20 yrs to move up from lower posts to professor; and yet still no female ministerial positions. Females were limited to one per off-site locale since too many males and females couldn’t be out in remote locales. So, women excelled in local archaeology and published in regional journals; or engaged in rescue archaeology (such as Margaret Jones).

There is now a dip in upper levels: 12 males to 1 female professors can be common; some universities have NO female professors. Females are rare in top tier positions. YAT has 2 top managers: both male. There is a drop-off of females after age 30 to 40 in any positions including of course the higher posts.

Childcare constrains career?

The next speakers were not present so a general discussion developed about a need for higher paying work: low level workers cannot afford daycare. Top jobs need to have more flexibility. in the 1970s it was ‘expected’ women would leave the workplace for family. Other options included self-employment to gain flexibility.

Another attendee also was at the Swansea conference and commented that a Swansea speaker pointed out that top-tier work cannot be taken on with children; and that the worker had to be mobile and ready to travel. Another attendee agreed and said she worked in Italy with her husband in the UK.

Alan Gillott makes the excellent point that the post-age 35 drop off can be perhaps linked to divorce: the lower paying Lecturer’s posts cannot support childcare, household.

Elisa Cella: Italian Archaeology: from Noble Palaces to Construction Sites.

Cella discussed early female archaeologists: Isabella d’Este (1474-1539) (!!). Wealthy.

Queen Christine of Sweden

Marianna Dionigio (1756-1826) ancient Rome. Travelled alone; painted sites; described ruins. [note: many early archaeologists were illustrators for male workers].

Widow, Maria di Sardegna in 1843, was the iorst to investigate Estrucian cemetery.

Ersilia Lovatelli (1840-1925): broke rules – learned Greek. Published in 1878. Established school in 1909. Like most of these early Italian archaeologists, she
1. travelled abroad
2. wealthy
3. supported or encouraged by father/husband.
Most of these pioneers were ‘handed’ from father to director of an Institute or museum who ‘thanked the father for the gift’.

Paola Zanceni-Montuoro: widow – not working ‘in the shade of her husband’. Competed with Marianna Guarducci for academic chairs and other top posts.

In common, these pioneers were stubborn, talented, driven. Jole Boun [sp?] Marconi (1897-1986) in WWII moved important collections and saved them from bombing. Campaigned for women’s voting rights, defended women’s rights to birth control. Up until 1975, killing one’s wife in an ‘honour murder’ was still legal, so moving forward for women in any profession was hard work. Now, archaeologists are no longer a wealthy wife or encouraged daughter, but are university graduates and professionals. Most archaeologists in Italy are female.
Of these female archaeologists, 57% are single, 81% are not mothers and 18% have only one child. 44% have postgrad degree, but only 25% achieve a high position in work. Most are freelance workers and thus have NO access to social assistance (maternity leave etc), and only 44% have f/time work. Of these 44%, 19% work as support staff in the office, and 19% work on excavation sites. Of these 19%, 94% work on commercial construction sites: most (81%) not satisfied with work, pay, opportunity. They have low-paying positions; few have family.

Dr Elena Prokopiou: changing role of female archaeologists in Cyprus.

Dr Prokopiou compared labour figures between 2007 and 2012. Female to male worker ratios have stayed similar but the actual numbers have increased: 2007: 32F, 15M; 2012: 65F, 30M. Number of women working has changed slightly: 44% in 2007, 47% 2012. The ages of workers now skews younger: in 2007, 10 were 30-39 and 12 were age 40-49; in 2012, 28 were 30-39, and 8 were 40-49. female workers age 20-29 stayed the same (24 in 2007, 25 in 2012). So, the younger ones in 2007 moved up and encouraged others to start this work.

Women in academic positions: 1 (!!) at a time from 1951 to 1983, compared to average of 6 men; between 1986 to 2000, numbers roughly equal; by 2002 women outnumbered men (example: 18 F to 7 M in 2012). In 2007 only one female director of major archaeological institute, but by 2012 there were 3.

Dr Elizabeth Twohig: 200 years of Irish Archaeology

Aristocrats, money, privilege, and associated with men who had an interest in archaeology: dads asked daughters to draw their sites.

1. Countess of Moira (1731-1808). In 1785 her husband was founding member of Royal Irish academy (RIA) but possibly based on HER interest: one paper on a bog body and its textiles, described as a “work of much genius”. Honorary member RIA.
2. Louisa Beaufort : 1828: Newgrange review of what was known.
3. Margaret Stokes (1832-1900): 1876, drew for her father’s investigations, and for Petrie who taught her to draw. Sorted out Petrie’s papers and for others. Monograph of megalithic tombs written with another woman.
4. Miss (Letitia?) Bushe, drawing in 1743 Templebryan Cork Co. May eb work of Ann la Bushe, who drew in very similar style and created her illustrations at home from her father’s notes.
5. Rose Carruthers drew finds for father (1821-1914)
6. Edith Sommerville (1858-1949): her brother worked on Stonehenge; with brother and cousin excavated stone circle on family property. They were 12; she was 17 or 18. Box of charcoal with site tag labelled from this stone circle and her name, dated 1874. Her tombstone is a stone slab
All of these women were self-taught or had a governess.

Joanna Holland earned first MA in Ireland in 1912, Uni Cork; married the 2nd recipient of an MA, (Brunicardi). Francoise Henry (1902-1982) joined RIA in 1949 as one of four women finally permitted to join. Directed Inishea excavation in 1939. Jacquetta Hawkes directed Harristown Passage Tomb, Co. Waterford in summer 1939.

Helen Roe(1895-1988) inheritance form two aunts permitted her to work (“just one wouldn’t have been enough”). Started in Art History: she was 3rd RIA member. Assisted in excavations for RIA president: in her monograph she wrote that he “dropped by from time to time”.

Nell Pendergast (1918-1999) had the first PAID archaeological post at National Museum of Ireland. Rescue digs in 1945, published 1946, with Helen Roe.

Dr Kerri Cleary: in future, no female archaeologists: just archaeologists.

Title of talk adapted from a TED talk (“In future no more female business leaders, just business leaders”). In 2002, first official survey of archaeologist in Ireland. 650, Average age 37 yrs, 51% M, 49% F. Due to ‘Celtic Tiger’ business boom, there was a 750% increase in excavation licenses 1990-1999. By 2006, 1709 archaeologists, 55% M, 45% F, 89% working in commercial sector (whereas in museums, 58% F, 42% M). Ages skewed younger and 2/3 were on short term fixed contracts.

By 2007, licenses plunged, from a high of 2100 in 2006 to around 900 by 2009. There are 4 main firms: 2 run by women and 2 co-run by a woman and a man. Though 60% are now M and 40% F, proportionally they do the same work: out of 12,000 projects by men and 8,000 by women, each sex did an average of 43 investigations.

However twice as many males are site directors, and 3 times as many females are ‘specialists’.
Increase of women in academia. No female are Dept Chairs or professors; most lecturers, some senior lecturers, and the rest support staff. As F gain board positions, this may change.

In Austria, males dominate, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, M dominate, in Poland, the same. Most students are now female, but after PhD, post-docs are male. Women leave in their 30s and 40s. Males dominate civil service too. Females tend to be self-employed sole traders, of which 54% are female.
Once more women are in leadership positions, there will be more females in higher posts.

Lord Mayor commented after morning session: wants to see promotion of all women in York, but chose ‘archaeology’ to represent female workers since York is ‘drenched’ in history because “women do well here in York” (HAH). However, the Lord Mayor reminded us there is no gender equality on a global scale, as 80% of the most poverty-stricken people are women; or even in UK government: Cameron had one woman in his discussion on flooding in Sussex.

Baroness Harris was ill, but Lord Rupert Redesdale spoke in her place. Lord Rupert wasn’t very clear: archaeology needs to advocate more; archaeologists need to stop undercutting each other; but Councils have no money, so Community Archaeology is just great. And women (and men) need to learn about how to run a business, not just excavate, because then they can’t bid for jobs, run a team, win contracts, balance the books. He had no answers. Said we need to “look at the problems” to see how to change the situations. Then he said “The ones who can change this are in this room.”

In response, Dr Cramp stated “An educated public understand history! we’ll train ourselves in business!” Steve provocatively asked “Women at the top? Look at Thatcher, she wasn’t so great for women or anyone. [false dichotomy] I don’t accept that the money is gone for ever: YAT was told it would lose its director and YAT fought back successfully”.

Dr Jenny Miller: Forensic Archaeology

Miller has brought 600 cases to the High Court. Described FA as ‘Time Team meets The Sweeney’, with archaeologists viewed sceptically: long-haired hippies. Cops collected the bits they could see; only one female allowed per shift 20 yrs ago. FA must explain what can be found using archaeological techniques. [YES, we did this in 2001 with cops in Connecticut. They never believe us.] FA need to refute misconceptions and build awareness. Perceptions of archaeologists as Old White Men remain: very few female in FA in UK (3).

There is a short 48 hr window from when a body is found to when solving the case will be almost too difficult. FA not for everyone: you don’t leave at 5 pm, you may be there for most of those 48 hrs. Job is messy, stinky, not for the squeamish. SOCO sees the grid set-up and mistakenly think they don’t need the FA, until a case falls apart.

Need ‘Best Practice’ standards, to set up guidelines, police procedures, professional archaeological standards. FASIG, Forensic Arch Special Interest Group= application, training in order to properly link forensics to criminal procedures. Skills crossover: entymology, archaeobotany, time lapse body recovery, which was used to demo the effort to bury and conceal body, and the care on retrieval. 75% forensic Bio students female, no jobs, pay devalued: but it’s a small discipline. Requires competency, not for squeamish = natural selection to find work in crowded field.

Showed several case studies on how archaeological and other skills aided in proving case: recovery over a 4 yr period and a 4 mi radius and yet FA techniques demonstrated all parts deposited at same time; study root growth to support another body in place for +14 yrs; graphics of scene important to show court what happened, when, and how; time lapse of a 17 hr excavation, one image taken every 10 mins created a 15 min film that the jury can understand.

Drs Croucher and Cobb: encouraging diversity

Avoiding the Ruth Tringham approach of ‘Add women and stir’: not just women but advocating for equality and diversity more broadly. [Hahahahahaha. Not in York]. Pedagogy (teaching and learning) is their focus. By 2013, F enrolment up, M enrolment down, seems to be heading to parity except most older F (age 40+) gone, and very few in senior positions.

Disabled [or, impaired as I prefer.]. from 2002 to 2013, gone from 0.8% to 1.8% but 98.2% are still not impaired. 99% are still white and male. Cobb’s Digging Diversity Project looked at dichotomies: white/other, straight/gay, abled/disabled, men/women, student/teacher, and academic/professional. Archaeology is based on interpretation. Thus feminist theory is helpful to promote reasonable narratives. Often, the PI is the sole narrative voice. Tim Ingold’s ‘mesh works’ examines how to interweave multiple voices. Assemblages affect other assemblages (temporal/spatial), eg, pottery = hands now making lunch; excess clay now thrown out to wash away in rain; tools put away; all gone leaving only pot. Traditional field school = students as small contributors, and one single voice for interpretation. Feminist and multi—voice / post-processual views participants as an ‘assemblage’ of student, teacher, expert, not just ‘multi-vocal’ but as multiply originated.

If student body is diverse (gay, disabled, non-white) but Uni is NOT, then the Old White Man method and views are still perpetuated and some students also dissuaded. OWM are on panels of funding bodies. Students are viewed as ‘passive recipients’ and due to lack of diverse role models may not proceed in an Arch career. Diverse archaeologists = diverse views and interpretations of the past.

Dr Jacqui Mulville and Jane Henderson

More recounting of familiar stats: more F in school and yet less F in top jobs. Show various survey results where most women agree that they find moving forward difficult and most men don’t see a problem.

Example: are ambitious women treasted differently? Only 4 men bothered to answer this at all; 3 said ‘no’. Ergo 88% women said yes. Women face a Glass Cliff: many failing businesses are handed to women who then helm them as they tank: as the women are also unaided.

Asked: No more gender bias in workplace? 5% Female disagree 50% males agree: bias is a thing of the past.

Need to examine perceptions and problems in the workplace. Language expectation Theory:
Low expectations and do well, viewed positively; high expectations and perform average, viewed negatively. Men have a wide band of acceptable behaviours; women have a much narrower band of normative, accepted behaviours. It is up to the women to modify her actions and behaviours and be conservative; not aggressive, not intense, not promoting negative arguments (If we do this, that bad thing will occur). Research indicates one’s influence is shaped most heavily by the recipient. To motivate change, one needs to deternine what does matter to the receiver.

Options for women in workplace:

Succeed by being positive, avoid cursing, be conservative in dress and manner




stay and campaign for change [my strategy]

Q&A at end

Wide range of discussions at end. In general archaeologists are paid the lowest of commercial sectors. One example given: Hydrologist £500, engineer £400, environmental worker £300, arch £200. Archaeologists viewed as highly paid professionals (one audience member says she was called a ‘posh bitch’ by a machine operator probably making £30/hr), or as ‘hobbyists’.

Offshoot is we need BINDING minimum standards for the practice as well as Statutory local rules guiding archaeological monitoring of commercial sites. Need public on board to ‘fight our case’. Lord Redesdale blames problems on academia, and archaeo firms ‘undercutting’ and ‘under bidding’ each other and thus lowering pay for work: he says professionals are fighting over small margins. Also says local councils will be forced to choose between “Meals on wheels and museums”. [this ignores non-doms, mega-corporations and other tax dodgers; and banksters of course.]

Finally, Lord Rupert says he is working with CBA, IFA, EH etc: local authorities are opting OUT of archaeology in the planning process, leaving it up to developers. Fundamental level of investigation must be met he wants to see mandatory responsibility, Arch has never been viewed as “important enough” to have its own Bill; it’s always tagged on to something else. Need to set standards for 1. recording a site, 2. storing artefacts, 3. disseminating knowledge, 4. adding diversity to arch workplace. Archaeologists need to learn how to “pitch their findings”.

A few other comments and Lord Rupert reiterates that Planning Bills must be statutory, county archaeologists retained, investigations must be funded. Local authorities are in charge of writing in properly stringent conditions: at times, developers do not understand requirements, it is up to local council to be clear. York does this well but other councils may not do so.

Jane Grenville warns that “political support can evaporate; look at the Environmental Agency for an example”. We need to persuade the public tht an arch degree is still vakluable: provides transferable skills. Universities are no longer govt funded, but are customer funded private enterprises.


BAJR Note:  a massive thanks to Rose Drew for getting this all down…  for us all to enjoy and think about.

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