Shattering Perceptions

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Introduction

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first women gaining the right to vote. This exhibition celebrates this momentous occasion by showcasing the amazing achievements women have made, and continue to make, in the field of archaeology.

Archaeology is an all-inclusive discipline that involves not just excavation, but a whole variety of different tasks. These include laboratory analysis, reconstructing past objects, conservation, illustration, and research. Anyone from any background can get involved in archaeology. In this exhibition the contributions of women in these different areas of the field will be explored.

Breaking the mould

Throughout the history of archaeology, the successes of women have often gone unnoticed or have been taken for granted. However, women have been making outstanding contributions to archaeology for over a century and were essential to the development of the field. Today women are conducting groundbreaking research, founding and running institutions, and continuing to ensure that the archaeology of the world is well recorded. This exhibition highlights different elements of archaeology and women who have worked within each field.

Why were women excavating in the Middle East?

In the 1800s and early 1900s, numerous British women chose to work at archaeological sites in the Middle East. While in Britain women were not expected to have a career, the British imperial presence in the Middle East gave them the opportunity to travel there and work freely.

Many of these women, including Kathleen Kenyon and Gertrude Bell, had something else in common that let them travel easily – they were born to wealthy, socially connected families. By using these connections and working in the Middle East, British women were able to exercise a freedom that was not readily accessible in Britain.

Even with some freedoms, women were still restricted to the dress code of heavy, ankle length skirts. Kathleen Kenyon secretly split her skirts to make it easier to work! Nobody could tell that they were sewn together in the middle.