Dorothy Garrod in Words and Pictures

By Smith, Pamela Jane; Callander, Jane et al. | Antiquity, June 1997 | Go to article overview

Dorothy Garrod in Words and Pictures

Smith, Pamela Jane, Callander, Jane, Bahn, Paul G., Pincon, Genevieve, Antiquity

During the last year an archive has come to light which is of inestimable value to prehistorians: the unpublished papers of the late Disney Professor of Archaeology in the University of Cambridge, Dorothy A.E. Garrod, are intact and available for study in the library of the Musee des Antiquites Nationales, St Germain-en-Laye, France.

The initiative which led to this discovery was taken by one of us (PJS) in the course of research for her Ph.D thesis on the development of prehistory as an academic subject at Cambridge. Dorothy Garrod was appointed to the Disney Chair in 1939, the first prehistorian, and the first woman, to be elected to a professorship at Cambridge. At that time she was Director of Studies in Archaeology & Anthropology at Newnham College, and had directed the excavation of Palaeolithic and Epipalaeolithic sites in Gibraltar, Western Judaea, Southern Kurdistan, Mount Carmel in Palestine (for which she is most renowned) and Bulgaria. After retirement she continued excavating in Lebanon and in France. Here she had discovered, with her close friend and companion the French pre-historian Suzanne Cassou de Saint Mathurin, the Magdalenian rockshelter Angles-sur-l'Anglin with its superb sculptured frieze. Dorothy Garrod died in 1968, bequeathing her library to Newnham College. It seemed that her papers had not survived: a widely believed myth arose that they had been destroyed, perhaps burnt possibly even by Professor Garrod herself.

In the course of interviewing Professor Garrod's staff and former students PJS began to question this myth. PGB, a friend of Suzanne de St Mathurin in her later years, offered to talk to her acquaintances in France. One of these, Mme Genevieve Pincon, remembered that there was Garrod material among St Mathurin's bequest on her death in 1991 to the Museum at St Germain, which already held and has on display fragments of the sculptures from Angles sur l'Anglin. Neither the staff at the Museum nor the archaeological public was then aware that an archive existed within an archive.

As St Mathurin's legacy was curated, the treasure from a third life was revealed. Germaine Henri-Martin, excavator - with her father of the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic site of La Quina in Charente, had completed the trio of prehistorians christened in France with affectionate respect 'Les Trois Graces'. These three friends successively left each other the carefully accumulated remains of their memories and of their moments of complicity through their worldly goods, the documents and objects from the shared passion of their lives, archaeology.

PJS and JC (who is working with Professor Ofer Bar-Yosef of Harvard University on a study of Dorothy Garrod as a pioneer of Palaeolithic archaeology in Palestine in the inter-war years) have now had the opportunity of spending a total of six (PJS) and three (JC) days at the Musee des Antiquites Nationales. In this time approximately two-thirds of the Garrod archive were examined. It is an overwhelming experience. Any visitor wishing to study particular aspects of her work in depth should be prepared to spend as long, or longer. An inventory has been made of the huge collection and a typed provisional catalogue is available: it is thanks to this work by Anne Bertrand, prehistorian, that the archive is now accessible.

There are 15 boxes of Garrod's documents, stored alongside similar boxes containing the St Mathurin and Henri-Martin archives. This touching awareness at the Museum that the Three Graces should thus remain together has a practical aspect also: the librarians believe that as the entire collection is curated, more Garrod papers will be found among those of her two friends. There are three separate photograph albums, and loose packets of photographs are also contained in some of the Garrod boxes. These record her excavations, her excavation colleagues and workers, her friends, her travels, and her cat, and date from the early 1920s until shortly before her death.

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