Obituary: AILEEN FOX ; Founder of Modern Archaeology in South-Western England
Allan, John, The Independent (London, England)
Aileen Fox was almost the last surviving member of the generation of archaeologists that included the prehistorians Stuart Piggott and Christopher Hawkes, and the Roman scholar Ian Richmond. In her roles as excavator, teacher and field recorder she was the founder of modern archaeology in south-west England.
She was born Aileen Mary Henderson into comfortable middle-class circumstances. Her grandfather had been the first manager in Shanghai of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. Her childhood, spent in London and Surrey, is described in her autobiography Aileen: a pioneering archaeologist (2000), a carefully observed social history describing a world of nannies, the Serpentine, Barkers and dancing lessons. Later she said that her teenage observation of the idleness and triviality of the leisured Edwardian woman's life bred in her a determination to do something more challenging.
After Cambridge, where she read English at Newnham, she thought it would be interesting to go on an excavation, so sought advice from Jocelyn Toynbee, the scholar of Roman art, who arranged for her to take part in the excavations at the Roman site of Richborough in Kent. Her growing involvements in archaeology were followed in 1933 by her marriage to the highly regarded archaeologist Cyril Fox (25 years her senior), who later received a knighthood for his contribution to his discipline, most notably as Director of the National Museum of Wales.
In 1945 Lady Fox was invited to direct excavations in Exeter. Extensive areas of the walled city had been bomb damaged and had subsequently been razed to the ground; she appreciated that this calamity offered a unique opportunity for excavation. A decade earlier, Nash-Williams had commented that all that was needed to understand the archaeology of Roman Exeter was a few well-placed trenches. Aileen Fox aimed higher than that, examining parts of Roman buildings, streets and town defences.
Being of an independent mind, she did not excavate by laying out a grid of squares in the manner of Mortimer Wheeler and his followers but instead used a mix of trenches and open areas, presaging later practice, albeit on a more modest scale. Funds and labour were restricted; her excavators in the first season were six Italian prisoners of war who cooked their spaghetti in an abandoned air-raid shelter. The first seasons' work was published in Roman Exeter: excavations in the war-damaged areas 1945-1947 (1952); further excavations in the city followed into the mid-1960s.
Fox's engagement in Exeter took a different direction two years later, when she was offered a Special Lectureship at the University College of the South West. She soon became deeply involved in the archaeology of south-west England, carrying out excavations of prehistoric sites on Dartmoor and elsewhere, and visiting the large numbers of prehistoric sites for which the area is remarkable. After the college's elevation to university status in 1955, she remained, later as Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, laying the …
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Publication information: Article title: Obituary: AILEEN FOX ; Founder of Modern Archaeology in South-Western England. Contributors: Allan, John - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: December 16, 2005. Page number: 38. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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