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Dorothy Garrod

Dorothy Garrod

British archaeologist and first female professor at the university of cambridge
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro British archaeologist and first female professor at the university of cambridge
Countries United Kingdom
Occupations Anthropologist Archaeologist Prehistorian
Gender female
Birth 5 May 1892 (London, Greater London, London, England)
Death 18 December 1968 (Cambridge, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire (county council area), Cambridgeshire)
Star sign Taurus
Father: Archibald Garrod
Education Newnham College
The details

Dorothy Annie Elizabeth Garrod, CBE, FBA (5 May 1892 – 18 December 1968) was an English archaeologist who specialised in the Palaeolithic period. She held the position of Disney Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge from 1938 to 1952, and was the first woman to hold an Oxbridge chair.

Early life and education

Garrod, the daughter of the physician Sir Archibald Garrod, was raised in Melton, Suffolk by a number of governesses. In 1913, she entered Newnham College, Cambridge where she was one of very few women students at the university. She graduated in 1916 with a degree in history, and undertook war work until she was demobilised in 1919. She then went to Malta, where her father was working, and began to take an interest in the local antiquities.


Garrod in 1928 standing with George and Edna Woodbury of the American School of Prehistoric Research

On returning to England, Garrod decided to read for a Diploma in Anthropology at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, where she enrolled in 1921. She was taught by Robert Ranulph Marett and received a distinction on graduating in 1922. She then studied for two years with the French prehistorian Abbé Breuil at the Institut de Paleontologie Humaine in Paris.

On completing her studies, Garrod began to excavate in Gibraltar. Following a recommendation from Breuil, she investigated Devil's Tower Cave, which was only 350 metres from Forbes' Quarry, where a Neanderthal skull had been found earlier. Garrod discovered in this cave in 1925 a second important Neanderthal skull now called Gibraltar 2.

In 1926, Garrod published her first academic work, The Upper Paleolithic of Britain, for which she was awarded a B. Sc. degree by the University of Oxford. In 1928 she headed an expedition through South Kurdistan that led to the excavation of Hazar Merd Cave and Zarzi cave.

In 1929, Garrod was appointed to direct excavations at Wadi el-Mughara at Mount Carmel in Palestine, as a joint project of the American School of Prehistoric Research and the British School of Anthropology in Jerusalem. The series of 12 extensive excavations was completed over 22 months. The results established a chronological framework that remains crucial to present understanding of that prehistoric period. Working closely with Dorothea Bate, she demonstrated a long sequence of Lower Palaeolithic, Middle Palaeolithic and Epipalaeolithic occupations in the caves of Tabun, El Wad, Es Skhul, Shuqba (Shuqbah) and Kebara Cave. She also coined the cultural label for the late Epipalaeolithic Natufian culture (from Wadi an-Natuf, the location of the Shuqba cave) following her excavations at Es Skhul and El Wad. Her excavations at the cave sites in the Levant were conducted with almost exclusively women workers recruited from local villages. One of these women, Yusra, is credited with the discovery of the Tabun 1 Neanderthal skull. Her excavations were also the first to use aerial photography.

In 1937, Garrod published The Stone Age of Mount Carmel, considered a ground-breaking work in the field. In 1938, she travelled to Bulgaria and excavated the Palaeolithic cave of Bacho Kiro.

Garrod at the International Symposium on Early Man, Philadelphia, March 1937

After holding a number of academic positions, including Newnham College's Director of Studies for Archaeology and Anthropology, she was made Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge on 6 May 1939, a post she held until 1952. Her appointment was greeted with excitement by women students and a "college feast" was held in her honour at Newnham, in which every dish was named after an archaeological item. In addition, the Cambridge Review reported "The election of a woman to the Disney Professorship of Archaeology is an immense step forward towards complete equality between men and women in the University." Gender equality at the University of Cambridge at the time was still remote: as a woman, Garrod could not be a full member of the University, excluding her from speaking or voting on University matters. Women would not become full members of the University for another nine years, in 1948.

From 1941 to 1945, Garrod took a leave of absence from the university and served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. She was based at the RAF Medmenham photographic interpretation unit as a section officer.

After the war, Garrod returned to her position and made a number of changes to the department, including the introduction of a module of study on world prehistory. Where previously prehistory had been considered particularly French or European, Garrod expanded the subject to a global scale. Garrod also made changes to the structure of archaeology studies, and as a result Cambridge became the first university in Britain to offer undergraduate courses in prehistoric archaeology. During the university summer vacations, Garrod travelled to France and excavated at two important sites: Fontéchevade cave, with Germaine Henri-Martin, and Angles-sur-l'Anglin, with Suzanne de St. Mathurin.

Later life

On her retirement in 1952, Garrod moved to France, but continued to research and excavate. In 1958, aged 66, she excavated on the Adlun headland in Lebanon, with the assistance of Diana Kirkbride. The following year she was asked to urgently excavate at Ras el-Kelb, as a significant cave had been disturbed by road and rail construction. Henri-Martin and de St. Mathurin assisted Garrod for seven weeks, with the remaining material being removed to the National Museum of Beirut for more detailed study. She returned to Adlun again in 1963, with a team of younger archaeologists, but her health began to fail and she was often absent from the sites.

In the summer of 1968, Garrod suffered a stroke while visiting relatives in Cambridge. She died in a nursing home there on 18 December, aged 76.

Awards and recognition

In 1937, Garrod was awarded Honorary Doctorates from the University of Pennsylvania and Boston College and a DSc. from the University of Oxford. She was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1952, and in 1965 she was awarded the CBE. She felt it was important that archaeologists travel and therefore left money to found the Dorothy Garrod Travel Fund. In 1968 the Society of Antiquaries of London presented her with its Gold Medal.

In 2017, Newnham College announced that a new college building will be named after Garrod. Professor Dame Carol Black, Principal of the college, commented: "We hope this building, named in her honour, will be a reminder of her pioneering work and an inspiration for future generations."

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