Cecily Margaret Guido (née Preston; 5 August 1912 – 8 September 1994), known as Peggy Piggott during her first marriage, was a well-known archaeologist, prehistorian, and finds specialist. Her career in British Archaeology spanned sixty years. She is recognised for her field methods; her field-leading research into prehistoric settlement (hillforts and roundhouses), burial traditions, and artefact studies (particularly Iron Age to Anglo-Saxon glass beads); as well as her high-quality, rapid publication, contributing more than 50 articles and books to her field between the 1930s-1990s.
Guido was born Cecily Margaret Preston on 5 August 1912 in Beckenham, Kent, England. Peggy was the eldest of two children to Elsie Marie Fidgeon - whose father was of independent means - and Arthur Gurney Preston, a Cambridge-educated engineer, and wealthy ironmaster, who is also recorded as of independent means at the time of her birth. Peggy's family home was a twenty-room mansion, Wood Lodge in West Wickham. During her childhood, her mother remarried, and during the summer of her eighth birthday her father drowned in Cornwall, after which she was brought up by her aunt.
As a child, Peggy had an interest in Roman coins. As a young woman she met and began excavating with Mortimer Wheeler and Tessa Verney Wheeler, spending her 21st birthday digging the Roman town of Verulamium (in 1933). Peggy was particularly fond of Tessa, and spoke of her with great affection, dedicating her glass beads monograph to her memory. Peggy gained her first degree (then a diploma for women) from the University of Cambridge (in 1934). From 1935 to 1936, she studied archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology in London, where she was awarded a postgraduate diploma in Western European Prehistory. It was here that she met first husband, Stuart Piggott, whom she married on 12 November 1936.
Early Iron Age
Piggott began her archaeological career by working on the Early Iron Age – a period that largely still eludes us today. She began by writing up the rescue excavation of an Early Iron Age site at Southcote (Berkshire), which appeared in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society (in 1937); publishing the pottery from Iron Age Theale the following year. In 1938-39, she worked on The Prehistoric Society's first research excavation at the Early Iron Age type-site of Little Woodbury (Wiltshire) She worked here with Gerhard Bersu, who ultimately seems to have been as great an influence on Peggy as the Wheelers. In 1939, she published a further Early Iron Age site at Langton Matravers (Dorset), greatly enhancing knowledge of a period that by then had only just begun to be elucidated.
Peggy was a skilled excavator at a time when British archaeology was establishing itself as a modern discipline; she involved in the high-profile excavation of the Anglo-Saxon boat burial at Sutton Hoo (in 1939), along with Charles Phillips. Contemporary accounts suggest that it was Peggy who first struck gold; her involvement in the television programme helping with public communication of the site. Peggy takes a prominent role in a novel on the subject: ‘The Dig’ written by her nephew, John Preston. However, Peggy's own excavations mostly focused on the Bronze Age. The first excavation she directed (in 1937), at the age of 25, was of the Middle Bronze Age barrow and urnfield cemetery at Latch Farm (Hampshire); its publication the following year also added significantly to the gazetteer of cremation urns known for the period.
During World War II, whilst still in her 20s, she directed numerous rescue excavations for the Ancient Monuments Department of the Ministry of Works, on sites commandeered for defence purposes. During the 1940s, that Peggy was at the height of her productivity, producing an average of two publications each year – often for the national journal Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, as well as for notable regional societies. At this time, she published on several important Bronze Age monument types: including Bronze Age enclosures (Wiltshire) and the well-known hilltop enclosure site of Ram's Hill (Berkshire); on stone circles (Dorset); and on the excavation of eighteen barrows (Hampshire and Wiltshire), as well as others on Crichel and Launceston Downs (Dorset).
On the strength of her contribution to British Prehistory, Piggott became an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1944, at the age of 32. Towards the end of the war period, Peggy turned her attention to understanding prehistoric linear earthwork sites (Hampshire) as well as producing a detailed study of the Grim's Ditch earthwork complex (Wiltshire). In the later 1940s, Piggott began to focus on the Late Bronze Age period and also started producing specialist artefact reports, in particular on Late Bronze Age metalwork, notably: a comprehensive study of British razors; another on a Late Bronze Age metalwork hoard from Blackrock (Sussex); and individual artefact studies too; as well as a report on a Late Bronze Age burial at Orrock (Fife). It is at this point too, that she began to develop her specialist interest in glass beads.
Whilst her husband was serving abroad during World War II, Peggy developed a friendship with Austin Lane Poole who allowed her husband to study for a degree at the University of Oxford on his return from war. This was vital to her husband's future career and meant he satisfied requirements for the Abercromby Chair in Archaeology at Edinburgh University. He took up the Chair in 1947. As a woman of independent means, Peggy was able to support her husband financially in his part-time post, whilst continuing her own research. Having taken a flat in Gloucester Place, Edinburgh and with each keen to focus their efforts on the Prehistory of Scotland, the Office of Works subsequently invited the Piggotts to begin excavating archaeological sites, and the two agreed to split prehistory between them: she focusing on the later period.
Peggy was soon awarded funding by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to test the model of Iron Age settlement development in southern Scotland, this was in response to a Council for British Archaeology policy statement regarding the misleading nature of settlement classification from surface remains; an provided an early attempt to move settlement archaeology beyond typological study. In her upland excavations of Hownam Rings (in 1948), Hayhope Knowe (in 1949), and Bonchester Hill (in 1950) – each site published in the same year it was excavated – she tested and refined the CBA model, providing a relative chronological framework for later prehistoric settlement in southern Scotland. In the days before the application of radiocarbon dating to archaeological material, this was a huge leap forward for prehistoric studies.
It is this period of Peggy's career, between the late 1940s and early 1950s, that marks her out as one of our most important British prehistorians. In this period, she excavated no less than six hillforts; and it is her work in the field of hillfort studies which is considered some of her most influential. Hownam Rings (1948), in particular, became the type-site for hillfort development, known as the Hownam Paradigm, remaining valid to this day. At Hownam, she discussed archaeological survival, recognising for the first time the problems of erosion on slopes and the vestigial nature of timber features.
Peggy's excavation method was tactical and efficient, digging a site per year; with strategy chosen for site objectives. Her most influential site in this respect was that of Hayhope Knowe (1949), where she opened 520 sq. m in targeted open-area trenches, to investigate three houses and the enclosure sequence. Following the pioneering excavations of Thomas Wake and Kilbridge-Jones in late 1930s Northumberland, and of Bersu in the 1940s (Isle of Man and Scotarvit Covert) this was one of the first times such an approach had been used for the northern Iron Age. Peggy's method had taken the best of both the Wheeler and Bersu schools of excavation, scaled down for rapid assessment.
Beyond elucidating relative settlement chronologies, Peggy's reconstruction drawing of the Hayhope roundhouse was to become the modern standard. Although Little Woodbury had been successful in exposing an Early Iron Age roundhouse, the report had been remarkably inconclusive with respect to its reconstruction: Peggy simplified this, in line with the earlier Northumbrian work of Wake and Kilbride-Jones; which went on to influence Brewster at Staple Howe. The Hayhope-Hownam excavations also suggested the potential for a typology of prehistoric houses – as later undertaken by Richard Feachem and the inimitable George Jobey – both greatly influenced by Peggy's work.
Parallels between Peggy's work and that of Gerhard Bersu suggest that the two developed some form of intellectual exchange, following her involvement at Little Woodbury in the late 1930s. Peggy's Milton Loch excavations seem a response to Bersu's work on the Isle of Man – his interpretation of these sites remaining problematic; and it was instead Peggy who established the similarities and differences between dryland and wetland architectures. It was Peggy too who successfully elucidated the reconstruction of the prehistoric roundhouse (compare for example Green Craig and Hayhope). Between Peggy and Bersu, it was Peggy's interpretative skills that definitely had the edge.
By 1948, Peggy began to integrate her work with popular theory, considering archaeological change as 'fashion', or via the migration of elites – a clear development of Christopher Hawkes’ historical migrations or Vere Gordon Childe's diffusionism, and a bridge between these and Frank Hodson, who rejected invasionism in 1964. By the early 1950s Peggy was already working towards what we now consider an understanding of everyday life in prehistory: locating the position of finds on plans, and considering ritual deposits. It is in the work of Piggott that we really see the advent of modern settlement studies – through her excavation strategy, and her work on hillforts and roundhouses.
In the early 1950s, having already excavated five hillfort sites, Peggy worked with her husband on her sixth: the site of Braidwood Fort (1951–55). Peggy and Stuart's long-term intellectual exchange, and their partnership in excavation, had certainly been of benefit to Stuart. In the introduction to his Neolithic Cultures (1954), he thanks her both for her penetrating critique, and for her line drawings. Between 1951-53, alongside her Scottish fieldwork, she had also published on a series of English sites: including the hilltop site of Carl Wark (near Sheffield); excavations at Dorchester (Dorset) with R.J.C. Atkinson; and her wartime excavation of an Iron Age barrow burial (Hampshire). It was at this point, that she then turned her attention to wetland archaeology, and arguably her most technically skilled excavation: the crannog site of Milton Loch (Dumfries and Galloway), with its well-preserved timber roundhouse (published in 1953).
Piggott produced one of her final field reports for British prehistory in 1954: a note on ceramics from a dun (on Tiree); in the year that her relationship with Stuart ended. She worked with him on the site of Braidwood Fort until 1955, twenty-year marriage was annulled, in 1956, on grounds of non-consummation. These events took their toll on her British career. Moving to Sicily, Peggy briefly reverted to her maiden name of Preston, using it in the translation that she and her second husband Luigi Guido made of Bernabo Brea's Sicily before the Greeks (1957). In the 1960s and early 1970s, she produced four guidebooks on Italian archaeology: on Sardinia (1963), Syracuse (1965), Sicily (1967), and on southern Italy as a whole (1972); as well as reviews of notable Italian archaeological works in the pages of the British journal Antiquity.
In the 1970s, Peggy settled down to researching glass beads, and travelled around Britain to see excavated examples and those in museums. In 1978, she published her first volume on ancient British glass beads, an accomplished work covering both prehistoric and Roman periods (dedicated to Tessa Verney Wheeler); after which she began her Anglo-Saxon volume. She co-founded the Bead Study Trust (in 1981), and the Peggy Guido Fund for research on beads. From the 1970s onwards she produced dozens of specialist reports on beads (for sites including Lankhills Winchester, Colchester, Wilsford, Cadbury Congresbury, Conderton Camp, Castle Copse – with many more not yet in print); her bead research saw her driving a camper-van across Europe during the 1980s. Her volume on Anglo-Saxon beads was published posthumously (by Martin Welch) in 1999. Both volumes remain the primary reference works on the topic.
In c. 1977, she moved from Brock Street, Bath to Long Street in Devizes, and became involved with Devizes Museum, now the Wiltshire Museum. At the age of 70, she turned her attention again to prehistoric field archaeology, publishing a reconsideration of the Inner Enclosure at Figsbury Rings (Wiltshire) with Isobel Smith (in 1982), and conducting a fieldwalking survey of Longbridge Deverill Cow Down with Eve Machin (in 1982-83), to assess plough damage. In 1984, Peggy was elected to the position of Vice President of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society.
Guido was a highly skilled excavator and a prolific researcher. Her archaeological career spanned sixty years and was defined by high field standards, and rapid, high-quality publication. Described as having ‘inexhaustible powers of leadership and enthusiasm’, she had been undeterred by the demands of rescue excavation for the military. She produced as many as fifty works for British Prehistory, in particular advancing the fields of Bronze Age burial traditions, Late Bronze Age artefact studies, Later Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement studies (especially roundhouse architecture and hillfort chronologies), and of course Prehistoric, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon glass beads.
On 12 November 1936, the then Margaret Preston married her first husband, archaeologist Stuart Piggott. They had met while they were both students at the Institute of Archaeology in London. By 1954 their relationship was over and they divorced in 1956. In 1957, she married Luigi Guido; they had met while she was undertaking research in Sicily. Two years later, Luigi had a psychotic break down and spent six months strapped to his bed being cared for by Margaret. At the end of this period, he suddenly decided to leave his wife and moved back to Sicily: Margaret never heard from him again.
Whilst in her 70s, Peggy cared for Prof. A. W. Lawrence who was the younger brother of T. E. Lawrence and a classical scholar, something that made her very happy. She described him as ‘an old friend waiting to die’ following the death of his wife in November 1986. From that moment till 1988 A.W. stayed with Peggy in Devizes for a couple of weeks or months at a time. In 1988 he moved from his own house in Langford (Bedfordshire) to Peggy's 16th century house on 44 Long Street in Devizes, and they lived together until his death on 31 March 1991. In her final years, Peggy regularly visited her former husband Stuart, who had retired to Wantage, Berkshire. In 1987, Stuart joined Peggy as President of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society – offices they each held until their deaths.
Peggy Guido died in a hospital in Bath on 8 September 1994, aged 82, three and a half years after Lawrence. She had no children. On September 5, while still at home, she said during a phone conversation: "Richard Atkinson is dying, he has cancer of the lungs. XXX died recently. Everybody is going [...] I am thinking about death all the time."
Peggy was a sociable person who had wider interests in music, literature and art. Her name lives on in the Margaret Guido Charitable Trust, by Coutts of the Strand; the Trust provides grants to charities and voluntary bodies, largely those to do with the arts. A bequest to the National Trust helped them to acquire the meadow land surrounding the monument of Silbury Hill: a fitting tribute to the woman who did such an extraordinary amount to advance our understanding of Prehistoric Britain.
Piggott, C.M. and Seaby, W.A. 1937. Early Iron Age site at Southcote, Reading. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 3, 43-57.
Piggott, C.M. 1938. A middle Bronze Age barrow and Deverel-Rimbury urnfield at Latch Farm, Christchurch, Hampshire. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 4, 169-187.
Piggott, C.M. 1943. Excavation of fifteen barrows in the New Forest, 1941-2. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 9, 1-27.
Piggott, C.M. 1946. The late Bronze Age razors of the British Isles. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 12, 121-141.
Piggott, C.M. 1948. Excavations at Hownam Rings, Roxburghshire, 1948. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 82, 193-225.
Piggott, C.M. 1949. The Iron Age settlement at Hayhope Knowe, Roxburghshire: excavations, 1949. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 83, 45-67.
Piggott, C.M. 1949. A late Bronze Age hoard from Blackrock in Sussex and its significance. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 15, 107-121.
Piggott, C.M. 1950. The excavations at Bonchester Hill, 1950. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 84, 118-137.
Piggott, C.M. 1951. Carl Wark, Hathersage. Antiquity 25, 210-212.
Piggott, C.M. 1953. Milton Loch Crannog I A native house of the 2nd century A.D. in Kirkcudbrightshire. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 87, 134-152.
- Guido, Margaret (1963). Sardinia. London: Thames and Hudson.
- Guido, Margaret (1972). Southern Italy: an archaeological guide. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0571084968.
- Guido, Margaret (1977). Sicily: an archaeological guide. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0571108817.
- Guido, Margaret (1978). The Glass Beads of the Prehistoric and Roman Periods in Britain and Ireland. London: Society of Antiquaries of London. ISBN 978-0854312320.
Guido, M. and Walsh, M. 1999. The Glass Beads of Anglo-Saxon England c. AD 400-700: A preliminary visual classification of the more definitive and diagnostic types. Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquarians of London, No. 58. Woodbridge: Boydell Press.