Skip to content

CFP: HARN 2018, Lisbon, 11-12 October

May 10, 2018

It’s here! It’s here!

Working in conjunction with the Institute of Contemporary History (CEHFCi-UÉ) – Faculty of Social and Human Sciences – New University of Lisbon, and the Section of Archaeology – Lisbon Geographical Society, HARN announces the call for papers for our 2018 conference.


Thanks so much to Ana Martins for organizing this! We are all looking forward to the abstracts and papers.  See below and share far and wide and we hope to see many of you there!HARN 2018 CFP


Book Review – ‘My dear Miss Ransom’

June 20, 2018


‘My dear Miss Ransom…’ Letters between Caroline Ransom Williams and James Henry Breasted, 1898-1935, edited by Kathleen L. Shepherd, Oxford: Archaeopress 2018.

Rosalind Janssen, UCL-IoE

HARN’s own Kate Shepherd, and my erstwhile student, here publishes for the first time a remarkable correspondence of 239 letters housed in the Oriental Institute Archives at the University of Chicago. These plot the 37 year friendship between James Henry Breasted, one of the Egyptology’s giants, and his student Caroline Ransom (1872-1952), a woman, who as Shepherd, correctly notes is merely one of the discipline’s footnotes. Yet, with her 1905 thesis ‘Studies in Egyptian Furniture’, Ransom became the first female doctoral student in the United States. Moreover, from 1900-1903, she had achieved the pinnacle for a young scholar: studying with the great philologist Adolf Erman in Berlin, and that as his first female student.

As Shepherd notes in her introduction, it was the men who went out to dig while the women stayed at home to undertake the administrative duties in universities and museums. We only have to think of Margaret Murray – a biographical subject already brought vividly to life by Shepherd – to confirm the veracity of her statement. Ransom experienced additional domestic concerns, aggravated from 1916 following marriage to her long-term suitor Mr. Williams, increased caring responsibilities for her ageing and demanding mother, and the constant worry about being properly paid for her Egyptological endeavours. Telling her that ‘your energy and aggressiveness stir my admiration’, Breasted even encouraged her to bring her mother along when in 1926-27 she was a member of his Epigraphic Survey at Medinet Habu.

It is a delight to enter an earlier era of Egyptological gossip. In 1930 Ransom asks Breasted ‘who do you suppose will succeed Mr. H.R. Hall in the British Museum? Has Mr. Glanville the position and influence to be appointed to it?’ Many of the discipline’s great names pass review, and her lifelong friendship with the Ermans provides a salutary window into the impact of the rise of Nazism on German Egyptology, now a popular research topic. A fleeting and intriguing mention of John Pendlebury – the subject of my own investigations – immediately caught my attention. Writing in 1930 about the Egypt Exploration Society excavations at Amarna, Breasted tells Ransom: ‘I wish I did not feel so reluctant to see young Mr. Pendlebury [he was then 26] on his own there’.

As Shepherd notes in her epilogue, this volume is just the beginning, and much archival work remains to be done to tease out Ransom’s accomplishments. Having commenced this review with Shepherd’s reference to Ransom as a mere Egyptological footnote, it is fitting to conclude by referencing tangible footnotes from another discipline. It had long been stated that Charlotte von Kirschbaum was responsible for compiling the copious footnotes to the Church Dogmatics, the fourteen-volume magnum opus of her teacher, the renowned theologian Karl Barth. However, recent reconsiderations have revealed her own considerable theological input. Caroline Ransom deserves similar reappraisal and the awarding of due credit. Meanwhile, we must thank Kate Shepherd for her major contribution in ‘writing about women who have been, but should not be, left out of the narrative’.

Launch – Ice Without, Fire Within: A Life Of Jacquetta Hawkes by Christine Finn

June 19, 2018

Christine Finn has sent us notice of her latest publication, you can find details here of how to pledge support for this publication and also read an excerpt.

From the webpage:


The story of the poet, archaeologist, film-maker, and author.

Jacquetta was a unique woman – poet, archaeologist, film-maker, and author, famous on both sides of the Atlantic – but she is best remembered today as the third wife of JB Priestley, with whom she founded the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

In “Ice Without, Fire Within”, Christine Finn uses her own archaeological training to investigate Jacquetta’s personal past, to dig not just into Hawkes’ work, but the woman herself. Jacquetta’s life is the unjustly forgotten missing link between such key writers as Robert Graves and Vita Sackville-West, and this is the long overdue first biography of a fascinating woman.

But the book is also a bridge between archaeologies – that driven by science, and the other by the arts. Tracing her life and work from its origins in Cambridge to her celebrity status in London in postwar Britain, Finn draws on more than 20 years of access to Jacquetta’s papers, which she rescued after her death in 1996, and journeys in her footsteps from Orkney and Venice to New York and New Mexico.

How did this woman at the centre of Britain’s postwar cultural scene become out of print and forgotten, even before her death? It is time to bring to light the complex personality which prompted Jack Priestley to remark: “What a woman, ice without and fire within!” Her nature writing and passion for the past – and the future – appreciated by a new generation of archaeologists, poets and artists.

This passionate literary excavation echoes Jacquetta Hawkes’s own championing of public archaeology and public art – please pledge to help us bring Jacquetta Hawkes’ story back to the world.

Book Review–Aristocrats and Archaeologists, @AUCPress 2017

June 1, 2018

Toby Wilkinson and Julian Platt (eds), Aristocrats and Archaeologists: An Edwardian Journey on the Nile. Cairo: AUC Press, 2017.


Cover image, courtesy AUC Press.


This book presents recently found private letters from Arthur Ferdinand Rowley Platt (1863-1946), known to his family as Ferdy, to his wife Mabel or May. In 1907-1908 he was the doctor for the 8th Duke of Devonshire, Spencer Cavendish, on a trip up and down the Nile. Through the dozens of letters home, readers get a candid glimpse into Ferdy’s experiences of Egypt, his thoughts about the Duke and his party, and his love for his family and children. This was the Golden Age of travel on the Nile, and correspondence or diaries are the best way for 21st century readers to experience this.

The main point of the published collection of correspondence is to present these ideas within some historical context, and it does just that. As an experienced correspondence editor myself, I see the inherent value in presenting letters in this way; full disclosure–I also have my own ideas as to how to do this. This book ticks most of those boxes.  The letters tell a one-sided story in this book, but Wilkinson, the main editor, attempts to fill in the blanks throughout.  There are brief introductions to various sections of the trip as well as small boxes that present more information about people and events. These are extremely informative and useful. Unlike a lot of books these days, there are two sections of color plates! I am very excited about this, maybe too excited, but in the days of attempting to make the printing of books as cost-effective as possible, plates are a rarity. These add a lot to the story. But there are some unfortunate omissions. For example, in the middle of the journey Ferdy tried to explain to May about a pile of fresh green figs that he got every day in Aswan (62). He even drew her a picture of the pile of figs, noted in a bracketed statement, but for some reason, the reader does not get to see that drawing, yet it would have added an important, human detail to the story.  However, the itinerary and the family trees were very useful references throughout reading the letters.

For me, a historian of Egyptology, the explanations that Ferdy (and Wilkinson) gave about different sites and people he encountered were helpful and full of detail. Ferdy met Egyptologists such as Flinders Petrie, Howard Carter, Theodore Davis, Archibald Sayce, and George Reisner. He was candid in his discussion of them to his wife, and the reader sees part of the private men they were, away from journalists and other colleagues.

While this book is intended for the popular market as well as an academic audience, even with all of the explanatory sections that the editor includes, the reader may be left wanting more explanatory footnotes. The boxes can break up the narrative and some are presented a little too late for the questions that arise in the letters. There are a lot of people, places, ideas that tend to get lost in the rich story of the journey. This is not the only criticism that can be levelled at Wilkinson’s and Platt’s referencing, the selected bibliography consists of half of a single page and the index needs much more detail to be useful.

However, in the end, this book is a useful addition for researchers and interesting for general readers. It is a full and rich travelogue, a touching family story, and contains a lot of informative historical information that most volumes like this one lack.


PS–Don’t forget our call for papers for our 10th Anniversary HARN conference in Lisbon!

CFP – Archaeological Movements

May 31, 2018

HARN member, Beth Hodgett, is organising a session at this year’s TAG Conference and has issued the following call for papers:

Archaeological Movements CFP_TAG

New Publication – Jay European Connections of a Bronze Age Scholar

May 23, 2018

HARN member, Brendan O’Connor, has been in touch to draw our attention to this new biography by H. Steegstra, published by Barkhuis.


The publishers blurb reads: The archaeologist and Bronze Age metal specialist Dr Jay J. Butler (1921-2014) was a kind, warmhearted man, averse to hype and ostentation, who was happy to share his knowledge in non-academic language both with professionals and interested amateurs. But woe betide anyone who might use the evidence to draw unwarranted conclusions… A cosmopolitan American, he  demonstrated that people in the Bronze Age maintained contacts that reached well beyond today’s national frontiers. In practicals with his students he acquainted them with, for instance, the difficulties of bronze casting: prehistoric artisans were far more sophisticated than previously thought. He started taking samples for metal analyses, initiated international collaborative projects, and widened his students’ horizons by taking them on trips abroad to visit excavations and museums. His eventful life was linked to many themes: immigration that is welcome only inasfar as it is lucrative, racism, exploitation of the poor, religious fundamentalism, a devastating world war, information being doctored or suppressed, lack of humanity and neglect of common courtesy. With Jay Butler’s demise, the world lost an enthusiastic, authoritative and accessible archaeologist.

And Brendan has added: Jay Jordan Butler (1921-2014) was an American who did his PhD thesis with Gordon Childe and spent his career in the Netherlands as a specialist in Bronze Age metalwork. Over his long life he kept many of his papers and these have now been written up into a biography, Jay: European connections of a Bronze Age scholar, by H. Steegstra 
This book should be of particular interest to HARN members for its coverage of archaeology in London in the decade after World War II, whose participants have now mostly passed away, but it ranges from New York City during the 1920s to Dutch archaeology in the 21st century and includes an Appendix on the Prehistoric Society’s conference in the Netherlands in 1960.


May 13, 2018


Alicia Colson, Goldsmiths, University of London and

Alicia J. M. Colson is an archaeologist and an ethnohistorian with a BA Hons (UCL) and PhD (McGill), Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths (London) in the Computing Department, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. She is engaged in series of research and publishing projects in cognate fields. Her research interests include: hunter-gatherers of the Boreal Forest, digital humanities, archaeological theory, history of archaeology, and sub-Saharan Africa. 

Welcome, Alicia, and many thanks for joining our community!