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Following Footsteps…

July 22, 2019
This post comes to us from Hélène Maloigne, a HARN administrator and 4th year PhD student at the Department of History at UCL.


I’ve been thinking about Leonard and Katharine Woolley almost every day for the best part of ten years. It all started in 2011, when I first saw the call for participants for the 2012 excavation season at Tell Atchana/ancient Alalakh. At the time I was studying for a degree in Museum Studies at the Institute of Archaeology (IoA) at University College London and the name struck a cord in my archaeologist’s heart. I was familiar with both the site and its famous first excavators from when I studied archaeology of the Ancient Near East, and the idea of following in their footsteps immediately called out to me. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Tell Atchana/ancient Alalakh lies in the Amuq Valley in the Turkish State of Hatay. The site is located about 20 km from modern-day Hatay/ancient Antioch and about 100 km west of Aleppo in Syria. During the Middle to Late Bronze Ages it was the capital of the regional kingdom of Mukish. This was vassal, in turn, to the Mitanni and the Hittites, before the site was abandoned in the Early Iron Age, when the administrative centre shifted to neighbouring Tell Tayinat (excavated by the University of Toronto).

Charles Leonard Woolley (1880–1960) directed excavations at the site from 1936–39 and 1946–49, focussing on the palatial and temple precincts. Professor K. Aslıhan Yener, who has been exploring the site and the surrounding Amuq Valley since the early 1990s, directs the current excavations.

Figure 1: Map of Turkey showing the location of Alalakh
courtesy of E. Kozal: R. Szydlak background map; E. Kozal archaeological map


When I first arrived at Atchana in 2012 I immediately felt at home, in the inexplicable way you do in some places or cities or with some people, but not with others. While there have inevitably been some changes to the team over the years, the constancy of friendships forged during the short but intense field seasons has always fascinated me. There is a comfort in the ease with which a conversation can be picked up where you left it a year ago and jokes remain funny no matter how old they are. For me, going to Atchana is like visiting family—with all the ups and downs that entails. One of the ups has been encountering the Woolleys in the traces they left at the site and back in London in the archive of the IoA. Out of that first season in 2012 and the MA thesis I was then writing developed a project, which resulted in an exhibition at the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED) at Koç University in Istanbul in 2014. My co-curator Murat Akar and I explored photographic practice at Atchana from the 1930s until today. Juxtaposing the images taken by Woolley’s foreman Yahia ibn Mohammed ibn Sheik Ibrahim with Akar’s own superb portraits of the local and visiting communities allowed us to explore the continuities as well as changes of archaeological practice over the last eighty years.

A lot has changed, that much is certain. Archaeologists in general, and we who work in the Middle East in particular, have started listening to the ghost of archaeology past and have started to explore our discipline’s entanglement with modernity, nationalism, colonialism and a range of other isms. We have come to acknowledge our dependence on these power structures and have started thinking about how to redress some of the imbalances they have engendered. HARN blog readers will be more than familiar with the deluge of books exploring the history and practice of archaeology in a variety of ways to appear in the last thirty years. Nowadays, conferences on archaeology in the Middle East, almost by default, include a session on endangered heritage or site preservation, usually with an emphasis on previous or current Western involvement in the region. In a similar vein, the archival turn has opened up new and exciting ways to explore the many ways in which archaeology has influenced and interacted with wider society.

Yet at the same time, some things have remained almost the same since the Woolleys’ days. The public have always been fascinated by the past and the ‘riches’ it keeps hidden from us in the ground. The image of the heroic male archaeologist, travelling alone to dangerous lands to rediscover a lost temple, jealously guarded by a hostile, primitive indigenous population has obstinately stuck in the popular imagination. And there is always a tinge of excitement in people’s voices when I tell them about my profession and they ask me what ‘the best thing’ is I’ve ever found. While some archaeologists roll their eyes and sigh at these questions, I embrace the fame Indiana Jones has brought us. After all, we ourselves have created and cultivated this image. Ever since Austen Henry Layard’s hugely successful popular accounts of his travels and diggings (we can’t call them excavations in the modern sense) in nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire, archaeologists have been attuned to the importance of publicity and the ‘riches’ lying dormant in the popular book and newspaper market.

As I am packing my bags to travel to my seventh season at Atchana, I (inevitably) think about the Woolleys and how their journey to Ur in southern Iraq and later to Tell Atchana was an essential part of their archaeological lives. I am currently completing my PhD thesis exploring how British archaeologists working in the Middle East in the interwar period made the most of the public’s fascination with their profession by writing books, newspaper and magazine articles and speaking on the radio. The period of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, the Royal Graves at Ur, and the Indus Valley culture coincided with an expansion of the British Empire as a result of the Great War. Archaeologists made good use of the connections forged during their military service to obtain excavations permits as well as high positions in colonial administration. At the same time, cheap daily and weekly newspapers and magazines reached a mass readership in Britain hungry for anything but casualty lists and heavily censored reports of minimal shifts on the front line. The human-interest angle and the public’s budding obsession with ‘celebrities’ worked in favour of archaeologists (like the Woolleys) with a talent for popular writing. How archaeology was practiced, the methods being developed, began to subtly creep into popular writings emphasising life on a dig or travel to and in foreign lands, as archaeologists began to narrow the boundaries of their discipline.

Iraq_Site_300dpiFigure 2: Map of southern Mesopotamia
© The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago


The trip out East often featured prominently in Leonard and even more so Katharine Woolley’s (1880–1945) newspaper articles. The Middle East was familiar enough to the reading public in Britain through centuries of travel accounts as well as reports on the Mesopotamian theatre during the Great War, yet still ‘exotic’ enough as ‘the Orient’, the location of Biblical events and the origin of the monumental sculptures from the Neo-Assyrian palaces of Nineveh and Nimrud brought home by Layard and others in the nineteenth century.

In one of her articles published in 1929, Katharine Woolley described her journey to the readers of the magazine Britannia and Eve. Travelling to Ur in southern Iraq, they usually took the Orient Express to Istanbul, then the Taurus Express to Aleppo where they met up with their long-term collaborator and foreman Hamoudi (Mohammed ibn Sheik Ibrahim, Yahia’s father) and his sons who lived in the area of Jerablus (on the Turco-Syrian border). Over coffee they’d relive the highlights of the previous season, enquire about friends, exchange gossip and make lists of supplies to buy. Hamoudi, Yahia, and his brother Alawi then travelled ahead to prepare the site for the Woolleys’ arrival who stayed behind for a few days. The couple drove on to Damascus where they booked places on the Nairn Company’s cross-desert car service which took them via Ramadi in Iraq to Baghdad and from there by train to Ur near Nasiriyah.

I’ll be travelling on my own, not looking forward to a night-time layover in the vast new Istanbul Airport, five hours under the glare of neon lights and gigantic advertisement screens. I know that the only thing keeping me awake there will be cups of strong, sugary Turkish tea and filled pastries, which are a delight everywhere in Turkey, even at an airport café…

The Woolleys usually spent October/November to March at Ur (depending on the always slightly precarious funding by the British Museum and the University Museum in Pennsylvania). In 1928 there had been a sandstorm prior to their arrival at the house, and Katharine evocatively described their approach to the site at dawn to her readers. The vast desert landscape of southern Iraq, only relieved by the numerous Tells dotting the scene, made a strong impression on her. She wrote about the sun rising over the abandoned ruins of ancient Ur, partially excavated since 1922, and the vision of the men appearing slowly on the plains as little dots, some of them walking for a couple of hours to be signed up for the season. Their first task was to dig out the house covered up to the roof in sand.

Figure 3: The excavation house at Ur after the sandstorm, 1929.
© The Trustees of the British Museum. Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence.


After a gruelling six months the Woolleys returned to Britain. Accompanied by Hamoudi, Yahia and Alawi as far as Aleppo, they stopped to visit other sites on the way (Uruk, Kish, Mari and Dura-Europos), enjoy the comfort of cool restaurants and coffee houses in the winding streets of Damascus and then Aleppo, where they said goodbye until the next year. Once again, friendships had been strengthened over an intense period of time spent working together from dawn until dusk, jokes had been laughed at and small dramas averted.

BM-Ur-GN-1586_300dpi2500pixSizeFigure 4: Father Eric Burrows, M.E.L. Mallowan, Katharine Woolley, and Sheik Hamoudi watching Leonard Woolley.
© The Trustees of the British Museum. Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence.


All of this lies just ahead of me as I glimpse the familiar silhouette of Tell Atchana through the car window and I must leave you to your own summer adventures…


Hélène Maloigne is completing her PhD at the Department of History at UCL. She has been working at Tell Atchana since 2012.

The Forgotten Kingdom – ANAMED


Joining the Field

July 9, 2019

Our next post comes from one of our newest members, Rebecca Hopkins.

This past year, I decided to completely restart my life by ending a decade long teaching career, and returning to university to pursue my dream of being an archaeologist, and, oh, what a year it has been. I’ve travelled 12 hours away from home, spending a year away from my husband and dogs to start this new career. This has been one of the most difficult and challenging times of my life, not only being away from my support system, but also due to the fact that I’m starting a new phase in my life where I am significantly older than most of my peers, and have to establish a new foundation and network, along with learning new skills. The first two terms of my program were incredibly intensive coursework, and this summer will be spent working on my dissertation and getting experience by going to field school. Since I’m specializing in Cambodian archaeology, I’ve also decided to learn Khmer, and I’ve been taking lessons since September 2018. This summer will see a lot of revision and practice. So what that translates into for me this summer is lots of coffee, very little sleep, and trying to do everything in as second language.

In May I attended the’ Training Week for Students’ on a Roman Villa at the Kent Archaeological Field School in Faversham, Kent, led by Paul Wilkinson. That training week was an absolute joy, mainly due to the people that I was taking the course with. What I really enjoyed about it was that both the staff and the students genuinely wanted to be there, to learn, and to share their love of archaeology. I spent a lot of time in one corner of the site, uncovering a wall and the barn floor, while also sorting through an endless amount of flint. This being my first excavation, I was excited about every little find, the chance that anything could be the next big find. I love that rush, the potential of anything to reveal some part of the story of the people who lived on this site at one point in time. I hope that feeling never goes away, because I believe that whatever you are doing with your work, you should always be able to find this much excitement in it. I think that I picked the right career for me. While we also did find some interesting objects (Roman coins, a barn threshold floor, and a hypocaust), what will stick with me is the experience of working with individuals who are truly passionate about that they do. Being out in the middle of the Kentish countryside in beautiful spring weather didn’t hurt either. I did also learn the hard way about how taxing troweling can be on your hands! Mine were aching for a few days after the end of field school.


Figure 1 Working on site in Faversham (Author’s own)


My next field school will be in August with Ramparts Scotland Battle Hill – Prehistoric Landscape Project 2019 in Huntly, Scotland. I’m greatly looking forward to this, getting more experience under my belt. In the meantime, I’ll be spending the rest of my time working on my dissertation on the transition from small-scale Bronze Age societies to early Iron Age centralized states in Cambodia. My dissertation will take up the majority of my time, but I’m already learning a lot about this time period and finding some interesting connections between sites and objects. I’ve also been very struck by how helpful the community of Southeast Asian archaeologists is and how very generous with their time and expertise. I’ve been reaching out on social media when I get stuck on a particular point, or have a question, and the support I’ve received so far is amazing. There will clearly be a large number of acknowledgements in my dissertation. This summer will be a challenge, no doubt about it, but so far, because of the people I’ve met, the support I’ve received, and the powers of caffeine, I am confident that I will see it through successfully.

Rebecca is currently studying for an MA in Archaeology and the Heritage of Asia at the Institute of Archaeology at UCL. Follow her on Twitter: @beccainhkinlon1 and on Instagram: beccainhkinlondon.

Let’s get started!

June 17, 2019

Ok, I’ll start things rolling… on the grounds that everyone is waiting to see who goes first in responding to the HARN Group’s call for “I know what you did this summer…”


I have just returned from visiting University of Beijng, China for three weeks. I gave a lecture at the School of Archaeology and Museum entitled “Pioneering women in archaeology: A very short history (18th to mid-20th century)”.

I worked from research undertaken with Dr Penelope Foreman (Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust) which looks at ‘constellations’ of women in the history of archaeology. Why? We think that the career of a woman in the discipline regardless of the time period likely depends on her personal group, a network of people and contacts. We use the term ‘constellation’ to refer to such a group. Their careers depend on these broader networks, those women generate – ‘constellations’ of pioneers. Such constellations form the core of Archaeology. I discussed the methodology, the software utilised (yes it’s a digital humanities project as well) and I showed some of the networks that are being generated. Since there are 184 people included in the database (84 fields) I was able to posit some observations. The networks of women such as Gertrude Caton-Thompson, Gertrude Bell, Freya Stark, Harriet Boyd Hawes, Margaret Murray, Dorothy Garrod, Hilda Petrie, Tessa Verney Wheeler, Esther Boise Van Deman, and Winnifred Lamb provided food for thought. Given an hour and the long timer period covered I discussed a larger number of women (and men) than listed here, some of the tendencies and observations that are emerging, including our motivations and the material evidence. Both Penelope and I are particularly interested in those women who are not as well-known as Gertrude Bell, Gertrude Caton-Thompson and so on.

Since I was in Beijing, I could sample its archaeology aka ‘touristic stuff’ visiting the Summer Palace, Winter Palace, Beihai Park (which is a public park and former imperial garden located in the northwestern part of the Imperial City, Beijing. The Park was originally built in the 11th century and contains many notable structures, including palaces, and temples). I also visited the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, the National Art Museum of China, Wangfujing and various hutongs including: Nanluoguxiang and Yandai Xiejie. As a newcomer I took many photos. Here’s a photo of the West Gate of Peking University, on my route to campus.




The campus itself is stunning. I naturally visited the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Beijing University. If you want to see more photos check my Instagram account as I’m posting a few of the photos of my time in China there:




What’s next? I’m off in a few months to do some teaching in Iceland!


So who’s next? Looking forward to hearing from everyone, Alicia


Dr. Alicia J. M. Colson FRGS


June 17, 2019



Heidi J. Miller, Middlesex Community College

The history of archaeological research in South and Central Asia are of interest to me, especially how archaeological methods have influenced interpretations. My undergraduate work was done in the Levant, and while Kathleen Kenyon’s role in stratigraphic excavation techniques is well noted there, in South Asia the focus is on REM Wheeler’s methodology. I see a clear difference in past techniques/recording methods in these two regions, and for South Asia, the strong continuation in the present, and influence on political interpretations of today from the so-called teaching of Wheeler. Stuart Piggott’s work on the archaeology of South Asia is also key in this regard. Additionally, I am familiar with the work of Louis Dupree and Walter Fairservis and their research in Afghanistan as well as Baluchistan, a majority of which remains unpublished. What can we learn from revisiting these materials and records (housed in New York and Cambridge MA) and exploring ancient regions and cultures through these archived remnants?


Aimee Genova, University of Chicago

A.M. Genova received her Ph.D. in March 2019 from the University of Chicago’s Department of History for her dissertation titled – “Strategies of Resistance: Cretan Archaeology and Political Networks during the late 19th and early 20th century.” In addition to her tenure as a research fellow at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, she has excavated in the Peloponnese of Greece, as well as Salemi, Sicily for several excavation seasons. Dr. Genova’s current project discusses the relationship between archaeologists, politicians, and cultural intellects during Crete’s unification with Greece in 1913. Particularly, she challenges the way we approach the disciplinary history of Cretan archaeology.

More recently, she researched as a Library Research Fellow at Princeton University through the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies.


Welcome, Heidi and Aimee, and many thanks for joining our community!


I know what you did this summer…

June 10, 2019

Dear Members

Summer is upon us and many of us are off to the field, to the archive, the collections storage and countless other places to conduct research or work. A few lucky ones are surely also off on holiday!

We would like to know what you are doing, seeing, researching, excavating and last, but not least, enjoying. We are therefore asking for your submissions for our blog and we’d like to keep the brief as wide open as possible. In up to 5000 words tell us about your research trip, fieldwork or museum visit. We’d even like to hear about your holidays if you are taking in some archaeological history!

Blogs will be posted in the order of their submission, and there is no deadline. We would also encourage you to submit (properly sourced and credited) pictures to illustrate your work.

Please share this call with your friends, students and colleagues. Membership is not a prerequisite (but of course encouraged).

We look forward to hearing from you and wish you all an enjoyable summer!

Your administrators

Seminar: “Towards interdisciplinarity”, Barcelona, 15 June

June 4, 2019

We are glad to inform you that we are organizing the seminar “Towards interdisciplinarity. A historical analysis of the transfer of knowledge and techniques between disciplines (19th and 20th centuries)” which will take place on 15 June 2019, at the Faculty of Geography and History of the University of Barcelona, Spain.

The seminar is organized within the Inter-Arq Project (“Archaeology and interdisciplinarity: archaeological and historical re research on interdisciplinarity in the History of archaeology (19th and 20th centuries)”) led by Prof. Margarita Díaz-Andreu. The project aims to analyse interdisciplinary relationships between archaeology and other branches of knowledge over the last two centuries.

Several members of HARN will attend the seminar and present papers. Among them we mention Ana Cristina Martins, Lucila Mallart, Tim Murray, Nathan Schanger, Alessandro Guidi, Laura Coltofean and Margarita Díaz-Andreu.

The programme and poster of the seminar can be accessed here:

For more information about the Inter-Arq Project, please see


Best wishes,

Laura Coltofean and Margarita Díaz-Andreu, HARN members

Workshop: Beyond the Binary Researchers’

May 7, 2019

We invite researchers from all disciplines as well as museum and heritage professionals for an exclusive inside-look into the museum’s new Beyond the Binary project. Alongside the project team and TORCH’s Queer Studies Network, participants will have the chance to examine objects in the museum’s collection that spark important conversations around global LGBTQ+ cultures and museum methodologies. We will be exploring different approaches to interpreting these objects, including phenomenological practices and public engagement. Additionally, the session will provide opportunities for participants to be directly involved in and/or help shape this vital and innovative project, which centres collaboration with the LGBTQ+ community. We will look at the different ways existing museum and heritage collections can be re-interpreted through a queer lens to tell old and new stories alike as well as thinking about how current and future collecting practices can be shaped to preserve both tangible and intangible queer heritage for future generations.

The venue has step-free access but if you have any further requirements please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Lunch will be provided with vegan and gluten free options available. Please do let us know if you have any allergies.

Email if you would like further information.

Visit for more info and follow the project team on Twitter: @BeyondBinaryPRM

Date & venue: 10am – 1pm, 30 May, Research Space, Pitt Rivers Museum

Link for registration: