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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

One Comment leave one →
  1. Julia permalink
    June 19, 2019 9:38 pm

    Hi Alicia, thanks for this, it’s always fascinating to know what everyone is up to and yours and Dr Foreman’s research sounds super interesting. Are you planning on publishing it soon?
    Looking forward to the next installment.

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