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Kathleen Kenyon: The Myth and the Archaeologist

9th October 2008

Miriam C. Davis, Delta State University, Cleveland, Mississippi, USA

Lecture abstract

Anyone familiar with the archaeology of the Levant has heard of Dame Kathleen Kenyon. The outline of Kenyon's career is well-known:  that she was the daughter of a director of the British Museum, Sir Frederic Kenyon; that she was trained in British archaeology by Sir Mortimer Wheeler; that she dug with John and Molly Crowfoot at Samaria in the 1930s; that her excavations in Jericho in the 1950s resulted in startling discovers concerning the Neolithic; that she excavated the original city of David in Jerusalem in the 1960s; that she introduced Wheeler's stratigraphically precise debris layer analysis method to the Middle East.

But until now, relatively little biographical work has been done on Kenyon. Based on a recent biography Dame Kathleen Kenyon: Digging Up the Holy Land, this lecture addresses less well-known aspects of Kenyon's life and career: the circumstances that first led her into archaeology; her first excavation in southern Africa; her relationship with her most important mentor, Sir Mortimer Wheeler; her introduction of the Wheeler method into the Levant at Samaria.  The lecture also tackles controversial aspects of Kenyon's career, such as accusations of anti-Semitism and the difficulties with the publication of her final excavations in Jerusalem.

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