The Palestine Exploration Fund

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Dame Kathleen Mary Kenyon, 1906-1978

Born in 1906, the daughter of Sir Frederick Kenyon, the distinguished Biblical scholar and later Director of the British Museum, she read history at Somerville College, Oxford. Her first experience in the field was as photographer on the expedition led by Gertrude Caton-Thompson which carried out the pioneering excavation at Great Zimbabwe in 1929.

On her return to England, she joined Mortimer and Tessa Wheeler on their excavation at Verulamium (St. Albans). She worked there during the summers of 1930 to 1935, directing the excavation of the Roman theatre. In 1931-1934 she worked at Samaria with John and Grace Crowfoot. There she cut a stratigraphic trench across the summit of the mound and down the northern and southern slopes, exposing the Iron II to the Roman period stratigraphic sequence of the site. In addition to providing crucial dating material for the Iron Age stratigraphy of Palestine, she obtained key stratified data for the study of Eastern terra sigilata ware.

In 1934 she was closely associated with the Wheelers in the foundation of the Institute of Archaeology of the University of London. From 1936-1939 she carried out important excavations at the Jewry Wall, Leicester. During the Second World War, Kenyon served as Divisional Commander of the Red Cross in Hammersmith, London, and later as Acting Director and Secretary of the Institute of Archaeology of the University of London.

After the war, she excavated in Southwark, at the Wrekin, Shropshire and elsewhere in Britain, as well as at Sabratha, Libya. As a member of the Council of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, she was involved in the efforts to reopen the School. In January, 1951 she travelled to Jordan and undertook excavations at Jericho on behalf of the BSAJ. Her work at Jericho, between 1952 until 1958, made her famous. There she made ground-breaking discoveries concerning the Neolithic cultures of the Levant. In this period also she completed the publication of the excavations at Samaria. Samaria Sebaste III: The Objects, appeared in 1957. Then, from 1961 to 1967 she excavated in Jerusalem.

Another important aspect of Kenyon's career was her role as a teacher. From 1948 to 1962 she lectured in Levantine Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology. Her teaching, complemented by her excavations at Jericho and Jerusalem, which formed her 'field school', helped to train a generation of archaeologists, who went on to teach in Britain, Australia, Canada, the United States, Denmark and elsewhere. In 1962 she became Principal of St. Hugh's College, Oxford, and was thereafter deeply involved in both College and University affairs.

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