International Women’s Day – Honoring Women in Archaeology

In honor of International Women’s Day, OKPAN wishes to share with you the words of Ran Boytner of the Institute for Field Research. Today, we celebrate the many accomplishments of women in archaeology, and Boytner’s message below highlights some of the inspiring things that women are doing in this amazing field of study.

“Today we mark International Women Day. How to celebrate the achievement of our many female colleagues without being cliché? I thought it will be best by naming names and explaining why these particular women made such a mark on archaeology.

Dorothy Garrod (1892-1968) was the first woman to hold an Oxbridge chair. She was a prehistorian archaeologist and the first to organize the Paleolithic sequence in the Southern Levant. Working in the 1930’s at the Carmel Caves (in today’s Israel), she hired only female workers from local villages, creating probably the first almost exclusively female archaeological project. Mary Leakey (1913-1996) is another prehistorian that changed the world. She was the first to identify a fossilized Proconsul skull (an extinct ape ancestral to humans) and the robust Zinjanthropus skull at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). She is probably best known for her discovery of the Laetoli footprints, showing the first evidence of bipedalism in hominins.

During the turbulent 1960’s, Joan Gero (1944-2016), Margaret Conkey (1943-) and Ruth Tringham (1940-) led the Feminist Archaeology movement within archaeology and were instrumental is shifting archaeological theory to be not only more inclusive, but also extensively richer in our understanding of the past and all of the people within it. The great leadership provided by these scholars, and their peers, allowed new generations of female archaeologists to lead from the front.

Today, the President of the Society of American Archaeology (SAA) is an accomplished archaeologist. Diane Gifford-Gonzalez specializes in zooarchaeology and is an influential scholar in the study of pastoralism and animal domestication. The SAA president-elect, Susan M. Chandler, comes from the CRM quarters of archaeology and is the co-founder of Alpine Archaeological Consultants, one of the most successful commercial archaeology outfits in the US. In fact, all members of the SAA Executive Committee today are accomplished women archaeologists.

At the IFR, many of our board members are leading women archaeologists. Jade d’Alpoim Guedes is a paleoethnobotanist and environmental modeler who studies how humans adapted their foraging practices and agricultural strategies to new environments. Danielle Kurin is an accomplished bioarchaeologist, using isotopic analysis to study bio-cultural consequences of societal collapse. Lynn Swartz-Dodd studies the relationships between archaeology & politics and ancient innovation and social change. Julie Stein is a geoarchaeologist who studies sediments found within archaeological sites and deposition process that create archaeological stratigraphy. She is also the Executive Director of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington. Emily Lindsey studies paleontological records from the Pleistocene (“Ice Age”) of North and South America to understand why and how ecological transitions occur in the context of climatic and anthropogenic change. Ana Campos-Holland is a Sociologist who studies law, crime and punishment especially among adolescent age group. Finally, Willeke Wendrich explores the social context of crafts organization and specialization, practical use of symbolic space and the study of regionality versus long-distance contacts. Willeke is also the Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. We are privileged to have her as the Chairperson of the IFR Board of Directors.

There are many, many inspirational women scholars in archaeology. We should all take a pause today and reflect how grateful we are for their contribution. For me, I would like to acknowledge and thank Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati. I have known Marilyn for over two decades now and she has always been a prodigious supporter of field schools and of the IFR. No newsletter is going out without Marilyn writing back with words of encouragement and support. In recent years, the site Marilyn worked on for decades –Tell Mozan– came under serious threat from the Civil War raging in Syria. Marilyn made sure that not only the site will remain protected, but that the local people who worked with her at the site will be safe, fed and cared for. To me, Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati is not only an excellent scholar, she is also a great human being and an inspiring role model – in and off the field. Cheers to you, Marilyn!

Happy International Women Day to all of our colleagues, students and friends. Thank you for your work, support and inspiration. Recognizing the importance of female leadership, the Vera R Campbell Foundation provided funds to support students attending IFR field schools directed by women archaeologists. Prepared to be inspired!


Ran Boytner”

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