Past, Present, Man, Nature: 2. “Pots before Words”

Past, Present, Man, Nature: celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes.

An online exhibit by Alison Cullingford, Special Collections Librarian, University of Bradford.

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2. “Pots before Words”

Jacquetta in hat ca. 1930

Jacquetta in hat ca. 1930

Fortunately for Jacquetta, she was able to find a path in life which allowed her talents to develop: aged nine, she had decided to become an archaeologist.  In 1929, she gained entrance to Newnham College, Cambridge, where she read for the new archaeological tripos.  To her surprise, she obtained first class honours.  On her first serious excavation, at Camulodunum, near Colchester, she met Christopher Hawkes, its director, a brilliant archaeologist.  They married in 1933, and had a son in 1937.  Meanwhile, both built strong careers in archaeology, and co-wrote several articles and a book, “Prehistoric Britain” (1943).

A travelling scholarship took Jacquetta to Mount Carmel, where encounters with the local people and a Neanderthal skull had profound effects on her imagination.  She published articles on Windmill Hill and channelled ware; her first book was on the archaeology of Jersey.  Her own first excavation in sole charge was in County Waterford in 1939.



Pot balanced on book

Pot balanced on book

These images show an arrowhead kept by Jacquetta and a photograph of a pot.  Jacquetta’s passion for the past stemmed from her emotional and intellectual response to individual objects like these.   In a 1952 script for Woman’s Hour, she explained that she was “very fond of things”, because of their appeal to her senses, the enjoyment of using knowledge to set things in their “historical setting” like a Queen Anne chair, and because objects could offer a truthful insight into the deep past.  The desire to make useful and beautiful articles was, she felt, something very deep in man’s past, pre-dating words.


3 responses to “Past, Present, Man, Nature: 2. “Pots before Words”

  1. Pingback: Past, Present, Man, Nature: 1. A Cat that Walked by Herself. « Celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes

  2. Pingback: Past, Present, Man, Nature: 3. “That great force of life” « Celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes

  3. Pingback: 87. Elegant and Convenient Sets: J.B. Priestley’s Shirt and the Apartments at Albany | 100 Objects

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