Category Archives: Jacquetta’s archaeology

“New stories for old”

Interesting mentions of Jacquetta Hawkes and her “biography of a landmass” A Land in comments on the Dark Mountain Project website.  The commenters reflect on their experience of the Uncivilisation conference, which included a paper by Christine Finn on Jacquetta’s ideas.

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“The White Goddess from Cambridge”

Jacquetta Hawkes and Robert Graves, Mallorca, September 1950

Jacquetta Hawkes and Robert Graves, Mallorca, September 1950

“The White Goddess from Cambridge: Jacquetta Hawkes and Robert Graves” will be the title of a lecture by Dr Christine Finn, biographer of Jacquetta Hawkes and Writer-Fellow at the University of Bradford.  The lecture will be part of the 10th International Robert Graves Conference, which is held 6-10 July 2010 in Mallorca, Spain, where Graves lived from 1929 until his death.

Jacquetta and Robert Graves were in contact from the 1940s.  Both poets, both fascinated by myth and the classical world, they would have had much to discuss.  In 1950, after lecturing to the International Archaeology Congress, she visited him and his family in Deya, Mallorca.  She took her son Nicolas with her.  The Jacquetta Hawkes Archive includes a letter from Graves to Jacquetta about the practicalities of the visit, taxis and so on.  Dr Finn will be retracing their journey as much as possible on her way to the conference.


Past, Present, Man, Nature: 9. “The Stonehenge it deserves”

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

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

Intro | Credits | Previous | Next

9. “The Stonehenge it deserves”

Although she was no longer involved in excavations, Jacquetta continued to be active in her profession, with what she called a “fairly steady output of articles, reviews, broadcasts etc., some popular and some specialist”. She wrote or edited major publications, including a biography of “Mortimer Wheeler” (1982), the Unesco History of Mankind (1963), the “Atlas of Ancient Archaeology” (1974), the “Atlas of Early Man” (1976), and the “Shell Guide to British Archaeology” (1986).

Atlas of early man

Atlas of early man

She was keen to engage with the question, “Whither archaeology?”  For instance, in 1968, she argued in “The Proper Study of Mankind”, an article in the journal “Antiquity”, that the scientific approach in archaeology was taking over, and argued for the use of imagination and synthesis, for consideration of the religious and aesthetic lives of past civilisations.  Her attack on the approach of what she called the “statniks” drew support from her contemporaries: Glyn Daniel, the editor of Antiquity, reported in a letter to Jacquetta the many favourable comments by students.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Jacquetta has a particularly strong association with Stonehenge, thanks to her oft-quoted remark in “The God in the Machine”, an “Antiquity” article of 1967: “every age gets the Stonehenge it deserves – and desires”.  The article surveyed the discussion of Stonehenge as an observatory: she believed that it was not, that its significance was ritualistic and religious, and that attempts to see it as a scientific construct were as much a product of the present time as the ideas of other ages about Stonehenge were of theirs.  Her interest in Stonehenge extended to another of her campaigns, her involvement with the New Sarum Society.

Past, Present, Man, Nature: 7. Mrs Pro and Mr Con on tour

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

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

Intro | Credits | Previous | Next

7. Mrs Pro and Mr Con on tour

Jacquetta and JBP at cafe table

Jacquetta and JBP at cafe table

Travel was a major part of the Priestleys’ lives, for business and pleasure.  Jacquetta travelled abroad reporting for the Observer and other newspapers, and, as increasingly eminent people, both travelled to many conferences and events.   Their journeys are documented by many photographs, like this one showing them at a café table in Greece.  Jacquetta’s Archive is full of 35 mm slides of Taormina, Mexico, Amsterdam, Trinidad, Poland, Palestine …

Flight bulletin

Flight bulletin

This flight bulletin from a trip to Portugal for a lecture tour in 1949 is a rare survival in the Archive of the ephemera of travel.

Journey down a Rainbow

Journey down a Rainbow

One of the most interesting results of the Priestleys’ travels was “Journey down a rainbow” (1955), in which Priestley analysed 1950s USA while Jacquetta responded with delight to the survival of ancient pueblo culture in New Mexico.

Another shared piece, an unpublished article about a trip to Ceylon from 1970, gives us a feel for the roles adopted by the Priestleys abroad: Mrs Pro (Jacquetta) revelling in the “vegetable sculpture” of the paddy fields and the “huge glistening leaves” of the jungle, Mr Con (J.B.) complaining that “I’ve seen a fair number of jungles now, and I don’t want any of them”.

Past, Present, Man, Nature: 6. “I see a land”

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

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

Intro | Credits | Previous | Next

6. “I see a land”

A Land

A Land

“A Land” (1951), Jacquetta’s most famous book, is a book only she could have written.  As she said in her preface, “The image I have sought to evoke is of an entity, the land of Britain, in which past and present, nature, man and art appear all in one piece … I see a land as much affected by the creations of its poets and painters as by changes of climate and vegetation”.  Typically, she begins with her own experience, lying on the ground of her back garden in London, which starts reflections on the geology below.  The book tapped in to interest in Britain and its history, its distinctive past, its visual heritage, and was itself an appealing artefact, with colour drawings by sculptor Henry Moore.  As Diana Collins observed, the book made such unpromising subjects as stones and the mating of reptiles fascinating and meaningful.   Jacquetta remarked that the book made a “curiously strong impression” with the public; she received the Kemsley special award for it.

Man and the Sun

Man and the Sun

“A Land” can be seen as the first of a trilogy, completed by “Man on Earth” (1954) and “Man and the Sun” (1962).  These three books drew on Jacquetta’s academic, scientific background, but went beyond this to inspire readers with her imaginative identification with the growth of human consciousness and mythologies of the sun.  Jacquetta believed that natural selection was only the mechanism for the development of consciousness, and that there was “an all-pervading and transcendent significance in human evolution”.  Her interest in dualities, complements and contrasts shows in her ideas about the feminine “Old Brain” and the masculine “New Brain”, and the replacement of mother goddesses by sky gods in prehistoric religion.

Past, Present, Man, Nature: 5. “Clothes and other vanities”

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

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

Intro | Credits | Previous | Next

5. “Clothes and other vanities”

Soon after the war, Jacquetta became principal in the Ministry of Education, responsible for visual education.  The results included a film made in the Orkneys by the Crown Film Unit, “The beginning of history” (1946).  However, she decided to leave her successful career in the civil service in 1949 to concentrate on imaginative work.  This included film, for example, creating “Figures in a landscape” (1953), which set the work of sculptor Barbara Hepworth in geological context.

Design for costumes, Anglo-Saxon, Festival of Britain

Design for costumes, Anglo-Saxon, Festival of Britain

Jacquetta’s commitment to sharing the story of the past is shown in her work for the Festival of Britain (1951).  As archaeological advisor to the Festival, Jacquetta helped create the exhibits telling the story of the peoples of Britain.  The Archive includes detailed correspondence over two years discussing costumes, the shapes of chariots and bowls, and how to use the limited space and resources to best effect. This image shows one of Jacquetta’s detailed costume sketches. For her contribution, she received the OBE in the New Years Honours 1952.

Jacquetta with Laurie Lee

Jacquetta with Laurie Lee

Jacquetta excelled as a film-maker and exhibit designer partly because of her strong visual sense and love of art and design.  She said of herself in 1949, “She is fond of the visual arts, particularly in modern painting, and buys pictures with such money as is left over after indulging in a parallel fondness for clothes and other vanities”. Her clothes in photographs in the Archive are always a delight: this image of her with Laurie Lee shows her in a flowing New Look dress.  She was easily picked out at Aldermaston Marches in the 1950s and 1960s by her distinctive hats.

Past, Present, Man, Nature: 3. “That great force of life”

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

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

Intro | Credits | Previous | Next

3. “That great force of life”

Jacquetta's ID card

Jacquetta's ID card

World War II changed everything.  Both Christopher and Jacquetta joined the civil service, though they continued to publish on archaeological topics. Jacquetta was elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1940. Jacquetta began in the Ministry of Post-War Reconstruction, moving later to the Ministry of Education.  She seems to have found the work congenial, remarking that it brought her “immense interest, amusement and some understanding of the higher bureaucracy”.

At the same time, she was drawn to poetry.  Her surviving notebooks delightfully juxtapose notes of formal civil service meetings and drafts of poems.  Nature, the past and “things” continued to inspire her: poem titles include “On Staring at a Celtic Ornament”, “Rooks”, “The Seal”, “Kuban”, “Pear and Cherry”, “A Glass”.  Her poems are also a moving testament to love found and lost, with poet and critic Walter Turner, who died suddenly in 1946.  “Symbols and speculations” (1949) was her only published volume of poetry.  Afterwards, she turned to other forms of creative expression.

Man in time folder and typescripts

Man in time folder and typescripts

“Man in Time”, shown here in typescript, is perhaps her greatest poem, describing a mystical, ecstatic experience she had at Mount Carmel watching a caravan of camels.  It gives the reader a flavour of the way Jacquetta felt about the past and the present: “As I stood by the cave whose walls had known / How that great force of life, how love, had formed / Men, women, music and the skeleton.”