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Kathleen Mary Kenyon

Who was Dame Kathleen Mary Kenyon?

Dame Kathleen Mary Kenyon (1906–1978) was a renowned British archaeologist known for her groundbreaking contributions to the field of archaeology, particularly in the study of ancient Near Eastern civilizations. Born on January 5, 1906, in London, England, Kenyon came from a family with a strong academic background, and her interest in archaeology was sparked at an early age.

Life and Work

Kenyon's academic journey began at Somerville College, Oxford, where she studied modern history. However, her passion for archaeology led her to pursue further studies at the Institute of Archaeology in London, under the mentorship of Sir Mortimer Wheeler. This association played a pivotal role in shaping Kenyon's approach to archaeological methodology. Later, Kenyon joined the expedition to Zimbabwe with the British Association as a photographer and assistant.

In the 1930s, Kathleen Kenyon embarked on a series of excavations in the Middle East. Her first major project was at the ancient city of Great Zimbabwe in Southern Africa, where she applied innovative techniques such as stratigraphy and pottery analysis. This experience laid the foundation for her future work and established her reputation as a meticulous and methodical archaeologist. Kenyon was influential in introducing stratigraphical methods to the Samarian archaeological field.

Kenyon's most notable achievements came from her extensive excavations in Jericho, located in the West Bank. From 1952 to 1958, she conducted groundbreaking work at the site, implementing stratigraphic excavation methods to meticulously uncover layers of occupation. Her meticulous documentation and analysis of the archaeological strata significantly advanced the understanding of the city's history, spanning from the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age.

In 1962 Kenyon left the Institute of Archaeology to become principal of St. Hugh's College, Oxford. She also oversaw the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem.

In addition to her fieldwork, Kenyon contributed significantly to the academic community through her publications. Her seminal work, "Digging Up Jericho" (1957), detailed the findings and methodologies employed during her excavations. Kenyon's emphasis on stratigraphy and the careful recording of archaeological contexts became a standard for future archaeological endeavors.

Kathleen Kenyon held various prestigious positions during her career, including the directorship of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and the Institute of Archaeology in London. Her work was recognized with numerous honors and awards, including her appointment as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1973.

Dame Kathleen Mary Kenyon's influence on the field of archaeology extended beyond her lifetime. Her commitment to methodological rigor and groundbreaking discoveries in the Middle East solidified her legacy as a pioneering figure in the discipline. Her contributions continue to shape the way archaeologists approach excavation and interpretation in the ancient Near East.

Kenyon resided at Rosehil, Wrexham, and died on 24 August 1978.


  1. Kenyon, K. M. (1957). Digging Up Jericho.
  2. Kenyon, K. M. (1960). Excavations at Jericho: The Architecture and Stratigraphy of the Tell.
  3. Moorey, P. R. S. (2003). Kathleen Kenyon: The Digging Weaver. A Life in Archaeology.

Associated Places