Dorothy Garrod bigraphy, stories - First female Professor at Cambridge

Dorothy Garrod : biography

5 May 1892 - 18 December 1968

Dorothy Annie Elizabeth Garrod CBE, FBA (5 May 1892 – 18 December 1968) was a British archaeologist who was the first woman to hold an Oxbridge chair, partly through her pioneering work on the Palaeolithic period. Her father was Sir Archibald Garrod, the physician.


Garrod was raised at her family home in Merton, Suffolk by a number of governoresses. In 1913, she entered Newnham College, Cambridge, and and she one of very few female students. Garrod left Newnham with a second class degree and undertook war work until she was demobilised in 1919. By this time she had lost three brothers. She then went to Malta where her father was working and to occupy herself she took an interest in the local antiquities.

When her father was appointed to be Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford Garrod decided to read for a Diploma in Anthropology at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, where she was taught by Robert Ranulph Marett. It was Marett who inspired Garrod to be a prehistorian and she was then able to spend two years with the leading French prehistorian Abbé Breuil., accessed 2 July 2013 Breuil had already visited Gibraltar and he recommended that Garrod investigate Devil's Tower Cave which was only 350 metres from Forbes' Quarry where a Neanderthal skull had been found previously. Devils Tower Cave had been discovered by Breil on an earlier visit.

It was Garrod who discovered the important neanderthal skull now called Gibraltar 2 in the early 1920s. She had come to Gibraltar to investigate at Abbe Breuil's encouragement. He had discovered the Devil's Tower Cave in Gibraltar with William Willoughby Cole Verner.,, accessed 24 February 2013

Between 1925 and 1926 she excavated in Gibraltar and in 1928 led an expedition through South Kurdistan that led to the excavation of Hazar Merd Cave and Zarzi cave.

The importance of Mount Carmel as a site in prehistory was only discovered because the British had decided that it would be a good source of quality stone for their plans to establish Haifa as the primary port into Palestine. A preliminary surver however found not only Natufian deposits but also prehistic art objects and this was reported in the influential Illustrated London News. Decisions in London decided that there would be no quarry and Garrod was requested to undertake further investigations into three caves.

Garrod undertook excavations at Mount Carmel in Palestine where, working closely with Dorothea Bate, she demonstrated a long sequence of Lower Palaeolithic, Middle Palaeolithic and Epipalaeolithic occupations in the caves of Tabun, El Wad, Es Skhul, Shuqba (Shuqbah) and Kebara Cave. Her work was a major contribution to the understanding of the prehistoric sequence in the region. She also coined the cultural label for the late Epipalaeolithic Natufian culture (from Wadi an-Natuf, the location of the Shuqba cave) following her excavations at Es Skhul and El Wad. The chronological framework established by her excavations in the Levant remain crucial to the present understanding of that prehistoric period. Her excavations at the cave sites in the Levant were conducted with almost exclusively women workers recruited from local villages, although she worked with fellow archaeologist Francis Turville-Petre at Kebara Cave, the type-site for the Kebaran culture. After holding a number of other academic posts she was made Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge in 1939, a post she held until 1952, aside from a gap towards the end of the Second World War when she served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. She was based at the RAF Medmenham photographic interpretation unit as a section officer.

Dorothy Garrod was the first female professor at Cambridge. The first women University Teaching Officers were appointed to Cambridge University in 1921, and in 1926 Cambridge University women first gave women the titles of degrees but without associated privileges (i.e. no participation in University government). It was not until 1947 that full membership for women was granted by Cambridge University.

References and further reading

  • Adams, Amanda, (2010). Ladies of the Field: Early Women Archaeologists and Their Search for Adventure, Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 978-1-55365-433-9
  • Davies, William and Ruth Charles (eds) (1999) Dorothy Garrod and the Progress of the Palaeolithic: Studies in the Prehistoric Archaeology of the Near East and Europe Oxford: Oxbow Books.
  • Smith, Pamela Jane. (2000) "Dorothy Garrod as the First Woman Professor at Cambridge University" Antiquity 74(283), 131-6.
  • Smith, Pamela Jane. (2005) "From 'small, dark and alive' to 'cripplingly shy': Dorothy Garrod as the first woman Professor at Cambridge."
  • Smith, Pamela Jane et al. (1997) "Dorothy Garrod in Words and Pictures" Antiquity 71(272), 265-70.


Awards and recognition

Garrod was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1952. In 1965, she was awarded the CBE. She felt it was important that archaeologists travel and therefore left money to found the Dorothy Garrod Travel Fund.Price, K.M. 2009. . In R. Hosfield, F.F. Wenban-Smith & M. Pope (eds.) Great Prehistorians: 150 Years of Palaeolithic Research, 1859

– 2009 (Special Volume 30 of Lithics: The Journal of the Lithic Studies Society):x–y. Lithic Studies Society, London 
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