Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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A Rare Bird Volume 54 Number 1, January/February 2001
by Christine Finn

Love her or hate her, Jacquetta Hawkes, with her intuitive, humanistic approach to archaeology, still has us talking.


A young Jacquetta Hawkes (Courtesy Nicolas Hawkes)

Jacquetta Hawkes hoped to sound a wake-up call to archaeologists swept up in a frenzy of scientific and theoretical advances. She felt human values were being lost and that archaeologists were becoming obsessed with statistics and the minutiae of their profession, presenting the simplest concepts in the most convoluted prose. Hawkes' own output was monumental, her range of work extensive. She was the archaeology correspondent for the Sunday Times in London; wrote academic papers, children's books, guidebooks, complex theses on ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean, lavishly illustrated commemorative volumes, poetry, plays, and a novel; and appeared on television and radio. Her postwar generation colleagues, however, impugned her work as too lightweight, too interdisciplinary, and altogether too subjective and humanistic. It did not help her image when, in her later years, she wrote a veiled autobiography, Quest of Love, which not only tackled the failure of her first marriage, but mused on the joy of sex with her second husband, English playwright J.B. Priestley. Hawkes' work now begs reevaluation at a time when archaeologists are more aware of the need to communicate to the general public. Jacquetta Hawkes fascinates because she sustained that early curiosity of the garden dig, the feel of worked flint. She never lost sight of what was, for her, archaeology's ultimate goal--to understand what it is to be human.

Christine Finn, a freelance writer and research associate at the Institute of Archaeology at Oxford University, is currently at work on a biography of Jacquetta Hawkes. She would like to thank Nicolas Hawkes and Catherine Simons for their assistance with this article.

© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America