Saturday, April 5, 2008

Beatrice De Cardi

The World's Oldest Archaeologist

In an article for The Independent, Jonathan Brown had this to say:
"At 93, Miss De Cardi can lay claim to being the world's oldest practising archaeologist. An expert on the pre-Islamic history of the Lower Arabian Gulf states and the civilisations of her beloved Baluchistan, she is part-Indiana Jones, part-Miss Marple. Her life is an extraordinary testament to a woman whose intense motivation has never left her. One who steadfastly refused to compromise in what was – and many argue still is – an avowedly man's world."

Brown goes on further to describe this pioneering woman, whose exploits would have made for "edge-of-your-seat" reading:
"She describes a pioneering time, fraught with peril. "We camped out sharing a water channel with a pack of wild dogs who raced past our tent to drink twice daily," she said. "At night the howls of wolves in the adjacent hills served as a reminder that Baluchistan was a wild and dangerous place. The impression gained substance when we moved back to Surab and were not allowed to camp at Siah-damb on account of a djinn [spirit] greatly feared by our workmen. I suspected a more material power and accepted a revolver lent by the local official."

In 1960 the region was closed to foreigners and Miss De Cardi was forced to approach from the Iranian side at Bampur. Finds here led her to the lower Gulf, now part of the United Arab Emirates. In the northernmost state Ras al-Khaimah, she discovered lost tombs now obliterated by new motorways funded by the petrodollar billions. Eventually she was forced to quit the country because of encroaching hostilities. But not before she had come to the attention of the emirate's ruler and later that of the government of Qatar, who asked her to lead an expedition charting the country "from Stone Age to Oil Age", something she was required to do in just 10 weeks.

Miss De Cardi, who never married, continues to travel to the region each year to catalogue new finds at the national museums she was instrumental in founding."

Whilst Beatrice's adventures may not have created the headlines that Carter's discovery of Tut's Tomb generated, her work in the Middle East was just as significant. Beatrice has written many articles of Antiquity and Archaeological resources, and is a well respected and honoured member of the Archaeological community.

Further Reading:


- Women in Archaeology


- "Excavating Women: A History of Women in European Archaeology" Edited by Margarita Diaz-Andreu and Marie Louise Stig-Sorensen (Routledge 1998)

- "Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists" Edited by Getzel M. Cohen and Martha Sharp Joukowsky

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