British Archaeology, no 14, May 1996: Obituary


Jacquetta Hawkes

by Paul Bahn

Jacquetta Hawkes, who has died aged 85, was one of the foremost popularisers of archaeology, who produced a whole series of syntheses, atlases and guidebooks which combined accuracy of fact with clarity of thought and great elegance of expression. Her book on Sir Mortimer Wheeler is also one of the best archaeological biographies.

I was fortunate enough to collaborate on her last archaeological volume, The Shell Guide to British Archaeology - and certainly one of the perks of the job was getting to know her and her husband, the remarkable JB Priestley, at their spectacular home, Kissing Tree House near Stratford. In the end she had to pass me a far greater proportion of the book than had been expected, as her husband s worsening illness occupied more of her time - he died in 1984.

My first stay at the house was a daunting experience, as I tried to make conversation over dinner with these formidable intellects without appearing stupid - after all they knew everyone, had been everywhere and done everything. But they rapidly put me at my ease. I remember asking Jacquetta, in my ignorance, if she had ever done much work on the Palaeolithic period, and she replied that she had not, `although I did find the Tabun skull' (one of the most famous Neanderthal skulls). After dinner I sat between them, watching television in the massive study, with its floor-to-ceiling books, grand piano and enormous desks - their two favourite shows were Call my Bluff and One Man and his Dog!

Jacquetta appeared on the surface to be austere, very formal, and rather cold and distant; but one soon became aware that, in reality, she was somewhat shy, and very gracious, kind and generous. The world of archaeological writing is the poorer for the loss of her productive, brilliant and original mind.

Jacquetta Hawkes (ne Hopkins): born 5 Au-gust 1910; FSA 1940; Principal, Post-War Reconstruction Secretariat 1941-43; Principal and Secretary, UK National Commission for Unesco 1943-49; Vice-President, CBA 1949- 52; OBE 1952; books include The Archaeology of Jersey 1939, Prehistoric Britain (with Christopher Hawkes) 1944, Early Britain 1945, A Land 1951, Journey Down a Rainbow (with JB Priestley) 1955, Atlas of Ancient Archaeology 1975, Shell Guide to British Archaeology 1986; married 1933 Christopher Hawkes (died 1992, one son, marriage dissolved 1953), 1953 JB Priestley (died 1984); died 18 March 1996.

Paul G Bahn is a specialist in ancient rock art, and a former co-author with Jacquetta Hawkes


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