The world of archaeology has been illuminated by the tireless efforts and groundbreaking discoveries of archaeologists throughout history.
From King Tut to our oldest human ancestor "Lucy," archaeologists have not only enriched our knowledge of the past, but have also ignited a passion for uncovering the secrets buried beneath us.
6 Famous Archaeologists
These six archaeologists deserve more time in the limelight because of their great contributions to their respective canons, continued commitment to academic research and endless work to increase public knowledge of science. Learn more about these archaeologists that are worth digging into.
1. Howard Carter
Dr. Howard Carter, born May 9, 1874, in Norfolk, England, was a British archaeologist and Egyptologist. He was known for his fierce temper, love of cigars and whiskey and of course, for uncovering the burial site of the renowned Egyptian ruler, King Tutankhamen — King Tut.
This discovery, which contained over 2000 pieces of valuable antiques, has been labeled one of the top ten greatest archaeological finds of all time. Carter excavated in the Valley of the Kings for over a decade before he discovered the intact tomb of King Tut in 1922. He is considered one of Egyptology’s greatest scholars, and his accounts of the find are held at the Griffith Institute at The University of Oxford.
2. Dame Kathleen Kenyon
Dame Kathleen Kenyon was born in London, England on January 5, 1906. Noted for her larger-than-life personality and audacious attitude, she is remembered as one of the most influential archaeologists of the 20th century. She specialized in Neolithic culture in the Fertile Crescent and biblical archaeology during her excavations of Bangalow and Jericho from 1952 to 1958.
One of her most notable accomplishments is excavating Jericho to its Stone Age foundation and proving it as the oldest known continuously inhabited human settlement. Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the title Dame Commander of Order of the British Empire (DBE) upon Kenyon in 1973. The King of Jordan made her a Grand Officer of the Order of Independence in 1977. She was also the first female president of the Oxford University Archaeological Society.
3. Donald Johanson
Dr. Donald Johanson was born June 28, 1943 in Chicago. He earned a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He is most famous for having discovered one of the oldest human ancestors, the 3.18 million-year-old hominid skeleton, popularly referred to as “Lucy.”
Researchers considered Lucy a new hominid, called “Australopithecus afarensis,” after being uncovered in the Afar Triangle region of Hadar, Ethiopia. Over 40 percent of the Lucy skeleton was preserved, which helped reinforce the theory that hominids from this period walked upright, perhaps to carry food and infants.
Johnson and his co-author Maitland Edey won the National Book Award in Science for their text Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind. Johnson also authored several texts surrounding his discovery, such as Ancestors, From Lucy to Language, and Lucy’s Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Human Origins (IHO), now located at Arizona State University in the School of Human Evolution. Beyond voracious writing and research, Johanson has been involved in many documentaries, including appearances in the “Nature” and “Nova” series on PBS.
4. Brittany Brown
Dr. Brittany Brown is an American historical archaeologist, an assistant professor of anthropology and director of the African American and African Diaspora Cultural Center at Bard College. Her research covers post-emancipation era mortuary practices among African Americans in Jacksonville, maritime archaeology and African Diaspora burial practices in the Caribbean and American Southeast. Her forthcoming book, ‘Sites of Memory’: A Study of Historic African American Cemeteries in Jacksonville, Florida, will be released through the University of Florida Press.
To go along with her impressive resume, she has a B.A. in Anthropology/Historical Archaeology from the University of Florida and an M.A. in Anthropology/ Historical Archaeology/African Diaspora Studies from The College of William & Mary. She is also the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology from The College of William and Mary.
Follow her on Instagram at @theblackarchaeologist.
5. Brian Fagan
Dr. Brian Fagan has a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Archaeology and Anthropology from Cambridge University. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he received a Distinguished Teaching Award. His specializations include general prehistory and Old World archaeology, and his research interests include the interpretation and synthesis of world prehistory and human vulnerability in global prehistoric populations.
As a prolific author, he has written or edited at least 46 books. Specifically, he edited The Oxford Companion to Archaeology and authored People of the Earth and In the Beginning, which are staple texts in university-level archaeology and prehistory courses. He has also contributed to significant media publications such as The New York Times, Yahoo Finance, The Wall Street Journal and more.
Learn his thoughts on the “bizarre social history of beds” here.
6. Alice Gorman
Dr. Alice Gorman has a B.A. in Archaeology and Classics from the University of Melbourne and a Ph.D. in Archaeology from the University of New England. Her research covers orbital debris, planetary landing sites, space habitats and terrestrial space infrastructure. She is a space archaeologist and an associate professor at Flinders University.
Her book Dr Space Junk vs the Universe: Archaeology and the Future won the Nib Award People’s Choice, the John Mulvaney Book Award and was shortlisted for several awards such as the NSW and Queensland Premier’s Awards. Gorman publishes Space Age Archaeology, which aims to enlighten eager space enthusiasts about patriarchal double standards in space flight, among other topics. Space Age Archaeology is also archived at the National Library of Australia as a significant scientific blog.
Follow her on Twitter at @drspacejunk.
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