Distinguished Women of Past and Present

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Gertrude Caton-Thompson


Gertrude Caton-Thompson, a British archeologist, was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge. During World War I she worked for the British Ministry of Shipping and she also attended the Paris Peace Conference. Afterwards, she completed her training at the British School of Archeology in Egypt. Occasionally collaborating with another British woman archeologist, E. W. Gardner, she inaugurated the First Archeological and Geological Survey of the Northern Fayum between 1924 and 1926 when she was still a student. She continued the project in 1927-1928 when she was a field director for the Royal Anthropological Institution. Her work pushed the origins of Egyptian culture back to 5000 B.C. Afterwards, she collaborated with Guy Brunton on a project at Hemamiah near Badar in Egypt and together they established that the Badarian period occurred just before the Predynastic period.

From 1928-1929, Caton-Thompson excavated the famed ruins at Zimbabwe in Rhodesia. Her discoveries about the nation's past contributed to new national pride and, later, a new name for this country. From 1930-1933, she again worked in Egypt excavating the early site of Kharga Oasis. In 1937-1938, she investigated the tombs and temples of Hureidha in the Hadramaut in southern Arabia.

Caton-Thompson took time to describe and publish each of her discoveries and her contributions were extensive. She served as president of the British Prehistoric Society and a vice-president of the Royal Anthropological Institute. She was governor of the Bedford College (University of London) and the School of Oriental Studies. From 1934 until her retirement in 1957, she was a Fellow of Newnham College (Cambridge). She received many prestigious awards in her lifetime and an honorary LL.D. degree from Cambridge.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1997.

Women of Science: Righting the Record, edited by G. Kass-Simon and Patricia Farnes, Indiana University Press, 1993

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