KENYON, KATHLEEN . Kathleen Mary Kenyon (1906–1978) was born in London on January 5, 1906. She graduated from Somerville College, Oxford, in 1929, and in 1934 she cofounded, with Mortimer Wheeler and Tessa Wheeler, the University of London's Institute of Archaeology. Kenyon served as the institute's first secretary, then as interim director during World War II. She was a lecturer in Palestinian archaeology (1949–1962); was appointed honorary director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem in 1951; and excavated Jericho between 1952 and 1958 and Jerusalem from 1962 to 1967. She served as principal of Saint Hugh's College from 1962 to 1973 and upon her retirement in 1973 received the title Dame of the Order of the British Empire, 1973. After her death on August 24, 1978, in Wrexham, Wales, the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem was renamed the Kenyon Institute in her honor (2003).
Kenyon is a significant figure in the history of Near Eastern archaeology. She created the Wheeler-Kenyon excavation method, contributed to establishing a dating system for Iron II occupation levels, established the Neolithic origins of biblical Jericho, and uncovered the occupational history of Samaria. She was a teacher as well as a practitioner of archaeology. In addition to lecturing at the University of London's Institute of Archaeology, she also conducted field schools at her excavations in Jericho and Jerusalem. There she trained the next generation of archaeologists from England, the United States, and Europe who in turn handed on her legacy to their students.
Kenyon began her distinguished archaeological career in 1929 as a photographer of Gertrude Canton-Thomson's excavation of the ruins of Zimbabwe in Rhodesia. When she returned to England, Kenyon worked with Mortimer Wheeler and Tessa Wheeler at Verulamium (Saint Albans), directing the excavation of the Roman theater during the summer field seasons from 1930 to 1935. Wheeler was considered the founder of modern British archaeology, and Kenyon learned his box-grid excavation system. The Wheeler system divided a site into five-meter squares with one-meter balks (walls) between them in order to uncover and excavate horizontally the layered remains of human occupation according to their natural contours. Layers (strata) differed in color, consistency, and contents—information generally previously unrecorded on excavations whose major goal was recovering a site's architecture. Diagnostic ceramics (for example, jar handles, rims, and bases) helped to date the strata from which they were recovered.
Kenyon's first foray into Near Eastern archaeology was her collaboration with John Crowfoot and Grace Crowfoot at Samaria (1931–1933). Kenyon used Wheeler's method to excavate trenches across the top of the mound and down its northern and southern slopes, uncovering evidence of human occupation from the Roman period to Iron II. Her findings provided important ceramic dating material for Palestinian Iron II stratigraphy and for the study of terra sigilata ware. Colleagues considered Kenyon's fieldwork at Samaria a high point in Palestinian archaeology.
Kenyon directed her career-defining excavation of Tel es-Sultan, ancient Jericho, from 1952 to 1958. Building on her work in Samaria, she created the Wheeler-Kenyon method, which is still a popular technique among Near Eastern archaeologists. By this method, she dug a deep, stepped trench down to bedrock on one side of the site in order to trace its history of human occupation. To follow a surface or a building's foundations, for example, she excavated horizontally in a series of five-meter squares, leaving balks intact.
Jericho was one of the first sites excavated in Palestine. The British engineer Charles Warren surveyed the site in 1868. Two German archaeologists, Carl Watzinger and Ernest Sellin, conducted the first scientific excavations (1907–1909, 1911). They uncovered remains of a massive city wall and palace—validation, they claimed, of the Old Testament story of Jericho's destruction (Jos. 6). However, after analyzing stamped jar handles and Egyptian scarabs associated with the wall, Watzinger concluded that the wall had been destroyed during the Middle Bronze period, much earlier than the Israelite conquest. The excavations of the British archaeologist John Garstang (1930–1936) revealed remains of a network of walls whose collapse, he argued, resulted from military destruction rather than disrepair or erosion. He dated the walls to about 1400 bce and, dismissing Watzinger's conclusions, announced that the archaeological evidence confirmed the Israelite destruction of Jericho.
Kenyon's Jericho project uncovered evidence of Natufian culture just above bedrock and, in the next strata, a mud-brick tower dated to the Neolithic period (c. 8000 bce), making Jericho the earliest-known walled city. Her excavation of tombs in the same strata city provided evidence for Neolithic funeral rites: clay-covered skulls decorated with paint and shells. She found that the mud-brick city walls had been repaired and rebuilt some seventeen times, probably because of earthquake damage. The building of the most recent wall Kenyon dated to around 2300 bce; it was destroyed in about 1550 bce. Only a small, unfortified settlement existed on the site when the Israelites entered Canaan (c. 1400 bce). Her interpretation prevails, despite subsequent criticism (see Wood, 1990).
Kenyon's final excavation (1962–1967) focused on the City of David, just south of the Temple Mount, the oldest inhabited part of Jerusalem. The most important architectural features she uncovered were stepped-stone structures whose function and dating remain ambiguous. The 1967 Six-Day War terminated Kenyon's excavation. She died before she could publish final field reports on her work in Jerusalem.
Kenyon, Kathleen. Digging up Jericho. London, 1957.
Kenyon, Kathleen. Excavations at Jericho. 2 vols. London, 1960, 1965.
Kenyon, Kathleen. Amorites and Canaanites. London, 1966.
Kenyon, Kathleen. Royal Cities of the Old Testament. London, 1971.
Kenyon, Kathleen. Digging up Jerusalem. London, 1974.
Kenyon, Kathleen. The Bible and Recent Archaeology. London, 1978; rev. ed., 1987.
Wood, Bryant G. "Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?" Biblical Archaeology Review 16 (March–April 1990): 44–58.
Kathleen S. Nash (2005)
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