Garrod, Dorothy Annie Elizabeth

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(b. Oxford, United Kingdom, 5 May 1892; d. Cambridge, United Kingdom, 18 December 1968),

paleoanthropology, prehistoric archaeology.

Garrod was the pioneer excavator of the famous Mount Carmel caves, where a long sequence of prehistoric cultures and human fossils was discovered. The fossils and their archaeological context continue to play a major role in the study of human evolution, even after additional modern excavations were carried out in these caves. Most prominent are et-Tabun and es-Skhul where a Neanderthal skeleton and a host of archaic modern humans were uncovered. Her discovery and definition of the Natufian culture, first in Shukbah cave and later in elWad cave and terrace, became one of the cornerstones for understanding the transition from foraging to farming in the Fertile Crescent. Dorothy Garrod’s academic career followed a stellar trajectory: she became the Disney Professor of Archaeology in the University of Cambridge and the first woman to hold a chair in either of the United Kingdom’s ancient universities.

Early Years . Dorothy Annie Elizabeth Garrod was born in 1892 into a late-Victorian English upper-middle-class family, the only daughter with three brothers. Her grandfather Sir Alfred Garrod was a physician, and her father Sir Archibald Garrod was both a physician and a biochemist, while her uncle Alfred Garrod was a physiologist and zoologist. All were Fellows of the Royal Society. On her mother’s side, the grandfather Sir Thomas Smith was a distinguished surgeon. Dorothy and her three brothers were expected to carry on the family scientific tradition. In the year of her birth higher education for women was slowly gaining ground as five women’s colleges were already functioning at Oxford and Cambridge. Until she was nine years old Dorothy was taught at the family home at Merton in Suffolk by a series of governesses. For an East Anglian family, Cambridge was the natural choice for higher education, and in 1913 she entered Newnham College to study history and classics, as no degree course in archaeology yet existed at either Oxford or Cambridge.

When Dorothy Garrod arrived at Newnham young female students were still denied full membership in the university. Women admitted since 1881 could take only the honors examination for the bachelor of arts degree, called the Tripos at Cambridge, but it would take some twenty years before they were included in the official lists of results, and a further two decades before they were admitted to take degrees (in 1921). Full admission came only in 1948. In this reactionary practice Cambridge and Oxford lagged behind London and some provincial universities where, since the late nineteenth century, women could be full university members.

In 1914, her second year at Newnham, World War I broke out and turned her ordered, secure future upside down, as it would for so many of her generation. In 1916 her brother Thomas, twenty-one years old, died of wounds while serving in France. The next year her eldest brother, Alfred Noel, already a qualified doctor aged twenty-nine, was also killed in France while serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Basil, the youngest, died just before demobilization in 1919, in the influenza pandemic, which caused more death than the guns of the entire war.

Garrod left Newnham in 1916 with a second-class degree, determined also to play her part in the Great War. She served briefly in the Ministry of Munitions, then followed her brothers to France with the Catholic Women’s League, although she did not convert to the faith until 1917. She was demobilized in Germany in 1919 and in her grief she pledged that for her bereaved parents’ sake her future life should compensate in achievement for her lost brothers.

She joined her parents in Malta where her father was now head of War Hospitals and it was his inspired suggestion that she should occupy her time and her mind among the island’s spectacular prehistoric antiquities. When Archibald Garrod returned to England in 1921 as Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, Dorothy registered for the university diploma course in anthropology under the direction of Robert Ranulph Marett. Inspired by him she determined to become a prehistorian specializing in the Old Stone Age, and gained her diploma with distinction in 1921. Among her contemporaries at Oxford was Francis Turville-Petre, who left and went to Palestine and was the first, in 1925, to conduct excavation in the country that beginning in 1918 was under British rule for the ensuing thirty years.

Garrod visited the French painted caves and at Count H. Bégouën’s house she met the Abbé Henri Breuil who agreed to take her as his student for two years at the Institut de Paléontologie Humaine in Paris. There she studied the extensive collections of Victor Commont from the Somme gravels, where in the mid-nineteenth century Jacques Boucher de Perthes first identified the flint handaxes (which are shaped bifacially and often have a pointed tip) as the Lower Paleolithic Abbevillian, Chellean, and Acheulean cultures. While working in the institute basement she discovered shared experiences with the paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest. Garrod was now finding her Catholic faith hard to reconcile with her new knowledge of human prehistory. Her intellectual honesty obliged her to admit to Breuil that the Somme gravels left her baffled. It also caused her to withdraw from the church. Teilhard de Chardin, twelve years her senior, had reasoned his way through the conundrum to his own satisfaction and his philosophy of evolution showed her a way back to her faith.

In the summer of 1921 she participated in an excavation with Louis Didon at Abri Labattut, near Périgueux, in southwestern France. At their hotel she met the American anthropologist George Grant MacCurdy from Yale University, the founder of the American School of Prehistoric Research. His friendship with Garrod would have profound consequences both for her future and her excavations in Mount Carmel. Garrod continued to gain field experience by working on other French digs such as La Quina. After returning to England and studying local collections from Upper Paleolithic sites dispersed in various museums, she completed and published her book The Upper Palaeolithic Age in Britain (1926). The book was published by the Clarendon Press of Oxford University and Garrod gained a BSc from the university as a result of that research.

Excavations in Gibraltar and the “Glozel Affair.” . The publication of her book established Garrod as a significant figure in British prehistoric archaeology, and as a result Breuil proposed that she should dig the Devil’s Tower rock shelter, which he had discovered in Gibraltar, just 350 meters from Forbes Quarry, where the first Neanderthal skull in Europe had been found in 1848, although it was not recognized as such until 1907. Garrod’s excavations from 1925 to 1926 unearthed a Late Mousterian industry as well as the frontal bone and left parietal of a human skull similar to the juvenile Neanderthal from La Quina.

In 1927 Garrod was invited to be a member of an international commission of inquiry into the “Glozel affair.” This was supposedly a discovery made by a farmer with an interest in archaeology of a collection of inscribed clay tablets, Bronze Age pottery, and Paleolithic animal engravings and tools, which he claimed was evidence of an ancient indigenous “Glozelian” civilization. French scholars had divided opinions and several, including the Abbé Breuil, were not persuaded of their originality. Garrod, trying to keep an open mind, and her fellow male commissioners were invited to dig at the site for three days. Glozelian objects conveniently appeared on the second and third days. Garrod, while checking their trench for evidence of suspected interference, was even accused by a local amateur archaeologist of manufacturing evidence herself to discredit the site. Despite the commission’s verdict of fraud and a police raid that found unfinished objects on the Fradin farm, the Glozel affair has proved curiously persistent. Dating by thermoluminescence in the 1970s produced confusing results and revived the controversy, and even after her death accusations against Garrod were repeated.

Excavations in Mt. Carmel . A fragmentary human skull found in 1925 by Francis Turville-Petre in Zuttiyeh cave in Wadi Amud, near the sea of Galillee in Palestine, convinced MacCurdy of the archaeological importance of the Levant. While visiting Oxford in 1927, his friend Sir John Linton Myres, chair of the Council of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, proposed that Garrod be admitted to the British School as a student to continue research in Palestine. The years between the two world wars had been the formative period in archaeology in Palestine, with research ranging from the Stone Age to the Islamic period as a result of the establishment of the Department of Antiquities, the British School of Archaeology, the Hebrew University, and the presence in Jerusalem of the French École Biblique.

Garrod arrived in Palestine in 1928 and was informed by the Jesuit Père Alexis Mallon about the cave of Shukbah in the Wadi en-Natuf. But before she started there she went on a survey to Iraq where, in the Sulaymaniyah area, she found the Zarzi cave, which she later excavated. Back in Palestine the same year she dug in Shukbah cave where she identified above Mousterian and sterile deposits a layer containing a Mesolithic industry that she named Natufian. The assemblage of stone tools—consisting of sickle blades for harvesting, lunates (known as parts of hunting tools), and perforators for drilling holes in various materials, as well as mortars and pestles employed in food preparation—led her to suggest that the producers of the Natufian were the first farmers. Her interpretation of the Natufian subsistence activities has been alternately rejected and adopted several times since 1928.

Returning to Zarzi later in 1928, she found that the cave contained three identifiable layers: Layer A was a mixture of pottery fragments and flint implements; layer B produced a microlithic Upper Paleolithic industry with notched blades, scrapers, and geometric types, known today as a Late Pleistocene Zarzian culture. In the other two Hazar Merd caves (located 8 kilometers from Zarzi), she found both the Zarzian and evidence for Mousterian occupations, later compared by American archaeologist Ralph Solecki (the excavator of Shanidar cave in the 1950s) to his layer D, the level of the Neanderthal burials now roughly dated to 60,000 years.

In 1927 the British Mandatory government decided that Haifa should become the main port of Palestine, and the construction of a port would require massive quantities of good quality stone. The plan was to open a quarry in the cliffs of Wadi el Mughara in Mount Carmel. However, following a survey by the local inspector, Charles Lambert (a numismatist working for the Department of Antiquities in Jerusalem) was sent to test el-Wad cave, one of several along the Wadi. His trial trenches uncovered rich Natufian deposits including art objects. Following publication in the Illustrated London News, the sites were saved by a decision taken in London, and Garrod was invited to excavate three caves.

The excavations in el-Wad, es-Skhul, and et-Tabun caves were conducted during many months from 1929 through 1934. Each of the sites provided a wealth of information on past prehistoric cultures and after more than seven decades, most of it is still relevant for understanding the prehistory of the Levant. In el-Wad cave and terrace Garrod exposed thick Natufian deposits along with a cemetery containing numerous burials. Several skeletons bore body decorations. The rich stone tool assemblages contained sickle blades and lunates shaped in two major types—with Helwan (or bifacial) and abrupt retouch, bone tools, beads and pendants made of bones, teeth, and marine shells (with a dominance of Dentalium sp.). She subdivided the deposits into two periods, Early and Late Natufian, and this basic rough subdivision still holds in the twenty-first century.

The underlying layers were a Late Upper Paleolithic industry called Atlitian, and two layers of Levantine Aurignacian, which is similar to the classical Aurignacian of western Europe, with some bone and antler tools, pendants made of teeth as well as nosed and carinate scrapers and the special el-Wad point (formerly known as the Font Yves point and shown to have been used as a spear point or arrowhead).

The layers beneath contain the stone tool assemblage of what she thought were the earliest Upper Paleolithic industry. This was later designated as a “Transitional Industry” with blades and scrapers and a few Emireh points (triangular flakes or Levallois points with basal bifacial retouch that were used as spear points). The interpretation in her time was that this archaeological entity expressed the technological and cultural transition from the Mousterian (Middle Paleolithic) to the new era of the Upper Paleolithic.

The excavation in Tabun cave produced a very long sequence, some 23 meters deep, still one of the deepest prehistoric caves in the world. The chimney of this karstic cave (formed by the dissolution of the limestone by water in the geological past) was also filled with archaeological deposits, mainly attributed to the late Mousterian. The first layer (B) inside the cave contained some rockfall that entered the chimney and a rich Late Mousterian industry with well-shaped Levallois points. Layer C was characterized by numerous superpositioned hearths resulting from using wood as the main combustible. The lithic industry was dominated by flakes often produced from uni- and bidirectional cores, and rare points. The layer below this, layer D, demonstrated an additional change with a proliferation of Levallois blades.

The early part of the sequence contained rich and thick deposits of the Acheulo-Yabrudian layer E (containing numerous thick flake scrapers and small bifaces with a proliferation of blades in a couple of horizons later named Amudian). Underlying this was layer F with typical Late or Upper Acheulean bifaces and at the base an older flake-dominated industry attributed to the Clactonian/Tayacian.

One of the most striking discoveries was the skeleton of a woman, considered to be a Neanderthal, in an unclear stratigraphic position according to Garrod’s own observations. It could have been a grave dug down from layer B, or a burial attributed to layer C. A human jaw found at the base of layer C was compared and found to be similar to the human relics from Skhul, where all were considered archaic modern humans similar to the skeletons discovered during the early 1930s by René Neuville and Moshe Stekelis in Qafzeh cave, near Nazareth.

The excavations at Skhul cave, essentially conducted by Theodore D. McCown (with Garrod’s assistance), uncovered a deposit about 2 meters thick containing several burials, associated with a Mousterian lithic industry that resembled the assemblage of layer C at Tabun. The human type was first identified as being different from the woman from Tabun, however, later all the human remains were incorporated by McCown and Sir Arthur Keith under the term Paleanthropus palestinensis, as a particular population that existed in the Levant.

In addition, Dorothea Bate, a close colleague of Garrod and a respected paleontologist who studied the fauna from these sites, recognized a change that she labeled a “faunal break” between layer B and layers C–D in Tabun. She attributed this break to the shift from interglacial to glacial conditions in the Near East. Only with the proliferation of paleoclimatic information, and the current thermoluminescence and electronic spin resonance dating for many of the cave sites in this region, has it been possible to support her proposal.

Professor in Cambridge and Excavations in Lebanon . Publication of The Stone Age of Mount Carmel (1937– 1939) on the Mount Carmel excavations, brief periods of fieldwork in Anatolia and Bulgaria, and the outbreak of World War II (in which she served, with other archaeologists, in the interpretation of aerial photographs of occupied Europe), then her unexpected election as Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University, all combined to keep Garrod from any major participation in field archaeology for over twenty years. Among her achievements during her tenure as Disney Professor of Archaeology (1939–1952) was to advance the study of prehistory at Cambridge University, ensuring that archaeology and anthropology was recognized as a full degree course. Nevertheless, retirement enabled her to plan a return to the Levant to attempt a resolution of the chronological sequence of the Late Lower and entire Middle Paleolithic periods in this region.

In 1958 Garrod and British archaeologist Diana Kirkbride began digging the Abri Zumoffen on the 15-meter shoreline at Adlun, and in the large Mugharet elBezez cave. At this time, prior to the introduction of new dating techniques such as thermoluminescence and electron spin resonance, correlations with raised Mediterranean beaches seemed the safest chronological model.

Abri Zumoffen contained mainly the Amudian industry (as Garrod had defined it in her reanalysis of Tabun cave layer E) while Bezez cave preserved both an Acheulo-Yabrudian assemblage as well as a Mousterian of the Tabun D-type. Between two seasons Garrod and her colleague Germaine Henri-Martin studied the cave of Ras el-Kelb where the brecciated deposits were the remainders of the site that was partially destroyed by building the coastal railway. Garrod observed that the Mousterian stone implements from this site resembled those of Tabun layer C and the layers accumulated on the 6-meter beach above sea level could be attributed to the last interglacial.

Last Years . In 1962 Garrod delivered the Huxley Lecture in London, presenting her model of the evolution of the Middle Paleolithic of the Levant. She continued the excavations at Bezez cave with great effort as her health deteriorated, but in 1966 she broke her femur in a fall in her French garden. Extended periods in France and London now began. Nevertheless, an interim report on the Bezez was completed and by 1968 she was in London working on the final report. The Society of Antiquaries awarded her their Gold Medal that spring. In summer 1968 her health continued to decline and wanting the comfort of her faith and of her friends, she was moved to a Catholic nursing home in Cambridge and died there on 18 December 1968, aged seventy-six.

In retrospect, Dorothy Garrod was one of the pioneers of prehistoric research in the Levant and her publications not only outlined the main phases of the cultural evolution of the region, including major transitions, but also determined some of the questions with which later generations are dealing. The results of her Tabun stratigraphy (extended by the ensuing excavations conducted by Arthur Jelinek and Avraham Ronen from 1968 onward) facilitated the formulation of the sequence of Middle Paleolithic entities, called today Tabun B-type, C-type, and D-type, with the understanding that within each there is a technological and typological variability, as shown by additional excavated sites. However, the geochronology of the layers at Tabun cave was found to be much older. The Acheulo-Yabrudian beginning much earlier, about 450,000 years ago, with the Middle Paleolithic beginning about 250,000 to 220,000 years ago and ending with the onset of the Upper Paleolithic around 47,000 to 45,000 years ago.

Garrod’s contributions to the later periods were mainly in defining Upper Paleolithic cultures and phases (with René Neuville) and reconstituting the excavated assemblage of Emireh cave (dug by Francis Turville-Petre) as the characteristic “Traditional Industry.” This meant that the makers of these stone tool assemblages were most probably modern humans. An additional important contribution was the definition of the Natufian culture, which dates to the end of the Pleistocene, and its main chronological subdivision. This is now the best-known culture of a complex society of foragers whose descendants were the first real Neolithic farmers in the Levant. The issue of whether the Natufians were the first cereal cultivators is still hotly debated. Other sites provide the needed detailed information, but the intuitive proposal of Garrod is still with us. In sum, after more than seventy-five years, a major part of her field observations and written contributions are still serving the prehistorians of the region.



The Upper Palaeolithic Age in Britain. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926.

With Dorothea M. Bate, Theodore McCown, and Arthur Keith. The Stone Age of Mount Carmel. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1937–1939.

“The Upper Palaeolithic in the Light of Recent Discovery.” Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 4 (1938): 1–26. An early review that should be compared to the next one.

“The Relations between South-West Asia and Europe in the Later Palaeolithic Age.” Journal of World History 1 (1953): 13–38.

“The Mugharet el Emireh in Lower Galilee: Type Station of the Emiran Industry.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 85 (1955): 141–162.

“Notes sur le Paléolithique supérieur du Moyen Orient.” Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française 54 (1957): 439–446.

The Natufian Culture: The Life and Economy of a Mesolithic People in the Near East. London: British Academy, 1958.

“The Middle Palaeolithic of the Near East and the Problem of Mount Carmel.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 92 (1962): 232–259.

With Grahame Clark. Primitive Man in Egypt, Western Asia and Europe: In Palaeolithic Times. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1965.


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———. “Natufian: A Complex Society of Foragers.” In Beyond Foraging and Collecting: Evolutionary Change in Hunter-Gatherer Settlement Systems, edited by Ben Fitzhugh and Junko Habu. New York: Kluwer Academic, 2002.

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Ofer Bar-Yosef

Jane Callander

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Garrod, Dorothy Annie Elizabeth

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