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Joanne Elizabeth Cutler (1962-2018)

31 January 2018

Jo Cutler

UCL Institute of Archaeology staff, students, friends and colleagues will be saddened to hear of the death of Joanne Cutler on 24 January.

Jo joined the Institute of Archaeology as a mature BA Archaeology student in 2002 with a particular interest in Aegean Prehistory, though characteristically, she complemented her assessed courses by sitting-in on as many others as she could manage. Her full enthusiasm only became clear when we learned, from her PhD application, that she had completed an Open University BA in Humanities with Classical Studies concurrently with her UCL BA and MA degrees. She received First Class honours on both BAs, and a Distinction for her MA in the Archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.

Jo was awarded the Institute’s Roy Hodson prize for her BA dissertation, and the John Stephen Kassman national prize from the Open University for the best essay on a Classical subject. Her MA dissertation ‘Production Systems and Social Dynamics: Towards a Cross-Media Approach to the Minoanisation of the Southern Aegean in the Mid-Second Millennium BC’ was a library-based exploration of the questions she would address through extensive field studies in her doctoral research.

Jo’s doctoral research focused on defining the patterns of interaction between communities on Bronze Age Crete and those across the southern Aegean, summarised as the process of ‘Minoanisation’. She critically analysed this complex and variable process though the medium of textile technologies, techniques and production patterns, and comparisons with previously studied patterns of ceramic and stone vessel production and consumption. To establish a Cretan backdrop, it was necessary to conduct the first systematic comparative research on textile production on Crete itself.

In 2009 Jo spent 4 months as a Visiting Scholar at the Danish National Research Foundation’s Center for Textile Research (CTR) at the University of Copenhagen, to learn techniques of textile tool analysis, based in experimental research. This began her productive and enjoyable collaboration with the CTR, its researchers and associates. She interrupted her PhD research for 8 months to contribute as a Research Associate at the Center on their ‘Tools and Textiles, Texts and Contexts’ research programme, published in various technical reports and co-authored contributions to E. Andersson Strand and M.-L. Nosch (eds) 2015, Tools, Textiles and Contexts. Investigating Textile Production in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age (Oxbow Books).

Jo completed her PhD, Crafting Minoanisation: Textiles, Crafts Production and Social Dynamics in the Bronze Age Southern Aegean, supervised by Todd Whitelaw and Cyprian Broodbank, in 2011. This will be published as volume 33 in the CTR’s Ancient Textile Series by Oxbow books. In 2012 she received the Michael Ventris Award for the project ‘Textile production and social dynamics in four Bronze Age East Cretan communities (Malia, Sissi, Mochlos, Petras)’, and in 2013, the Institute for Aegean Studies Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, to extend the site coverage of textile tools beyond those studied for her doctoral research. In 2013-15 she held a 2-year Marie-Curie/Gerda Henkel Foundation Intra-European Postdoctoral Fellowship, at the CTR, for the project ‘Weaving the fabric of society: Bronze Age Aegean economies of cloth’. This allowed her to extend her Aegean research chronologically into the later Late Bronze Age, when the deciphered Linear B tablets provide detailed information on the palatial administration of textile production, which could be compared with the archaeological evidence.

From 2015, Jo was a Research Associate on Margarita Gleba’s ERC project ‘Production and Consumption: Textile Economy and Urbanization in Mediterranean Europe 1000-500 BCE (PROCON)’, at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge University. This gave her the opportunity to extend her comparative studies geographically across the northern Mediterranean, and chronologically down into the first millennium. As part of her work with the PROCON project, Jo co-organised a workshop at the British School at Athens in March 2016: ‘Weaving the past: the archaeology of textiles and textile production in Greece in the first millennium BCE’, and a symposium at the McDonald Institute at Cambridge in May 2017: ‘Making cities. Economies of production and urbanization in Mediterranean Europe 1000-500 BCE’.

The focus of Jo’s research in all of these projects, explored through her numerous publications, concerned textile production, weaving technology and techniques, craft learning, technological innovation, cultural interaction, acculturation, social change and gendered production.

In addition to fieldwork while a student in the UK, Italy, Cyprus and Greece, Jo was a key participant in Institute field projects in Greece: the Kythera Island Project (2004-07), the Antikythera Survey project (2005), and the Knossos Urban Landscape Project (2005-17). For the latter, she directed field teams and was the specialist responsible for the study of the Neopalatial ceramics, weaving equipment and stone vessels, and was an Honorary Affiliate of the Institute from 2012.

Developing from her doctoral research, Jo was the textile tool specialist for the publication of numerous field projects in the Aegean: on Crete at Knossos (various British School excavations); Myrtos Pyrgos (British School at Athens); Sissi (Belgian School at Athens); Mochlos (American School of Classical Studies at Athens and University of Athens); Gournia (American School of Classical Studies at Athens); Kephala Petras (University of Athens); Petras, Pevka, Chryssi, Papadiakambos, Galatas, Skinias (Greek Archaeological Service); and the Pediada survey. More widely in the Aegean, she was also studying material for publication from Ayia Irini on Kea (American School of Classical Studies at Athens); Phylakopi on Melos (British School at Athens); Serraglio on Kos (Italian School in Athens); and at Miletus in Turkey (German Archaeological Institute at Athens). She was also studying for publication stone vessels from Ayia Irini and Phylakopi. For PROCON, she studied thousands of textile tools at numerous sites in Greece, Italy and Spain.

Jo presented invited lectures on her research in London, Cambridge, Athens, Amsterdam, Crete, Philadelphia, and widely at conferences in London, Cambridge, Copenhagen, Göteborg, Pilsen, Montserrat, Athens, Kalamata, Herakleion, Rethymnon, Istanbul, Amman, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento. She was an engaging teacher and contributed to courses at the Institute, Birkbeck College, Kent University, the University of Copenhagen and Cambridge University.

Jo was diagnosed with advanced cancer in February 2017. She is survived by her mother Esther and sister Lucy, to whom we extend our deepest sympathies.

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