UCL Institute of Archaeology celebrates 75 years

24 February 2012

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the UCL Institute of Archaeology (IOA). A number of events are planned to mark the anniversary, including panel discussions, lectures, exhibitions, outreach activities and experimental archaeology demonstrations.

Gordon Childe

The IOA was formally opened in April 1937 at St John’s Lodge in Regent’s Park and the first Director was the prominent archaeologist and broadcaster, Sir Mortimer Wheeler. Professor Reynolds (UCL Medieval Archaeology) explains, “He was a hugely energetic public figure who took a very global approach and was concerned with new techniques and methods. Many of these principles are still with us today.” Since then, the IOA has grown from a small research institution to become one of the leading academic departments of archaeology in the UK and internationally.

Gordon Childe (Director 1946–1957) and the excavator of Jericho, Kathleen Kenyon (Acting Director during World War II), are notable members of the archaeology community who have headed the Institute. Other early staff included founders of British and international archaeology, such as institute librarian Joan du Plat Taylor, who is considered one of the founders of underwater archaeology; Frederick Zeuner, one of the founders of quaternary studies and zooarchaeology; and Professor of Western Asiatic Archaeology Max Mallowan.

In 1957 the IOA moved to its current location on Gordon Square. It became the first purpose-built archaeology department in the country - with a photographic studio, conservation labs, archaeological science labs and artefact stores.

Archaeology Field Work

The IOA is today the largest and one of the most highly regarded centres for archaeology, cultural heritage and museum studies in the UK. More than seventy research-active staff are engaged in high-quality research across five continents, and the degree programmes offer a variety of courses on a diverse range of topics, and wide-ranging fieldwork opportunities. The Institute also has links to heritage organisations, museums and archaeological societies, providing a unique research environment for staff, students and visitors.

Dr Gabe Moshenska, explained: "In 1937, the opening of the Institute marked a coming of age for archaeology - for so long a hobby of the upper classes - and the emergence of a new class of skilled, professional archaeology graduates from around the world.  From its modest beginnings, the Institute has promoted a vision of archaeology that straddles the arts, humanities and sciences and takes the global view of the human past. The 75th anniversary is an opportunity to honour the history of the department and to reflect on its future."

A series of 75th Anniversary debates is running throughout February and March, sponsored by CgMs Consulting, featuring topics such as, Archaeology and Politics (27 February) and Archaeology into the 3rd Millennium (19 March). Two high-profile events are planned for 8 and 9 June in Gordon Square directly in front of the Institute. The first of these is aimed at students and alumni, while the second is an outreach event for local residents and schoolchildren as well as staff from other archaeological organisations. It will involve world food, music and experimental demonstrations, such as iron smelting. 

A 75th Anniversary Fund is being launched to ensure a secure basis for the Institute’s activities in the future. To take a look at some of the highlights from the past 75 years, please view the slideshow, below.

For further details of all events, please visit the link below.

Images from top: Former Director of the IOA, Gordon Childe; UCL Archaeology students taking part in field work


Related links:

About the 75th Anniversary and event details
UCL Institute of Archaeology
CgMs Consulting