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Institute of Archaeology

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History of the Institute

Institute of Archaeology: 80 Years of history 1937 - 2017

The origin of the Institute of Archaeology goes back to Mortimer Wheeler’s vision of creating a centre for archaeological training in Britain, which he conceived in the 1920s. Thanks to his efforts and those of his wife, Tessa Verney Wheeler, his ambitions were realised when the Institute was officially opened in 1937, with Mortimer Wheeler as its first director.

Among its early members of staff were some of the founding ancestors of archaeology in Britain. Foremost among these, apart from Wheeler himself, was Gordon Childe, director from 1946 to 1957, but there were many others, including Kathleen Kenyon, excavator of Jericho, initially secretary then the Institute’s acting director during World War II; Frederick Zeuner, one of the founders of quaternary studies and of zooarchaeology; Joan du Plat Taylor, the Institute’s librarian for many years, who was a founder of underwater archaeology; and Max Mallowan, Professor of Western Asiatic Archaeology (and second husband of Agatha Christie).


Celebrating our 80th Anniversary

The Institute celebrated its 80th Anniversary in 2017.

Today the Institute remains at the forefront of research and teaching in world archaeology, archaeological sciences and heritage studies, focusing on the importance of the past in the present and for the future, and has a student body whose remarkable diversity is second to none.

Celebrating our 75th Anniversary

The Institute of Archaeology celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2012 and a number of events and activities were held to mark this milestone. Read some of the articles and coverage from this anniversary.

Our 75th Anniversary

More about our history

Initially the Institute was based in St John’s Lodge, Regent’s Park, but in 1958 it moved into purpose-built new premises in Gordon Square, next to UCL in the heart of Bloomsbury, where it remains to this day, ideally placed between the British Museum and the British Library and with its own outstanding library, laboratories and collections. Until the mid 1980s the Institute of Archaeology was an independent institute within the University of London but in 1986 it joined UCL.

Although the Institute is proud of its founding ancestors it has never rested on its laurels and today it is the largest Department of Archaeology in Britain, and one of the largest in the world. The Institute is at the forefront of research and teaching in world archaeology, archaeological sciences and heritage studies, focusing on the importance of the past in the present, and has a student body whose remarkable diversity is second to none.