Women in the Present, Women in the Past

Dr Rachel Pope (University of Liverpool) recently delivered a powerhouse keynote lecture for the ‘Modern’ Women of the Past? Unearthing Gender and Antiquity Conference. It was recorded and you can stream it now.

In this keynote, Dr Pope provides a perspective from the UK and Europe on how preventing women’s access to academia and the heritage sector, both historically, and in our contemporary workplace culture, has impacted our understanding of women in the past. We discover the irony that, under the banner of objective practice, late twentieth century archaeologists actively erased past women, or wrote them specifically into domestic roles. We investigate the mechanism through which scholars sought to undermine women’s authority in the past, and in the writing too of disciplinary histories, in favour of patriarchal mythmaking, and how that practice lingers on today. We see how a generation of young scholars had to fight to correct this inherited academic problem in archaeological practice, outside the mainstream, and how a new generation of scholars are now working beyond binary, developing applied method in gender archaeology, to discover the past more as it was, and less in our making.

Rachel Pope is a Senior Lecturer in European Pre-history at the University of Liverpool. She works as a special advisor to the campaign group HOOOH (Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort) and is Founder and a Director of British Women Archaeologists (estab. 2008) who lobby for improved conditions for women workers in the Heritage sector. On completing her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Durham in 2003, Dr Pope undertook fixed-term lecturing in British Prehistory at the Universities of Bangor, Sheffield, Nottingham, and Oxford. In 2004, she was awarded an Early Career Fellowship at the University of Leicester, which was followed in 2006 by a fixed-term post in European Prehistory at Cambridge, before joining Liverpool in 2007.

Having begun excavating Roman sites at the age of 15, and with 28 seasons in the field
(including the commercial sector) she has been strongly committed to undergraduate learning in a research excavation
context, to professional British standards – establishing the Liverpool field school in 2009. Between 2005-2011, she
directed two research excavations in the UK – the Kidlandlee Dean Bronze Age Landscapes Project (Northumberland)
and Merrick’s Hill, Eddisbury Hillfort (Cheshire). Between 2012-2018, Dr Pope directed the University’s excavations at
Penycloddiau Hillfort (Flintshire), in partnership with Cadw (Welsh Assembly Government), Denbighshire County Council, and the Global Institute for Field Research (California). As archived on Facebook, and as seen on the BBC programme “Digging for Britain” with Alice Roberts.

‘Modern’ Women of the Past? Unearthing Gender and Antiquity was an international, multidisciplinary online conference hosted by the AAIA, CCANESA, CCWM, AWAWS and the University of Sydney Departments of Archaeology and Classics and Ancient History on 5-6 March, 2021.


Dr Stavros Paspalas – Director
Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens, Room 480, Madsen Building (F09), University of Sydney NSW 2006 Australia
+61 2 9351 4759 +61 (0)2 9351 7693 arts.aaia@sydney.edu.au