Archaeology, Sexism, and Scandal

The Long-Suppressed Story of One Woman's Discoveries and the Man Who Stole Credit for Them

By (author) Alan Kaiser

Publication date:

11 December 2014

Length of book:

272 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442230033

The 1931 excavation season at Olynthus, Greece, ushered a sea change in how archaeologists study material culture—and was the nexus of one of the most egregious (and underreported) cases of plagiarism in the history of classical archaeology. Alan Kaiser draws on the private scrapbook that budding archaeologist Mary Ross Ellingson compiled during that dig, as well as her personal correspondence and materials from major university archives, to paint a fascinating picture of gender, power, and archaeology in the early twentieth century.

Using Ellingson’s photographs and letters as a guide, Kaiser brings alive the excavations led by David Robinson and recounts how the unearthing of private homes—rather than public spaces—emerged as a means to examine the day-to-day of ancient life in Greece. But as
Archaeology, Sexism, and Scandal clearly demonstrates, a darker story lurks beneath the smiling faces and humorous tales: one where Robinson stole Ellingson’s words and insights for his own, and where fellow academics were complicit in the theft.
The purpose of Kaiser’s latest work is twofold. First, the author intends to engage the reader in a dynamic story of changing theoretical and methodological practices in classical archaeology in the 1930s that resulted in a focus on daily life in ancient Greece. Second, he examines the changing climate of classical archaeology by delving into the personal and professional relationship between then-student Mary Ross Ellingson and her academic mentor, classical archaeologist David M. Robinson. Through letters, photographs, scrapbooks, and professional publications of the site of Olynthus, Greece, Kaiser examines the then-held attitudes of intellectual rights of research and data among academic archaeologists and the events that led to Robinson’s plagiarism of Ellingson’s original research on terracotta figurines from Olynthus. The author succeeds in documenting the evolving roles of women in archaeology in the 20th century and places his discussions broadly within the gender-biased realm of women in academia and science at the same time. VERDICT Kaiser’s exciting and timely volume should force readers to openly confront gender-related biases in science and academia. Of interest to those concerned with gender-related studies as well as the history of science or archaeology.