Honor Frost

Honor Frost (28 October 1917 – 12 September 2010) was a pioneer in the field of underwater archaeology, who led many Mediterranean archaeological investigations, especially in Lebanon, and was noted for her typology of stone anchors and skills in archaeological illustration.[1]

Honor Frost
Honor Frost
Born(1917-10-28)28 October 1917
Nicosia, Cyprus
Died12 September 2010(2010-09-12) (aged 92)
Scientific career
FieldsUnderwater archaeology
InstitutionsInstitute of Archaeology

Early life

An only child, Frost was born in Nicosia, Cyprus. She was orphaned at an early age and became the ward of Wilfred Evill, a London solicitor and art collector.[2]

She attended art school, worked on ballet set design and held a job at Tate Britain. Alongside these artistic pursuits, she was also the adventurous sort who once donned a WW2 diving suit at a friend’s party in Wimbledon in order to go diving into the 17th-century well in the backyard. From this first foray into diving onward, Frost was enamoured with the practice, once claiming that, “Time spent out of the water was time wasted.”[3]


Frost became a diver soon after Cousteaus's invention of SCUBA, and worked as a diver and artist in the early 1950s in France and Italy.[4] As a member of the world’s first scuba diving club, the Club Alpin Sous-Marin,[3] her first experience of the underwater excavation of shipwrecks was with Frederic Dumas.[5] S

An expedition in Turkey resulted in the discovery of a late Bronze Age shipwreck at Gelidonya, for which Frost is credited as having realised its significance. The wreck had been previously discovered by Turkish diver Mustafa Kapkin and U.S. photo-journalist Peter Throckmorton in 1959. However, it was Frost who recognised that the wreck was not Mycenean, but Phoenician, thus providing the first evidence that Phoenicians had been trading on the seas before the Iron Age.[3] She convinced Joan du Plat Taylor, who she had met at the Institute of Archaeology in London, to become co-director of the excavation at Gelidonya. It was later the site of George Bass's and Peter Throckmorton's first work in underwater archaeology at Cape Gelidonya in the Antayla region of southern Turkey. The Bronze Age ship wreck, which dated to the 12th century BC, was the oldest known shipwreck in the world at that time.[6] The excavation of this wreck is of special significance, as it was the first to be conducted following a rigorous scientific approach.[3]

In 1968 she led an UNESCO expedition to survey the Pharos site in the Port of Alexandria, for which she was later awarded, in 1997, a French government medal for pioneering submarine archaeology in Egypt.[7]

From 1971 she led the investigation of the Marsala Punic Warship in Sicily, Italy[8]

In 2005, BSAC awarded her the Colin McLeod award for Furthering international co-operation in diving for her work in archaeology[9]

She died on 12 September 2010.[10][11] The substantial art collection that she had inherited upon Wilfred Evill's death was used to endow the Honor Frost Foundation which supplies funds for underwater archaeology in the Mediterranean.[3]

Selected papers

  • Under the Mediterranean: Marine Antiquities published by Routledge (1963, 1969)
  • Diggings In The Deep in Saudi Aramco World November/December (1964) pp28–32
  • Ancore, the potsherds of marine archaeology: on the recording of pierced stones from the Mediterranean In Marine Archaeology 1973, pp. 397–409.
  • The Punic wreck in Sicily 1. Second season of excavation (1974), In International Journal Nautical Archaeology Volume 3 Issue 1 pp35–40 (1974)
  • The Marsala Punic Warship
  • The Pharos Site, Alexandria, Egypt International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, (1975) 4:126–130.
  • When is a wreck not a wreck International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, (1976) vol 5 issue 2 pp 101–105
  • Pyramidal Stone Anchors: An Enquiry in Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) TROPIS Volume 1 (1985)
  • Where did they build ancient warships? in Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) TROPIS Volume 2 (1987)
  • How Carthage Lost the Sea: Off the Coast of Sicily, a Punic Warship Gives up its Secret, Natural History, December 1987; 58–67
  • Where did Bronze Age Ships Keep their Stone Anchors? in Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) TROPIS Volume 3 (1989)
  • Old Saws Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) TROPIS Volume 4 (1991)

See also


  1. Norton (1999) p235, Shea (1981), Vagnetti (1998)
  2. "Obituary: Honor Frost". London: The Daily Telegraph, UK. 29 October 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
  3. "Honor Frost | TrowelBlazers". trowelblazers.com. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  4. Hirschfeld p11
  5. Norton (1999) p. 235
  6. Hirschfeld pp11-12, Norton(1999) p. 234, pp. 248–252, 253–258
  7. UNESCO (1997); Dept. Culture; Hairy (2006)
  8. The Times (2004); Frost (1974), see selected papers
  9. BSAC (2005–2010)
  10. The Times, 17 September 2010; Gambin (2010)
  11. Carswell, John (26 October 2010). "Honor Frost obituary: Pioneer of underwater archaeology fascinated by the Mediterranean". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 October 2010.


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