Jacquetta Hawkes

Jacquetta Hawkes (5 August 1910 – 18 March 1996) was an English archaeologist and writer.

Jacquetta Hawkes
Born(1910-08-05)5 August 1910
Cambridge, England
Died18 March 1996(1996-03-18) (aged 85)
OccupationWriter and archaeologist
Period20th century

Born Jessie Jacquetta Hopkins, she is perhaps best known for her book A Land (1951).[1] She was a prolific writer of works about subjects that were quite removed from her principal field. She was above all interested in discovering the lives of the peoples that were revealed by scientific excavations. With Christopher Hawkes, she co-authored Prehistoric Britain (1943) and with J. B. Priestley she wrote Dragon's Mouth (1952) and Journey Down a Rainbow (1955). Her other works include The World of the Past (1963), Prehistory (History of Mankind: Cultural and Scientific Development, Volume 1 Part 1) (1963) prepared under the auspices of UNESCO, The Atlas of Early Man (1976) and The Shell Guide to British Archaeology (1986).

Early life and education

Hawkes was born on 5 August 1910 in Cambridge, the youngest child of Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins (1861–1947), biochemist and Nobel Prize winner, and his wife Jessie Ann (1869–1956), daughter of Edward William Stevens, ship's fitter, of Ramsgate. From 1921 to 1928 she attended Perse School, going on in 1929 to study the new degree of archaeology and anthropology at Newnham College, Cambridge, the first woman to do so. In her second year at university she took part in the excavation of a Roman site near Colchester, and there met Charles Hawkes (1905–1992), a young archaeologist. She graduated with first class honours. She married Hawkes on 7 October 1933 at Trinity College, Cambridge.[2]


In 1934 she published her first academic article "Aspects of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods in western Europe" in the journal Antiquity.[3] In 1939 she was involved with moving items from the British museum to the Aldwych tube station.[4]

In 1949 she produced the 'People of Britain: Origins of People' display at the Festival of Britain.[5][6]

In her general work on the Minoans (Dawn of the Gods, 1968), Hawkes was also one of the first archaeologists to suggest that the ancient Minoans might have been ruled by women; the idea had been discussed long before by historians of culture and religion (for instance, Joseph Campbell), and it had also been discussed outside the academic community, sometimes by feminists. Hawkes noted that very little if any evidence of a Minoan male ruler exists, whereas abundant evidence of such rulers existed among the Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians and other Minoan contemporaries. Furthermore, images of strong and powerful women abound in Minoan art, where both men and women are shown provocatively and elegantly dressed and in some pictures they seem to move on equal terms; whereas in Egyptian, Assyrian and classical Greek art, human women (as distinct from goddesses) are never shown as the equals of males. Hawkes stated that "the absence of these manifestations of the all-powerful male ruler that are so widespread at this time and in this stage of cultural development as to be almost universal, is one of the reasons for supposing that the occupants of Minoan thrones may have been queens".[7]

She noted the evident love of nature, both wild and cultivated, in Minoan art and architecture. She also noted the lack of a striving for monumentality in Minoan palaces, and the absence of war and motives dramatizing a sense of destiny, guilt and brooding. She contrasts Minoan art and architecture to the heavy, foreboding and warlike architecture of Mycenae and the strong presence of themes of fate, martial heroism and moral guilt in later Greek mythology, some of the stories of which must, in an early form, already have existed at Mycenae (as well as similar motives in Babylonian literature, e.g., in the Gilgamesh epic). Although we do not know anything of the specific content of Minoan myth and folklore, themes of the kind mentioned—war, destiny, guilt, curses—do not even seem to be alluded to in the art of the period, as also noted by Hawkes. This perspective on the differences between Crete and Mycenaean Greece has remained controversial but has also spurred discussion about Minoan Crete, its religion, the nature of its monarchy and the wider set of relations between Minoan, Mycenaean and later Greek cultures.

Archaeological excavations and papers

Awards & Recognition

In 1971, Hawkes was elected Vice-President of the Council for British Archeology in recognition of her life's work.[14]

Creative Communicator

Hawkes was interested in communicating archaeology and art in new ways, including through writing creatively and through film.[15][16] Writing with imagination and empathy in what became termed the 'archaeological imagination', was central to her practice.[17]


Hawkes wrote and featured in several documentary works.[18] She wrote a script for a film Figures in a Landscape (1953), a documentary about the work of Barbara Hepworth.[19][20][21]

'A Land'

'A Land' is the work that Hawkes is most popularly known for. It is "an unconventional geological history"[22] which was a post-war bestseller in the UK.[23] Reviewed at the time as "literary expression ... rather than scientific description".[24]


For Hawkes, archaeology and the creative imagination were inextricably linked. In addition to her archaeological reports and articles, she also wrote emotionally about landscape and published a volume of poetry. 'Symbols and Speculations'[25] was published in 1949 and recalls through poetry both mystical and physical experiences in her archaeological career.


Hawkes' papers[26] are kept at the University of Bradford along with husband J B Priestley's. It includes:

  • diaries
  • letters
  • photographs
  • notebooks and drafts
  • poems, plays and articles
  • school reports
  • nature diaries

This material shows how she developed as a thinker, from archaeology through journalism and poetry, as well as her work as an activist and details on her personal life.[27]


Hawkes' works have inspired many people. These are a few of the responses to her legacy:

Personal life

Hawkes was the daughter of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins.[32]

She met Christopher Hawkes, her senior, on a dig during her studies at Cambridge, and married him when she was 22.[33] Their only son, Nicholas, was born in 1937.[33]

A wartime affair with the poet Walter Turner was followed by a post-war romance with J. B. Priestley, whom she married in 1953 after both had divorced.[34] Hawkes and Priestley remained physically, emotionally and intellectually close until their deaths.[35]

In 1958 she was involved with the founding of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.[36]

Hawkes was President of the Warwickshire branch of the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England and was a trustee of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.[37]

Hawkes was the subject of several photographers, including Lord Snowdon.[38]


  1. Macfarlane, Robert (11 May 2012). "Rereading: A Land by Jacquetta Hawkes". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  2. Finn, Christine (2004-09-23). Hawkes [née Hopkins; other married name Priestley], (Jessie) Jacquetta (1910–1996), archaeologist and writer. 1. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/61934.
  3. Cooke, Rachel (2013). Her Brilliant Career – Ten Extraordinary Women of the 1950s. Great Britain: Virago. p. 230. ISBN 9781844087419.
  4. Cooke, Rachel (2013). Her Brilliant Career – Ten Extraordinary Women of the 1950s. Great Britain: Virago. pp. 233–234. ISBN 9781844087419.
  5. Cooke, Rachel (2013). Her Brilliant Career – Ten Extraordinary Women of the 1950s. Great Britain: Virago. p. 243. ISBN 9781844087419.
  6. Cox, Ian (1951). The South Bank Exhibition: A guide to the story it tells. London: H M Stationery Office. pp. 62–66.
  7. Hawkes, Jacquetta. Dawn of the Gods. p. 76.
  8. Hawkes, Jacquetta (1935). "The Place Origin of Windmill Hill Culture". Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. 1: 127–9. doi:10.1017/S0079497X00022258.
  9. Hawkes, Jacquetta (1938). "The Significance of Channelled Ware in Neolithic Western Europe". The Archaeological Journal. 95 (1).
  10. Hawkes, Jacquetta (1941). "Excavation of a Meglithic Tomb at Harristown, Co. Waterford". Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. 11 (4): 130–47. JSTOR 25510313.
  11. Hawkes, Jacquetta (1951). "A Quarter Century of Antiquity". Antiquity. 25 (100): 171–3. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00020482.
  12. "Jacquetta Hawkes - Longstone Mystery Solver". National Trust. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  13. Hawkes, Jacquetta (1968). "The Proper Study of Mankind". Antiquity. 62: 252–66.
  14. Bell, Katy. "Jacquetta Hawkes". Trowel Blazers. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  15. Finn, Christine (2000). "Ways of Telling: Jacquetta Hawkes as Film-maker". Antiquity. 74 (283).
  16. Hawkes, Jacquetta (1946). "The Beginning of History - a film". Antiquity. 20 (78): 78–82. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00019402.
  17. Hick, Dan. "Jacquetta Hawkes, Sir Isaac Newton & the idea of stratigraphy". Day of Archaeology. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  18. "Jacquetta Hawkes". IMDB. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  19. Cooke, Rachel (2013). Her Brilliant Career – Ten Extraordinary Women of the 1950s. Great Britain: Virago. p. 250. ISBN 9781844087419.
  20. "39. Figure in the Landscape: Jacquetta Hawkes and Barbara Hepworth". 100 Objects. 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  21. Finn, Christine (2005). "Jacquetta and the Artists". British Archaeology. 80: 24–7.
  22. Lorimer, Hayden (2012). "Memoirs for the Earth: Jacquetta Hawkes' experiments in deep time". Cultural Geographies. 19 (1): 87–106. doi:10.1177/1474474011432377. JSTOR 44251454.
  23. McFarlane, Robert. "A Land - Jacquetta Hawkes". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  24. "Review: A Land". The Journal of Geology. 61 (3): 287–8. 1953.
  25. Hawkes, Jacquetta (1949). Symbols & Speculations. The Cresset Press.
  26. "Poems in Stone: A Land". 100 Objects from Special Collections at the University of Bradford. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  27. "Jacquetta Hawkes Archive". Special Collections at the University of Bradford. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  28. "Pots before Words". University of Bradford. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  29. "Sun Went In, Fire Went Out". Chelsea College of Art. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  30. "Christine Finn: Back to a Land". Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  31. "Jacquetta Hawkes". I W Hidden Heroes. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  32. Cooke, Rachel (2013). Her Brilliant Career – Ten Extraordinary Women of the 1950s. Great Britain: Virago. p. 224. ISBN 9781844087419.
  33. Cooke, Rachel (2013). Her Brilliant Career – Ten Extraordinary Women of the 1950s. Great Britain: Virago. pp. 227–233. ISBN 9781844087419.
  34. "Mr J B Priestley Married". Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer. 24 July 1953.
  35. Judith Cook, Priestley, London: Bloomsbury, 1997, pp. 213–298.
  36. Cooke, Rachel (2013). Her Brilliant Career – Ten Extraordinary Women of the 1950s. Great Britain: Virago. pp. 251–252. ISBN 9781844087419.
  37. "Obituary: Jacquetta Hawkes". The Independent. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  38. "Image Search - Jacquetta Hawkes". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
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