Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Beatrice de Cardi

The blog has been silent lately due to the annual Seminar for Arabian Studies, a conference dominated by archaeology but including many different disciplinary perspectives on the past and occasionally the present of the Arabian Peninsula. While there, a group focusing on archaeology in Baluchistan came to honor Beatrice de Cardi as the founder of their field. A comment to this post at Historiann emphasizes just how rare it is for a field not focused on gender to venerate a woman as its founder, especially from her generation.

Here's an Independent profile from two years ago:
"At 93, Miss De Cardi can lay claim to being the world's oldest practising archaeologist. An expert on the pre-Islamic history of the Lower Arabian Gulf states and the civilisations of her beloved Baluchistan, she is part-Indiana Jones, part-Miss Marple. Her life is an extraordinary testament to a woman whose intense motivation has never left her. One who steadfastly refused to compromise in what was – and many argue still is – an avowedly man's world.

"'I have never had any difficulties,' she said. 'I am not a woman or a man when I am working in the Gulf or anywhere else. I am a professional and they have always accepted that.'

"For Miss De Cardi, archaeology allowed her to visit places and meet peoples unheard of among the girls of her social class...

"Having obtained maps, a jeep and a driver as well as a small team led by an illiterate Punjabi tribesman called Sadar Din, who remains her greatest teacher in the field, she set out to prove that Baluchistan was an 'archaeologist's paradise'. It took only a couple of weeks to make her point...

"In 1960 the region was closed to foreigners and Miss De Cardi was forced to approach from the Iranian side at Bampur. Finds here led her to the lower Gulf, now part of the United Arab Emirates. In the northernmost state Ras al-Khaimah, she discovered lost tombs now obliterated by new motorways funded by the petrodollar billions. Eventually she was forced to quit the country because of encroaching hostilities. But not before she had come to the attention of the emirate's ruler and later that of the government of Qatar, who asked her to lead an expedition charting the country 'from Stone Age to Oil Age', something she was required to do in just 10 weeks.

"Miss De Cardi, who never married, continues to travel to the region each year to catalogue new finds at the national museums she was instrumental in founding."

De Cardi continues to attend the annual London conference and takes time to meet the younger generation of scholars on the region.

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