ADVENTURER IN ARCHAEOLOGY: The Biography of Sir Mortimer Wheeler by Jacquetta Hawkes

ADVENTURER IN ARCHAEOLOGY: The Biography of Sir Mortimer Wheeler

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Combining archaeological scholarship with a fine writer's hand, Jacquetta Hawkes has fashioned a solid portrait of Sir Mortimer Wheeler (1890-1976), a senior colleague and long-time friend. The driven, fiercely energetic Wheeler was a natural leader and organizer--talents that he brought to the fore in establishing a new discipline in domestic archaeology in his excavations of pre-Roman and Roman sites in England; in his surveys in France just before World War II; and, later, as Director of Antiquities in India. He developed the grid pattern of excavation, providing a rapid, selective survey of large sites, while carefully preserving strata and annotating objects. He developed the London Museum and established the Institute of Archaeology as a proper training ground for field workers. He wrote and illustrated his scholarly papers with a style that disconcerted some critics, who found them ""too literary."" (His elegant illustrations reflect an early ambition to be a painter, abandoned when he realized ""in a flash"" that he would never be more than competent.) His personal life was tumultuous. Hawkes eschews heavy psychologizing, but there is a hint that Wheeler senior, a poor-but-intellectual journalist, was at once an inspiring father and beastly to his wife--foretelling Wheeler's difficulties as a husband. He married sweet co-worker Tessa, who died. Then Mavis (Augustus John's mistress)--and a disaster. That marriage annulled, he married Kim, who left him in bitter disgust. Restless to the end, Wheeler lectured on TV and on Swan cruises, and wrote numerous books and articles (that did not always endear him to his colleagues). All this is justly and knowingly presented--yielding a Hero, destined for greatness and enmity, from another England, another generation.

Pub Date: July 2nd, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's