Breaking Ground, Breaking Tradition First Generation of Women Archaeologists

Hetty Goldman (1881-1972)

Hetty Goldman double majored in English and Greek at Bryn Mawr, receiving her A.B. in 1903. She pursued graduate study in archaeology at Radcliffe College, where, in 1910, she became the first woman to hold Harvard’s prestigious Charles Eliot Norton Fellowship to study at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. While there (1910-12), Goldman strove to participate in excavations, later recalling: “In my heart [was] a great desire for that experience which up till then had been denied women: some share in the field work of the School.” Despite initial attempts by her professors to discourage her from fieldwork, Goldman won permission from the American School to direct an excavation at the site of Halae, Greece with fellow American School student, Alice Walker, and in 1911, became the first woman ever to direct an excavation on mainland Greece. Between 1911 and 1914, Goldman and Walker excavated a small sanctuary of Athena and a necropolis at Halae. This foray into fieldwork led to Goldman’s first published article in 1915 and to solidifying her dissertation research. In 1916, Goldman received her Ph.D. from Radcliffe College with a thesis entitled The Terracottas from the Necropolis of Halae.

In 1920, Goldman was recruited by Harvard University’s Fogg Museum to direct an excavation at a site of her choosing. She chose the Greek site of Colophon on the western coast of Turkey. After two campaigns at Colophon, political unrest in the country forced her to move her activities back to mainland Greece, and she began excavating at Eutresis in Boeotia, where Dorothy Burr (Thompson) was on her staff. At Eutresis, Goldman uncovered Early Helladic and Middle Helladic remains and became one of the pioneers in the investigation of pre- and early Greek cultures. Due in large part to her meticulous directorship, the site of Eutresis remains a classic example of field archaeology at its finest.

Goldman’s most celebrated legacy and fourth major excavation was the mound of Tarsus in ancient Cilicia, Turkey. Excavations began at Tarsus in 1935, organized jointly by Bryn Mawr College, the Fogg Museum of Harvard University and the Archaeological Institute of America, and Virginia Grace was among the excavation staff that inaugural year. Excavations persisted until 1939, when they were interrupted by World War II.

In 1936, Goldman became the first woman professor in the School of Humanistic Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Goldman returned to Tarsus in 1947, where, two years later, excavations reached the deepest levels. She retired in 1948 and devoted much of the next fifteen years to publishing the results of the Tarsus excavations, in collaboration with her associates. The three volumes of Excavations at Gözlü Kule, Tarsus (1950, 1956, 1963) are major documents of the prehistoric and historic growth of a prosperous ancient Near Eastern town. The monumental publication remains an essential resource to this day.

Hetty Goldman was one of the great figures ofarchaeology in the first half of the twentieth century. Through her systematic and innovative excavation techniques, her seminal publications, her pioneering work on ancient Greek sites in Turkey, and her role in mentoring the talented young women archaeologists who came after her, Goldman played a critical part in opening the field for women. The archaeology profession recognized her accomplishments in 1966 by awarding her the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Archaeology for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement, only the second person ever to receive this prestigious honor.