Grant helps shed light on archaeologist Pitt Rivers' legacy

Archaeology curator Dr Dan Hicks with a flint arrowhead from the Pitt Rivers collection

General Pitt Rivers

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

VICTORIAN archaeologist General Pitt Rivers is world-famous for his development of modern scientific archaeology.

But the earliest collections he made have never been properly studied.

Now curators at Oxford University’s Pitt Rivers Museum in Parks Road have been awarded £76,654 to document about 7,500 historic objects.

They were excavated by the general himself and his team from more than 50 prehistoric, Roman and medieval sites across the UK.

Among the artefacts are ones from excavations at Wittenham Clumps near Didcot, a medieval castle in Kent, Iron Age hill forts in Sussex, and Roman sites in central London.

Curator of archaeology Dr Dan Hicks, 40, from Oxford, who is leading the project to document them, said: “General Pitt Rivers created the first archaeological collection to be made through scientific excavation.

“He invented modern archaeological fieldwork and methods we see on TV today on programmes like Time Team he was innovating in the 1860s and 1870s.”

The project will also examine the recent gift from the Pitt Rivers family of important unpublished manuscripts.

Dr Hicks added: “As well as the artefacts there is also a book of watercolours and site plans and a number of objects are already on display in the museum.

“The exhibits include Pitt Rivers’ first-ever list of objects from 1862 and a catalogue of arms featuring arrowheads, guns and other weaponry.

“The grant will allow us to catalogue the artefacts, and explore how these artefacts connect the Pitt Rivers Museum with sites, landscapes and communities across the country.

“We will be able to find out what General Pitt Rivers first discovered 150 years ago.”

  • The Pitt Rivers Museum was founded in 1884 when General Pitt Rivers, an influential figure in the development of archaeology, gave his collection to Oxford University.

The general’s founding gift contained more than 18,000 objects. But there are now more than half a million, including extensive photographic and sound archives.

Early explorers donated many objects to the museum and collecting continues through donations.

  • For further information about the museum and to keep up to date with the curators’ progress at their blog, visit prm.ox.ac.uk

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