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5 August 1910|
|Died||18 March 1996(aged 85)|
|Occupation||Writer and archaeologist|
Born Jessie Jacquetta Hopkins, the daughter of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, she married first Christopher Hawkes, then an assistant keeper at the British Museum, in 1933. From 1953, she was married to J. B. Priestley. She is perhaps best known generally for her book A Land (1951). She was a prolific writer on subjects quite removed from her principal field. She was above all interested in discovering the lives of the peoples 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).
Hawkes was the first woman to study archaeology and anthropology at Newnham College Cambridge, where she graduated with first class honours.
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 outside of 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 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" (Dawn of the Gods, page 76).
She also noted the evident love of nature, both wild and cultivated, in Minoan art and architecture, the lack of a striving for monumentality in the palaces and the absence of war and motives dramatizing a sense of destiny, guilt and brooding in Minoan art, as opposed 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.
She met Christopher Hawkes, her senior, on a dig during her studies at Cambridge, and married him when she was 22. Their only son, Nicholas, was born in 1937.
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. Hawkes and Priestley remained physically, emotionally and intellectually close until their deaths.
Archaeological excavations and papers
- Judith Cook, Priestley, London: Bloomsbury, 1997, pp. 213–298.
- Christine Finn (2005). "Jacquetta and the Artists", British Archaeology, 80:24-27.
- Jacquetta Hawkes archive at Bradford University, UK