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French, E. B. W. : The Professional Papers of Elizabeth Bayard Wace French (1931- 2021), archaeologist

Reference Code: GBR/3437/EBWF

Scope and Contents

The professional papers of archaeologist Dr Elizabeth (Lisa) French include correspondence, teaching notes, hand-outs from conferences and seminars, notes from her involvement with Neutron Activiation Analysis, research material for her PhD thesis on Mycenaean figurines and material relating to excavations on which she worked, including Phylakopi, Hagios Stephanos and Tiryns.


  • 1960-2013


Biographical / Historical

Childhood Elizabeth Bayard Wace was born on 19th January 1931 in London, the only child of archaeologists Alan John Bayard Wace and Helen Wace (née Pence). At the time of her birth, Alan Wace held the position of Curator of Textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Helen was an American classicist with a focus on Roman Ostia and a Masters in teaching. Elizabeth was named after the wife of one of the British officials in New York at the time of the American Revolution. However, shortly after she was born, she was given the nickname Lisa by American archaeologist Carl Blegen, a close family friend. The Waces moved to Cambridge when Lisa was three, upon the appointment of Alan Wace as Laurence Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. It was at this time that the family home at 36 Millington Road, Cambridge, was built.

In 1939 the whole family went to excavate at Mycenae, including eight-year-old Lisa who was an active particpant in the dig, Alan Wace returning to the excavations for the first time since 1923. At the end of the season, the family moved to Athens, staying at 9 Plutarchou Street. Lisa attended a British Council-founded School until the outbreak of war. Her parents initially arranged for Lisa to go to her Aunt in America, accompanied by some American family friends. However, in June 1940, just as the ship Excalibur arrived in Greece, Italy joined the war and Lisa was therefore also accompanied by her American mother.

Once in America, Lisa initially stayed with her Aunt Ada in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and then joined her mother and grandfather in Evanston, first attending Roycemore School for 7th and 8th grade and then Evanston Township High School, where her mother had also taught for a period. Alan Wace, who had remained in Athens to work for the British Legation, was evacuated to Cairo in 1941 and in 1943 was appointed Professor of Classics and Archaeology at the Farouk I University at Alexandria, on the proviso that arrangements could be made for Helen and Lisa to join him, which they did, via a merchant convoy ship from Lisbon in 1944 when Lisa was 13. In Alexandria, Lisa attended to the English Girls’ College. In the summer of 1946 the family flew back to the UK, where Lisa had an interview at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and joined for sixth form.

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Studies Lisa attended nine different schools during her childhood and went on to interview for Classics at Oxford and Cambridge. Lisa was offered places at both Universities and joined Newnham College at Cambridge on a scholarship. Reading two years of Classics, she then joined Group D (Classical Art and Archaeology) for Part II of the Tripos. Before joining Group D, she was urged to go on a training excavation and so went to excavate at Mycenae in 1950, joined by fellow Newhamites Margaret Dow and Marigold Packenham-Walsh. In the summer of 1951 the Classical Congress was held in Cambridge and Alan Wace returned to talk, with Lisa assisting with the proceedings. During the summer of 1952 she returned to excavate at Mycenae.

Impressed by lectures and training sessions run by the Institute of Archaeology during a training dig in Taunton, Lisa studied for a Diploma in Conservation at the Institute of Archaeology in Regents Park, London, during Gordon Childe's tenure. Upon graduation, Lisa taught Latin at the Royal Masonic Girls School in Rickmansworth, whilst continuing to dig at Mycenae each summer. Her father suggested that Lisa should embark on a part-time PhD at UCL, whilst continuing to teach, studying Mycenaean Terracotta Figurines. She embarked upon her MA and PhD with Martin Robinson as supervisor. During this time, Lisa published an article in the 1954 British School Annual on a deposit of pottery found at Mycenae, the only article published in her maiden name.

During the summer of 1956 there was a moratorium on excavations by the British in Greece therefore Lisa joined a study season at Nauplion Museum. Among the other participants was archaeologist David French, whom Lisa went on to marry in 1959. After marrying, Lisa continued on with her PhD, which she was awarded in 1961.

Marriage, Motherhood and Profesional Archaeology In the early 1960s Lisa accompanied David on excavations, first at Hagios Stephanos, and then joined him in Turkey, working on sites such as Can Hasan, as well as continuing to work on Greek archaeological projects, including material from Tiryns in 1960 and Northern Greek sites with Colin Renfrew in 1962.

In 1963 Lisa had her daughter Ann, followed by her second daughter Catherine in 1966. Both girls joined Lisa on the excavations at Mycenae, which continued throughout the 1960s under the directorship of Lord William Taylour, after the death of Alan Wace in 1957. Lisa published a series of articles in the British School at Athens Annual on Mycenaean Pottery Types, which remain seminal works in their field. After the final Mycenae excavation season in 1969, Lisa lead study seasons analysing the excavated material at Nauplion Museum between 1970-1988. In 1981 she inaugurated the Well Built Mycenae series of fascicules with Lord William Taylour, sharing joint editorship with him.

In 1976, after her marriage ended, Lisa moved back to Cambridge from Turkey and that autumn was appointed Warden of Ashburne Hall, a women’s hall of residence at Manchester University, also becoming an honorary lecturer in the archaeology department at Manchester. In 1989, she was appointed, as the first woman to hold the post, Director of the British School at Athens, until 1994. During this period, she undertook a survey of the archaeological remains in the hinterland around Mycenae in collaboration with the Archaeological Society of Athens, resulting in the publication The Archaeological Atlas of Mycenae (2003). After her tenure as Director concluded, she continued to return to Greece to contribute to the complex decant of Mycenae material from Nauplion Museum's storerooms to the new, purpose-built museum at Mycenae itself.

Significance and impact of her academic research Dr Lisa French developed a detailed classification scheme for a series of Mycenaean terracotta figurines dating from the Late Helladic period (c.1500 - 1100 B.C.). She coined the term 'kourotrophos' for a particular class of these artefacts, which featured a woman holding a child. As the world authority on Mycenaean terracotta figures, Lisa joined Colin Renfrew at Phylakopi on the island of Melos when figures were discovered during the 1974-1977 excavations. She published extensively, including a concise and essential account of the monuments and history of Mycenae itself, Mycenae: Agamemnon’s capital (2002). Her joint publication with P. S. Stockhammer, 'Correlating recent research: the pottery of Mycenae and Tiryns in the second half of the 13th Century BC', Annual of the British School at Athens, 106 (2009) 175-232 was the first attempt to align discoveries at two of the most important Mycenaean sites. She was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1979 and awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the University of Athens in 2004.


3 linear metre(s) : paper, photographic prints, negatives and transparencies

Language of Materials



The original order of the creator, Elizabeth French, has been retained. Her professional papers are arranged in the following series: 1. Correspondence 2. Lecturing and teaching materials 3. Conferences and seminars 4. Thesis 5. Neutron Activation Analysis work 6. Working notes a. Phylakopi and Hagios Stephanos b. Tiryns

Custodial History

The papers were with their creator, Elizabeth French, until she gifted them to the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge University, along with her father A. J. B. Wace's professional papers and the Mycenae Excavation and Publication archive, in 2013.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Dr Elizabeth Bayard Wace French, 2013

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Cambridge: Faculty of Classics Archives Repository

Faculty of Classics
Sidgwick Avenue
Cambridge CB3 9DA United Kingdom
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