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Department of Archaeology

Dorothy Garrod portrait by Sara Lavelle

Commissioned earlier this year by the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, a new portrait of pioneering archaeologist Professor Dorothy Garrod was unveiled at a reception on Wednesday 13 November.

Dorothy Garrod (1892-1968) was a British archaeologist specialising in the Palaeolithic period and is renowned for her excavations in Gibraltar, Bulgaria and across the Middle East in what were then Palestine and southern Kurdistan.

Garrod was elected to the Disney Professorship of Archaeology in 1939, becoming the first woman at either Cambridge or Oxford to hold a professorial chair. 

Garrod was elected to the Disney Professorship at a time when women weren’t able to be full members of the University. Although 2019 marks 150 years of female students at the University of Cambridge, it was not until 1948 that they were awarded degrees.



Dr James H. Barrett, Deputy Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research said, “It is incredibly important for archaeology at Cambridge to celebrate the achievements of Dorothy Garrod, and that an archaeologist was the first female professor in any subject at Cambridge University. We hope the portrait will contribute to her iconic status as a role model for our community, prominently displayed in one of our main spaces for discussion and learning.”

“The 80th anniversary of her election as the first female Professor provided the catalyst for the Institute's Managing Committee to commission the portrait. From a short-list of impressive artists, the Committee selected Sara Lavelle and we are all extremely pleased with the result."

Lavelle was a finalist for the 2019 Sky Portrait Artist of the Year Award and the 2018 ACS Studio Prize.

Throughout the process of creating the portrait, Sara grew closer to Garrod.

“I felt inspired by her. The more I learned about Dorothy Garrod the more I felt compelled to create a painting that adequately captured her strength. This meant that I put a lot of pressure on myself making the process of painting her exciting and challenging. I have respect for how she pioneered equality in her field through her love and devotion to her work.” 

“Looking at the portraits of the past celebrating great men, there is clearly a lack of great women portrayed. However, with portraiture being a traditional and academic field, there is also a clear lack of women creating these paintings. Being a young female portrait artist, I feel proud to have my work hung alongside the work of celebrated male painters. I hope that this further aids the journey towards equality between men and women.”  

Dr Tamsin O’Connell, Reader in Isotopic Ecology in the Department of Archaeology echoes this, “It is so important to publicly celebrate the achievements and raise the visibility of trailblazing women such as Dorothy Garrod, especially at a time when women are still insufficiently commemorated and acknowledged in material form around the University.”

O’Connell heads the Dorothy Garrod Laboratory for Isotopic Analysis and was the first female laboratory director at the Department of Archaeology.

“With the naming of the lab, I wanted to recognise that I follow in some impressive footsteps and especially as a woman in STEM, to acknowledge the legacy that lets people like me be who I am.”  

Lavelle concludes, “To me the portrait represents not only a personal achievement, but also a positive shift in society. The commissioning of this project was to correct the lack of representation of great women in today’s institutions and to celebrate a perhaps under-appreciated female icon. I feel delighted and encouraged by the noble motivation of this commission. I feel that it demonstrates the real possibility of a future of gender equality.” 

Image information

Portrait of Dorothy Garrod by Sara Lavelle