Kathryn Killackey, archaeological illustrator.
Kathryn Killackey, archaeological illustrator. Photo by Andrew Roddick.
Professor Nicky Milner, directing excavations at Star Carr.
Professor Nicky Milner, directing excavations at Star Carr.
Dr. Karen Holmberg, visiting scholar at NYU & volcano fetishist.
Dr. Karen Holmberg, visiting scholar at NYU & volcano fetishist.
Dr. Burcu Tung, directing excavations at Çatalhöyük.
Dr. Burcu Tung, directing excavations at Çatalhöyük. Photo by Scott Haddow.
Dr. Rebecca Wragg Sykes, honorary fellow at Université de Bordeaux, Laboratoire PACEA,
Dr. Rebecca Wragg Sykes, honorary fellow at Université de Bordeaux, Laboratoire PACEA

I initially started this photo essay with a long, considered discussion of motherhood in archaeology, how hard it is to fight against the structural forces that inhibit fieldwork and childcare, and how I have benefitted from incredible friends and colleagues who have acted as role-models and mentors. But in the end I deleted it. You don’t need me wittering on–just look at these archaeologists-who-happen-to-be-mothers.

Many of them hesitated to send photos, as it is an incredibly revealing act to expose what is perceived as a major hinderance to women’s careers. Even so, several of them also stated that they did so because they thought it was important to make this visible, to make it normal. I’m happy to say that this is only a small sample of the women I know who are archaeologists & mothers, so there is a great diversity of experience, support and wisdom that I’m lucky to receive.

Me at 27 weeks, surveying in Oman.
Me at 27 weeks, surveying in Oman.

I’m deeply grateful to these women and collecting these photos was a perfect way to start my maternity leave. If you’d like to contribute your own photos, please send them my way (clmorgan at gmail) or post them in the comments.

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

23 thoughts on “Archaeologists-Who-Happen-to-be-Mothers”

  1. Got to be an teacher-archaeologist for A day at my childrens school today. 50 children (8-9 years), my son was one of them, learned about norwegian bronse Age. I brought some artifacts and the kids went crazy!! Love it!

  2. I started to leave you a comment, but it got long, so I made it a whole thing. I hope you don’t mind. I’m the adult child of parents who raised their kids while doing fieldwork in the Andes, and what I have to say is that your kids will thank you. So here’s the comment that got too long.

    View at

  3. I was an archaeologist – M.A., permit holder, running excavations – but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle working in the field and having a baby (emotionally – I have depression and anxiety problems and it would have killed me). So I chose to stay home. I now do contracts from my home office in both the archaeology and history fields, as well as museum work. And I am happy with it. So we need to acknowledge that it’s okay to give up the big career for the family, too. Whatever works for you!!

    1. Thank you Sandi.

      Looking at these wonderful images, I was struck how the majority of representations of ‘archaeologists-who-happen-to-be-mothers’ are archaeologists with their small children at work. I understand and support the motivation to normalise motherhood in the profession through raising its visibility. And these images are beautiful and – sad to say – in some ways very brave. But I also feel their ought to be the capacity within academia and the profession for archaeologists to be parents (men & women), to work in the field, and not take their children to work. We still remain a long way from supporting a sensible work-life balance within archaeology – not least because there remains the idea that we do this because we love it, something we internalise, so our relationship to work is altered as a result.

      There are so many pressures (many which we place on ourselves and then sometimes unconsciously expect of others others) as mothers and as professionals, that I am uncomfortable with normalising the idea we can be both at once simply by bringing our children into the workplace and our workplace into our homes. I hope we can give ourselves permission for space between the two.

      I am (just by the by) a mother of three small people and an academic. I live in the UK and work primarily in the Indian Ocean. My partner works in the Caribbean. It gets complicated.

      Would also recommend this post by an academic mother about work, strikes and maternity leave:

  4. Love this thank you for putting such wonderful and inspirational photos up. As a mother and a archaeologist finding it hard right now its great to see that there are people doing it :)

  5. From about the 6th grade I knew that I wanted to be an archaeologist, and planned not to have kids, but I ended up having my first right out of high school, so I gave up that dream. I am now 30 and going to college and strongly considering archaeology as a major. This really inspired me, thank you! Now to finish before I’m too old to be in the field all day!

  6. You go Dr. Morgan and colleagues, what could be more exciting for your kids than to see and participate in this kind of field work!

  7. Currently I am writing my master’s thesis, I’m 6 months pregnant with my 2nd, and last week I took my toddler out to my university’s field school to show him around the site (see video link below). While pregnant with my first, I went on survey, and 6 weeks after his birth I was back to digging.

    I feel blessed that my committee chair is super understanding of my desire to be both a mom and an archaeologist. And I think that once I’m done having kids, I’ll try for a PhD. I also feel pretty lucky that I have a supportive and loving husband, who also likes to come out to site with me.

  8. I’m a starting archaeologist…and I like that I found this because that has been my major concern. I have a 7 year old son and love the idea of family but I also love archaeology. I want to continue with my career and I want to maybe have more kids…:D

  9. And, from the old days, here’s this,with Marina at Opovo. Lots of stories I could tell about those who were sympathetic to parents in the field and those who weren’t. And then there is back home in academia…/Misc/Pix/Slides/Opovo/op442.jpg /Misc/Pix/Slides/Opovo/op117.jpg

    1. Okay, pix didn’t work and I can’t figure out how to get them in. Too bad; she was really cute!

  10. My photos are locked in a storage shed in Denver and I am San Juan Island, but my son was 2 years old when I did my first fieldwork on a Mastodon discovering in Louisiana. Shifting my degrees to be interdisciplinary between architecture and archaeology, he grew up building houses with me too, collecting rocks, digging in the direct and climbing. Needless to say as a grown adult getting married real soon, he lives in the mountains, skis voraciously and still builds things and digs in the dirt!

  11. Thanks for sharing this post Colleen. I love seeing all these moms and moms-to-be in the field/office. I did a podcast about my pregnancy in the field and have talked about it on the APN a little bit. It’s wonderful to see more people talking about having a family and a career in the arch world. And I don’t know how recent your picture is, but congrats! Here is me at almost 8 months preggo on survey.

  12. A appreciate this thread but it isn’t just women who are parents working in the field. I have known several men (parents) who brought their children along on field projects. My daughter grew and learned so much along the way. But it certainly was not easier because I am a male.

    I am thrilled to see ANY parent exposing their kids to the world, and our profession provides so many opportunities that most other people don’t have.

  13. Here are my son Bertie and I at Madinat al-Zahra, Spain, where we are conducting a geophysical and geochemical survey of a 10th century medina.

    He tells us he wants to be an underwater archaeologist, an astronaut, or an actor. Who knows what he’ll be doing in 20 years’ time, but I think he loves the life he has at the moment.

Leave a Reply to Ellen Grav Elligsen Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: