Man in the White Hat

Over the past two weeks we have enjoyed the company of Alice Jaspars, a second year undergraduate who followed up excavation in Cyprus over the summer with a fieldwork placement in the archive, finding out more about the history of archaeology there, and in particular delving into the life of Oxford archaeologist John Myres. She writes:

John Linton Myres (1869–1954) (not to be mistaken with his son of an almost identical name) is a man of countless stories, many of which I have been able to acquaint myself with over the past 2 weeks during my work experience in The School of Archaeology’s Archaeological Archives. Some of these anecdotes beg belief, with a personal favourite of mine recounting how Myres, having caught malaria in Cyprus, ended up on a boat sailing to France with nothing but the clothes on his back and a tin of slightly rancid condensed milk. If I have learnt anything from reading Myres’ autobiography and examining his slides, it is that in his life what goes right goes very right, and that everything else makes a stunning story.

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“Levk : bases from N E”: Excavations at Levkoniko by Myres, Menelaos Markides and L. H. D. Buxton 1913. HEIR ID 42196

Myres is perhaps the closest one can come to Oxford personified having spent over 60 years of his life there. His Undergraduate years spent at Hertford College allowed him to make lifelong connections and friendships with the great and the good of his day, as well as creating opportunities for him to excavate. It is during his time at Oxford that Myres was given a £30 grant from the aptly named Cyprus Exploration Fund, to use as he chose within the parameters of a Cypriot Excavation. It is thus Myres was able to become the ‘Father of Cypriot Archaeology’ and alongside German archaeologist Max Ohnefalsch-Richter, he both excavated and wrote up the ‘Catalogue of the Cyprus Museum’. The seasons in which Myres was excavating in Cyprus allowed him to lay out the groundwork for all future Anglo-Cypriot excavations to be based upon.

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Myres in his white hat: HEIR ID 34428

Myres’ white hat preceded him in most situations, and rightly so. It was this which he was encouraged to wear to differentiate himself from all other excavators and to prevent himself from being targeted by bandits. His Norfolk jacket with its 15 pockets also gained a reputation as being part of his digging attire and further contributed towards Myres’ archaeological reputation.

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By looking through Myres’ slides in the archives and reading his words I have been able to expand my knowledge of Cypriot Archaeology and the way in which individuals fit into a greater academic and social network. The life of John L Myres demonstrates the way in which one individual can have countless different identities, and he himself was far more than simply the man in the white hat.

Alice Jaspars  September 2016

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About Archaeology Archives Administrator

Researchers in the archives of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Home of the Historic Environment Image Resource. Passionate about old photographs and fresh biscuits.
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2 Responses to Man in the White Hat

  1. Robert Petts says:

    Indeed a very engaging story, which no doubt are of a type which can be related by many without the comfort of a scholarly background. I would myself use the English spelling of Connexion.

  2. Robyn says:

    Well done Alice! It looks like you had a great time in the archives. I don’t think £30 would set anyone on a career these days sadly.

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