Paper No. 98-9
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM
THE SCIENTIFIC CONTRIBUTIONS OF ELINOR WIGHT GARDNER, EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY EXPLORER AND INTERDISCIPLINARY GEOSCIENTIST
From 1925 to 1938, Elinor Wight Gardner (1892-1980) played a significant role as a geologist and paleontologist for several expeditions to the Middle East. Gardner worked in Egypt's Fayum for two field seasons (1925-1926, 1927-1928) collaborating with archaeologist Gertrude Caton Thompson. She documented the geologic context of Pleistocene and Holocene lakes, creating topographic maps and studying lacustrine molluscs. She also discovered buried Neolithic granaries containing wheat and barley (later dated by Willard Libby to 4,000 B.C.), and mapped a Ptolemaic irrigation system. Gardner, with Caton Thompson, next turned to the Kharga region in Egypt’s Western Desert for three field seasons of field work from 1930-1933. The first season included her study of a fossil spring vent containing Aterian (Middle Paleolithic) artifacts (locality KO 6E). The second season involved Gardner’s important discovery of a late Acheulian assemblage (KO 10), the investigation of a Mousterian spring (KO 8A), the construction of 1:40,000 scale geologic maps, as well as the study of wadi and plateau tufas, including leaf impressions in the tufa and molluscan fauna. The third season involved studies of the spring mounds and tufa sequences associated with Acheulian and Upper Levallois artifacts. In 1935 and 1936 Gardner directed as geologist two seasons of excavations of Pleistocene deposits with vertebrate remains at Bethlehem, working with paleontologist Dorthea Bate. During this period Gardner also worked with Winfred Lamb at the site of Kusura in Anatolia and conducted geologic reconnaissance surveys with Dorthy Garrod in the Levant. With Garrod, Gardner examined the Pleistocene geology of the Haifa area, studying the context of Levalloiso-Mousterian artifacts in the kurkar ridge and hamra sequence. They also examined the Pleistocene Gesher Benot Ya’agov locality in the northern Jordan Valley. In 1937-1938 Gardner, as a member (with Caton Thompson and Freya Stark) of the Hadhramaut Expedition to the southern Arabian Peninsula (Yemen), mapped and examined abandoned shorelines, fossilized vegetation in tufa deposits, and an extensive ancient irrigation system. The exploration and scientific achievements of Gardner undertaken during the interwar years serve as a model of interdisciplinary cooperation and collaboration.