The People Behind our Understanding of Suffolk’s Prehistoric Archaeology

a framed picture of flints and a book with portrait of Nina Layard

Whilst working on the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Enhancement Project, our colleague Dr Hannah Cutler delved into the invaluable works from some of East Anglia’s most pioneering and influential figures in prehistoric archaeology in Suffolk.

Here are just a few of the many key archaeologists Hannah has come across the most during her project.

Nina Layard 1853 – 1935

Nina Layard was the leading female archaeologist of her day and is a notably important figure in developing our understanding of prehistoric archaeology in Suffolk. A passionate and keen archaeologist, Nina spent many hours in her hometown of Ipswich digging and exploring and is accredited for her dedication and contribution to prehistoric archaeology.

Nina is most famous for the excavations at the Saxon burial ground at Hadleigh Road in Ipswich, as well as the important Palaeolithic site at Foxhall Road amongst others.

Find out more about Nina Layard.

Photograph of Nina in the excavation with three men
Nina excavating at Foxhall Road, Ipswich. (Photograph from “Miss Layard Excavates”, by permission of Steven Plunkett and Suffolk Record Office)

James Reid Moir 1879 – 1944

A key figure in the early research of the Palaeolithic period in Suffolk. During his prolific archaeological career, James wrote a vast array of publications and was a Fellow to several Societies. He was part of the Ipswich Museum archaeology team and later became its President. During his career James recovered a notable amount of Palaeolithic artefacts, including flint tools and faunal material from Bramford Road, Ipswich (IPS 018) and Jordan’s Pit, Sudbury (BCB 002) to name but a few of the many archaeological sites he investigated.

Find out more about James Reid Moir on The Royal Society website and the Suffolk Archives website.

A black and white photograph of James Reid Moir sitting down with pipe and hat.
James Reid Moir shortly before his death

John Wymer 1928 – 2006

John Wymer, a highly respected archaeologist, has greatly enhanced our understanding of prehistory in Suffolk.

A Palaeolithic expert, John Wymer excavated at several major sites in Suffolk. Most notably the important Terminal Palaeolithic ‘Long Blade’ site at Devil’s Wood Pit in Sproughton, where thousands of flint tools were recovered from the site. John had also recovered Mammoth remains from near the railway tunnel at Stoke, Ipswich.

With a career spanning several years at renowned local, national, and international sites, John was also a prolific writer in the field and wrote more the 120 publications. He was also a charismatic speaker at the many lectures he presented.

Find out more about John Wymer.

Photograph of John Wymer
John Wymer, 1928 to 2006. (© Eastern Daily Press.)

Roger Jacobi 1947 – 2009

Roger Jacobi was an important figure in British archaeology. He specialised in the Later Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Periods with a passion for research and archiving.  Sections of his extensive personal archive were posthumously published as the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Artefact (PaMELA) database which is one of the main sources used for the Archaeological Service’s Enhancement of the Suffolk Historic Environment Record Project funded by Historic England.

Find out more about Roger Jacobi (PDF)

Find out more about the PaMELA databse.

A black and white photograph of Roger Jacobi using an hand led magnifying glass identifying artefacts
Roger Jacobi in Les Eyziers identifying cutmarks in 2009

Colin Pendleton 1953 – 2014

Colin Pendleton was another such figure who enhanced our understanding of archaeology in Suffolk. His archaeological career began as a young man searching for prehistoric flint tools in the fields around his home in Mildenhall.

He entered the profession by digging with the newly established unit set up by the county council in 1974. Colin graduated with a degree in archaeology later in life, followed by a PhD. Colin soon brought together all his passion, expertise and knowledge in the field and is regarded as one of the county’s most respected and intuitive archaeologists.

He was in charge of the Historic Environment Record for Suffolk and was a keen and passionate advocate of work-experience programmes for students, inspiring many of today’s archaeologists who owe their careers to Colin.

Find out more about Colin Pendleton.

Photograph of Colin talking
 Colin Pendleton (© The Guardian).

Find out more about the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Enhancement Project blog.

This project is funded by Historic England.

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