History of the Ashmolean and Archaeology

Portrait of John Tradescant the Elder. AN.1685a.659.
Portrait of John Tradescant
the Elder
Portrait of John Tradescant the Elder. AN.1685a.659.
Portrait of John Tradescant
the Youger

The Department of Antiquities holds the majority of the founding collections and records from the original Ashmolean Museum, founded in 1683. From its beginning, the Ashmolean has been linked with the study of antiquities and the development of the modern field of archaeology. Although a few antiquities were included in the 17th century founding collection, more substantial groups of archaeological material from Britain arrived first with the benefaction of William Borlase in the mid eighteenth century and with the gift in 1828 of the historically important groups of Anglo-Saxon artefacts recovered in Kent by the Revd James Douglass in the 1770s, donated to the Museum by Sir Richard Colt Hoare. Further Anglo-Saxon material came in the mid nineteenth century from excavations in the Oxford region by Akerman and Stone, and at Fairford by William Wylie. The mid to later nineteenth century was marked by the arrival of material from all over the world, much of which tended to have been bought on the market rather than being recovered systematically, but the character of the collections was boosted by the activities of such pioneering archaeologists as Flinders Petrtie in Egypt, Arthur Evans at Knossus, D G Hogarth at Carchemish, and a whole series of prominent excavators in the Near East including Sir Leonard Wooley, Sir Max Mallowan and Dame Kathleen Kenyon. Nearer to home the activities of E T Leeds transformed the understanding of Anglo-Saxon England and the archaeology of Oxfordshire while greatly expanding the Ashmolean's holdings.

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