Fashion of Archaeology at Sutton Hoo

Peter Yeoman at an excavation in Aberdeen in the 1970s

Join us for a brand-new exhibition exploring the Fashion of Archaeology- where archaeology and costume history combine. Archaeology is a very broad subject with a wide range of disciplines and we have reached out to the archaeological community pulling together a fascinating range of clothing and images depicting a very wide variety of archaeological attire.

Please be aware that this exhibition has now closed following our response to the coronavirus pandemic. We will be bringing you images from the exhibition on our social media channels.

Top hat or topless? 

Whether practical, corporate or personal, each item of clothing has a story to tell. Whilst the topic of archaeology has always been about discovering the past, the discipline itself has a very long history stretching back hundreds of years. Naturally the attire adopted by archaeologists has changed over time and as archaeology has expanded into so many different forms- excavation, landscape, research and surveying to name but a few- the archaeologist’s wardrobe has expanded somewhat.

Textile history has long since been an important aspect of archaeology, indeed our understanding of Anglo-Saxon fashion and clothes production is known mainly through textile fragments found during archaeological excavations including the Sutton Hoo Great Ship Burial, but we are now turning the spotlight onto the clothing of the archaeologists themselves.
Our exhibition charts archaeological fashion from the early 1900s through to the present day with images from across the world reflecting the varied nature of archaeology. From DNA labs to excavation and rock band t-shirts to hazmat suits, it’s surprising just how many forms archaeologists and their outfits come in. See below for a short fashion parade to give you a flavour of what to expect.

The Fashion of Archaeology will be open from Saturday 11 January to Sunday 19 April.

John Garstang, a pioneer of archaeological photography, at an excavation in Beni Hasan, Egypt, 1902-04
John Garstang at an excavation in Beni Hasan, Egypt, 1902-04
John Garstang, a pioneer of archaeological photography, at an excavation in Beni Hasan, Egypt, 1902-04

Some of the fashion line-up

Basil Brown at Sutton Hoo

Basil Brown

Perhaps the most famous archaeologist associated with Sutton Hoo, and usually found decked out in tweed. Basil led the first part of the 1939 excavation of the Great Ship Burial. An image of his pair of sand goggles, worn when excavating the sandy soils of East and West Suffolk, are included in the new exhibition. The original goggles are currently on display at West Stow, and we believe they also came in handy when riding his bicycle.

Colleen Morgan at Catalhoyuk in Turkey

Colleen Morgan

There is more to Colleen’s photo than meets the eye. This image was taken in Turkey by another archaeologist called Daniel Eddisford. Colleen and Daniel are now married with a daughter and archaeology was the beginning of their life together. The t-shirt features a “Hi How Are You” drawing on it from Daniel Johnston, a famous artist and musician in Texas.

The Ancient DNA lab at the University of York in 2018

Eleanor Green

Depicting one of the lesser known archaeological disciplines, this image was captured in the ancient DNA lab at the University of York. This is the standard attire for the team there and shows that archaeology takes place in a lab as well as in the field. The threat of modern contaminants to ancient DNA makes lab suits, masks, gloves and clogs essential for their investigations to be conducted successfully.

Jill Beard in denim skirt

Jill Beard

Jill spent a long time in the field carrying out archaeological survey projects for the British Institute in Eastern Africa. In 1978 whilst working in the southern Sudan, she found herself travelling hundreds of miles each day in a Land Rover, hundreds of miles from anything that could be described as a ‘Ladies Room’. She soon discovered that the best clothing in this regard was a wide, long, denim skirt which she made and wore almost every day for six months.

Ian Barnes

Ian Barnes

Ian’s first dig was back in 1979 and he has had a long and illustrious career since including time spent with Wessex Archaeology, the MOD, and more recently in 2012 becoming the Head of Archaeology in the National Trust. Fashion is conspicuous in it’s absence in this image but he has loaned several items for this exhibition including a T-shirt from rock band Saxon’s 1981 Denim and Leather tour. He says that “Archaeology and heavy metal were interwoven” when he was at university and that it’s rather appropriate sending a Saxon t-shirt to Sutton Hoo.