“Who Doesn’t Belong Anywhere, Has a Chance Everywhere”: The Formative Years of Emilie Haspels in Greece.Posted: November 1, 2020
BY FILIZ SONGU
Filiz Songu studied archaeology in Izmir and Ankara. As an independent scholar, she works for the Allard Pierson in Amsterdam and is a staff member of the Plakari Archaeological Project in Southern Euboia. She just completed her biographical research into the life and work of Dutch archaeologist Emilie Haspels. In her contribution to From the Archivist’s Notebook, she discusses Haspels’s early formative years in pre-WW II Greece, and the challenges she and other women archaeologists of her time met in a male-dominated field. Since Haspels worked with many foreign archaeological schools in Greece, Songu’s essay is literally a “Who’s Who” of foreign archaeology in interwar Greece.
Caroline Henriëtte Emilie Haspels (1894–1980) was a prominent classical archaeologist in the Netherlands in the decades after WW II. She was the first female professor of Archaeology at the University of Amsterdam and the first female director of the Allard Pierson Museum. Most scholars know her from her study The Highlands of Phrygia. Sites and Monuments (1971), which is still a reference work on the rock-cut monuments in the Phrygian Highlands in central Turkey. For another group of academicians, Emilie Haspels is known for her other classic publication, Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi (1936).
One may wonder what the connection is between these two widely differing fields of specialization. When I started my biographical research into the life and work of Emilie Haspels, my original focus was on her pioneering fieldwork in Turkey. However, when I dug deeper into her personal documents, I discovered more about other significant periods of her life. Her archive provided glimpses of, for instance, her time in Shanghai in 1925–26, and her enforced stay in Istanbul during WW II. It shows how the twists and turns of history affected both her private and her academic life. Key to understanding her archaeological carrier is what I like to call her “Greek period.” The years she spent in Greece in the 1930s doing her PhD research appear to be her formative years as an archaeologist. With the field experience and special skills she acquired in Greece, she paved the way, perhaps unconsciously, to the Phrygian Highlands, which became her life’s work. It was also during her Greek period that she started to build up a wide international network. Haspels’s personal documents and correspondence in various Dutch archives provide complementary information about the scholarly community in pre-WW II Athens and connect with the writings in Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan’s blog.
Becoming an Archaeologist
Haspels’s Greek period started in the spring of 1929 with her arrival in Athens as a foreign member of the French School. A little about her academic background may be useful here. Haspels had studied Classics at the University of Amsterdam between 1912 and 1923. She minored in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology, attending Jan Six’s classes.
After her graduation, she taught Latin and Ancient Greek in secondary and high schools in the Netherlands. However, she was determined to continue doing archaeological research, preferably on Greek pottery. In 1928, she started her PhD at the University of Utrecht under the supervision of Carl W. Vollgraff. She earned a scholarship to study at a university abroad, followed by what was meant to be a six-month stay in Greece. She chose to go to Oxford, where she studied with Sir John Beazley and also attended classes given by John L. Myres, Stanley Casson, Marcus N. Tod, and Gilbert Murray. Beazley took it upon himself to become her mentor. After leaving Oxford, she maintained intensive correspondence with him. In his letters, he encouraged Haspels in her research on Greek pottery and advised her whom to contact and where to publish her articles.
The French School at Athens and Foreign Excavations
After two semesters at Oxford, Haspels’s scholarship allowed her to spend six months in Greece. At the time, the Netherlands did not have research facilities in Athens. Haspels therefore had no choice other than to follow in the footsteps of previous Dutch scholars, mostly classicists, who traditionally entered the French School as membres étrangers. Her supervisor, Vollgraff, a former foreign member, had made a request to the French School. This was not to her liking, and in one of her letters to a Dutch colleague she complained:
“I’m really not in the mood for the French School! The German Institute has Buschor and the British School has Prof. Ashmole, who according to Prof. B[eazley] will be of great use to me. At the French School? … Nobody. ‘And where are the French people when they are in Athens? You never see them in the museums,’ according to Prof. B[eazley].”Haspels to G. van Hoorn, December 12, 1928 (University Library Utrecht, Special Collections, Collection Van Hoorn).
However, she soon changed her mind: she was content with the accommodation and research facilities provided by the French School. She felt “welcome to participate in English, German and French excavations all over Greece,” as she later noted in her memoirs about her fieldwork and expeditions in Turkey (Berndt 2012, p. 11).
Haspels had her first fieldwork experience in the spring of 1929 at the British School’s excavations of the prehistoric site of Thermi on Lesbos under the direction of Winifred Lamb. (On Lamb, see David W. J. Gill, Winifred Lamb: Aegean Prehistorian and Museum Curator, 2018.) She was initially involved in the field photography and pottery analysis, but when she came back the following year she supervised her own trench.
Her six-month period in Greece appeared to be the prelude to a much longer stay, thanks to another scholarship as well as paid assignments for the French School. After Thermi, she joined two more British projects. In 1930–1933, she worked during two campaigns with Humfry G.G. Payne (1902-1936) at the Heraion in Perachora (Corinthia). In 1932 she worked briefly with Walter A. Heurtley’s team on Ithaca studying the pottery. In Samos, she joined the German excavations at the Heraion (1931 and 1932) directed by Ernst Buschor (1886-1961). The British and German excavation directors did not allow her to participate in the publications, but did give her permission to publish semi-scientific articles about their projects for the Dutch periodicals Hermeneus and Bulletin Antieke Beschaving (e.g., see Haspels 1933 and Haspels 1934).
The situation with the French School was different. As a foreign member, she was given more responsibilities and chances to participate not only in the School’s excavations, but also in the publications. At the French School’s excavation on Delos, where she worked regularly between 1930 and 1935, the director Joseph Chamonard allowed her to publish pottery from the earlier excavations in the Apollo sanctuary. The other French project she was involved in was on Thasos, where she excavated between 1931 and 1934, the final year as field director. The director, Pierre Devambez, asked her to study and publish the Archaic pottery. She was also allowed to write an article about the excavations for The Illustrated London News in 1932.
Haspels went from one project to another and stayed in Athens for only short periods of time. When in Athens, she studied pottery at the National Museum, and also used the opportunity to socialize with the members of the other foreign schools. Working with different foreign teams put her in a unique position to bring these members together. In her memoirs, she mentions how she took the French to the monthly tea at the American School, which was one of the reasons why Mme. Roussel, wife of the director of the French School, called her the “connecting link between the institutes” (Berndt 2012, p. 12–13). Though she did not follow the academic program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, she did participate in some of its activities:
“It was a fortunate coincidence that at that time the extensive excavation of the Agora at Athens was taken in hand by the American School; the new group of excavators were eager to make acquaintance with the members of other schools and encouraged us to come to the dig and see their findings.”Berndt 2012, p. 12.
It is here that her lifelong friendship with Lucy Talcott and Gladys Davidson Weinberg began, as her correspondence during and after WW II shows.
In Athens she also participated in Wilhelm Dörpfeld’s city walks:
“At that time we suddenly heard that Dörpfeld was going to give lecture tours on the Acropolis. This was an incredible experience, it made one feel as if we actually lived in the times of Schliemann, profiting by the wisdom of Schliemann’s architect-excavator of Troy.”Berndt 2012, p. 12.
In one of her letters to her sister in the Netherlands, she commented on Dörpfeld’s late years. (About Dörpfeld and his theories being challenged by younger scholars, see also “On the Trail of the “German Model”: ASCSA and DAI, 1881-1918.”)
“Remember I talked about that famous old professor, Dörpfeld, we were told about in high school? Well, he wanted to organize a trip with a group to Ithaca and Leukas. The trip was canceled because only one [person] signed up: not one single German, for example. How pathetic it is to grow old!”Emilie to C. Haspels, September 14, 1931. Source: Haspels Family Archive.
During her stay in Athens she also enjoyed the cultural life. She mentions, for example, attending a concert “directed by [Dimitri] Mitropoulos, then still at Athens” (Berndt 2012, p. 13). In her archive there is a photo that has only a brief note on the back, saying that it was taken during a recording session of folk singing in Athens in 1930. In this photo, we see the French linguist, Hubert Octave Pernot (1870-1946), professor of Modern Greek, who was leading a project to create a permanent record of modern Greek folk songs. To his left is an unnamed woman, whom I think is musicologist Melpo Logotheti-Merlier, founder of the Musical Folklore Archives, which is now the oldest section of the Center for Asia Minor Studies. She is known to have assisted Pernot in the abovementioned project.
All this may seem interesting and exciting, and shows how intensive and productive her years in Greece were. However, the absence of a Dutch institute in Athens distressed her. In one of her reports to the University of Utrecht, she described her situation as follows:
“Of course, at each excavation you have different functions because each excavation has different demands; but because of my studies, I’ve usually been occupied with the vases. […] I can’t underestimate how big an advantage it’s been for me being Dutch, as I’ve been able to join all these different excavations by the various schools: who doesn’t belong anywhere, has a chance everywhere. On the other hand, I do see the disadvantage of not belonging anywhere.”Report for Philological Society at Utrecht, 1932, Allard Pierson, University of Amsterdam, C.H. Emilie Haspels Archive.
End of Greek period
In 1935, Haspels submitted her PhD thesis titled Bijdrage tot de studie van Attisch zwart-figurig (“Contribution to the study of Attic black-figure”). The following year she published a more extended version in English under the title Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi. This study received many positive reviews written by, for example, Gisela M.A. Richter and T.B.L. Webster. Renowned French pottery expert Charles Dugas (1885-1957) not only praised Haspels’s research methods and outcomes, but also called attention to the unusual character of this endeavor: it was written in English by a Dutch female archaeologist from Oxford who had become a foreign member of the French School at Athens, which published it (Dugas 1937, p. 40). Dugas also used his review to advise the French School to take Haspels as an example and open its doors to female researchers and accept larger numbers of French women into scientific research. The highest recognition, I believe, came two decades later. Beazley in the ‘Instructions for Use’ to his Attic Black-figure Vase-painters (1956) referred to Haspels’s research on lekythoi in the following manner:
“One of the largest classes of black-figure vase, the lekythos, has been thoroughly studied by Miss Haspels in her fine work Attic Black-figured Lekythoi. I have not reproduced her list. I have made additions; and especially if I had much to add, I have not hesitated to repeat what is there, following no hard and fast rule; but if a vase does not appear in my pages, it should be sought in Miss Haspels’s index.”Beazley 1956: pp. iix-ix
The completion of her PhD research marks the end of her Greek period. Very soon afterward, a new phase in her life would start. Her field experience and pottery expertise made her the best candidate for another French project, this time in Turkey. Albert Gabriel (1883-1972), director of the French Archaeological Institute in Istanbul, asked her to direct the excavations at Midas City in Anatolia. Here, she conducted five campaigns between 1937 and 1939, when WW II broke out, trapping her in Turkey, where she was forced to remain for six years.
Although she started to work in Turkey, she kept in touch with scholars she had met in Oxford and Athens. She corresponded with Beazley regularly, even during WW II. In his letters to Haspels, Beazley informed her about his ongoing research, once in a while colored with news of a more personal nature, for instance about his wife’s volunteer work for British soldiers: “My wife has invented a woolen garment for the forces and has sent out over 2500. It bears the classical name of Kredemnon” (Letter from Beazley to Haspels, September 6, 1942). (See also M. Alden, “Mrs Beazley’s Kredemnon: Homeric Comforts for the Troops, 1939-45” in Costume 44:1, 2010, pp. 106–109.) Her friendship with Winifred Lamb, who conducted fieldwork between 1935 and 1937 in Kusura Höyük, became stronger. A recurring topic was their exchange of experiences of working in Turkey.
It was most probably Lamb who introduced Haspels to Francis H. Bacon, who was also known as “Uncle Bacon.” (On Bacon, read also “Francis H. Bacon: Bearer of Precious Gifts from the Dardanelles.”) The earliest correspondence between them is from 1937, some years before Bacon’s death, when Haspels started to conduct excavations at Midas City. Together with this letter, Bacon shared some photographs that he took during his visits to Athens in 1930 and 1931. One shows their mutual friend Winifred Lamb “in Athens Museum workshop,” two others are portraits of Wilhelm Dörpfeld taken “in my room at Grande Bretagne,” and one is of Sophia Schliemann “in her house at Phaleron.”
When WW II ended, Haspels returned to the Netherlands, and soon became a professor at the University of Amsterdam. Now that she had tenure, she could finally start her own field project. Between 1946 and 1958, she organized four survey expeditions to the Phrygian Highlands. During her excavations at Midas City, she came to realize that this was still a largely unexplored region. It was a terrain where she could make a name for herself, but it also appealed to the romantic side of her. As she would later observe in her monograph: “I had to record what I found, I am the last of the travelers” (Haspels 1971: viii). Finally, she belonged somewhere.
Although her Phrygian research dominated the rest of her academic life and a good part of her retirement, she did not lose her connection with Greece and Athens. She traveled regularly to Greece, and organized and guided excursions for Dutch students. In 1956, she was invited to join the ceremonies marking the dedication of the Stoa of Attalos.
She continued to visit Athens, often before and after her expeditions in Turkey. In her personal documents, she mentions that during these visits she was asked to help classify and date pottery from the Agora excavations. Her correspondence with Lucy Talcott includes this photo of Attic lekythoi found during the Agora excavations. On the back is typewritten information, to which Talcott added a handwritten, personal message: “C.H.E.H.! How we have been working for you! L.T.”
Beazley, J. D. 1956. Attic Black-figure Vase-Painters, Oxford.
Berndt, D. (ed.) 2012. Emilie Haspels. I am the Last of the Travelers: Midas City Excavations and Surveys in the Highlands of Phrygia. With Contributions by Halet Çambel, Istanbul.
Dugas, C. 1937. “Une étude de céramique grecque,” Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budé 56, pp. 37-40.
Haspels, C. H. E. 1933. “Bij ons op Ithaka,” Hermeneus, vol. 6.1, pp. 7–13.
—————————1934. “Bij ons op Samos,” Hermeneus, vol. 6.10, pp. 159–166.
—————————1935. Bijdrage tot de studie van Attisch zwart-figurig, Nijkerk.
—————————1936. Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi, Paris.
—————————1971. The Highlands of Phrygia. Sites and Monuments, Princeton.
Songu, F. 2019. “Emilie Haspels’ Griekse jaren,” Tijdschrift voor Mediterrane Archeologie, vol. 60, pp. 47–53.