Waterfront: UCS professor’s historical work is a key source for novelist

Professor David Gill of UCS (University Campus Suffolk)

Professor David Gill of UCS (University Campus Suffolk) - Credit: Archant

Professor David Gill an expert on archaelogical exploration

Research by Professor David Gill, Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Director of Heritage Futures at University Campus (UCS), has contributed to the latest novel by Orange Prize shortlisted novelist Kamila Shamsie.

‘A God in Every Stone’ by Kamila Shamsie, who was named a Granta Best of Young British Novelist in 2013, opens at an archaeological excavation at Labraunda in Turkey on the eve of the outbreak of the First World War.

Among the team is the British archaeologist Vivian Rose Spencer who has strong links with University College London. Spencer helps to identify the remains of the temple of Zeus.

The scene then moves to Peshawar in the North-West Frontier Province of India (and now part of Pakistan) where Spencer encounters Indian soldiers who have been invalided home after being wounded on the Western Front. She explores the archaeological remains of an ancient sanctuary.

Professor Gill’s book ‘Sifting the Soil of Greece (2011)’, from which the novel takes inspiration, was published to mark the 125th anniversary of the British School Athens.

It records the first three decades of the British School from its foundation in 1886 to the end of the First World War. The focus is on the 130 graduate students who conducted archaeological and historical research in Greece and the countries around the eastern Mediterranean.

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Dr Ian Baxter, Head of Suffolk Business School at UCS, said: “Suffolk Business School makes an impact in a number of ways beyond the world of studying management. Heritage and the ancient and modern cultures in which businesses operate form a distinct interest for academics within the School, and the influence of Professor Gill is aptly demonstrated in this book.”

Professor Gill had documented the growing contribution of women to archaeology during the period before the First World War. One of the first was the Scotswoman Margaret Hardie (Haskluck) who helped to explore the Roman colony of Pisidian Antioch in Turkey. Hasluck has a small walk-on part in Shamsie’s novel. The story also makes frequent reference to the work of John H. Marshall, Director-General of Archaeology India. Marshall was a member of the British School at Athens and had excavated on Crete where he identified the major settlement of Palaikastro.

The opening chapters of Shamsie’s novel reveal how Spencer’s knowledge was able to provide strategic intelligence on the topography of Turkey. Sifting the Soil of Greece has demonstrated how former British School students were enlisted by military intelligence in the Mediterranean and Near Eastern theatres of war.

The controller of the Arab Bureau was David Hogarth, the former Director of the British School, whose team included Gertrude Bell (who was closely associated with Lt.-Col. Charles Doughty-Wylie VC who was born at Theberton, Suffolk, and was killed at Gallipoli) and T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia).

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