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Lamb, Winifred

    Full Name: Lamb, Winifred

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1894

    Date Died: 1963

    Place Born: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Place Died: Borden Wood, West Sussex, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): archaeology and Classical

    Career(s): curators


    Classical art historian, museum curator and archaeologist. Lamb was born to Edmund Lamb (1863-1825), a member of Parliament, and Mabel Lamb (1862-1941). She was educated at home. In 1913 she entered Newnham College (a woman’s college founded in 1871), Cambridge University, where she read Classics. Graduating in 1917, she joined the British Naval Intelligence Department, the so-called “Room 40” where among her colleagues assisting the World War I effort was the classical archaeologist J. D. Beazley. Beazley clearly encouraged her in her scholarly work and subsequently named a vase painter in honor of her acumen (the Lamb painter). In 1920 she was part of the British School at Athens, participating in the excavation at Mycenae (which her parents funded) led by Alan J. B. Wace (1879-1957), as well as those at Sparta and Macedonia. That same year she was named honorary keeper of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, by Sydney Cockerell, a position she held until 1958. During her tenure at the Fitzwilliam, she organized the Disney and Clarke collections and launched a new prehistoric gallery. The gallery’s first major acquisition, the “Minoan goddess”, purchased in 1926 by Charles Theodore Seltman for the Museum, had its authenticity questioned, casting a shadow on Seltman and to a lesser degree, Lamb. In 1929 she published Greek and Roman Bronzes, a work that remained a standard for classical sculpture for most of her life. In 1930 and 1936 she edited two fascicules of the Cambridge holdings for the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, publications which superseded the Catalogue of Vases (1897) of Ernest A. Gardner. A second major publication, Excavations at Thermi in Lesbos, 1936, made a reputation for her as a prehistorian. Lamb was the first woman archaeologist of the Anatolia excavations. During World War II, Lamb worked for the BBC in London and was severely injured when a V-2 rocket hit her apartment. She retired in 1958 and died seven years later. She is buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery at Midhurst in Sussex. She is not related to the British School at Athens field archaeologist Dorothy Lamb [Brooke, Lady Nicholson] (1887-1967).

    Selected Bibliography

    Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Great Britain. Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum. Oxford: University Press, 1930, 1936, fascicules 6,11; Greek and Roman Bronzes. New York: L. MacVeagh, The Dial Press, 1929, reprinted Chicago: Argonaut, 1969; Excavations at Thermi in Lesbos. Cambridge, UK: The University Press, 1936.


    Dictionary of National Biography; Butcher, K. and Gill, David W. J. “The Director, the Dealer, the Goddess and her Champions: the Acquisition of the Fitzwilliam Goddess.” American Journal of Archaeology 97 (1993): 383-401; [Obituaries:] Times (London) 18 September 1963; An Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology. Nancy Thomson de Grummond, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996, p. 657; Gill, David W. J. “Winifred Lamb (1894-1963).” Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004, pp. 425-48.


    "Lamb, Winifred." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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