Caroline Nestmann Peck, 1949.

Caroline Nestmann Peck

This West Virginian from a modest background worked her way through college at the University of Chicago, which she entered in 1942 to study astronomy. Her job at the Oriental Institute there exposed her to the ancient world and convinced her to major in Near Eastern archaeology. In 1944 she became an editorial assistant at the Institute and helped see through to publication Henri Frankfort's seminal Kingship and the Gods. Professor Frankfort would become her advisor as she did her M.A. thesis on pre-Kassite sculpture, but she also studied Egyptian archaeology and various languages of the ancient Near East. She finished her M.A. in 1949 and then accepted the invitation of the first professor of a new department of Egyptology at Brown University (Richard A. Parker up to then the Director of Chicago's Epigraphic Survey in Luxor Egypt) to accompany him as his part-time technical assistant and instructor in Egyptian archaeology, as well as the first graduate student in the fledgling department. For her doctoral dissertation there she opted to work on the inscribed material from Naga ed-Der, discovered by George A. Reisner. At Brown she benefited from the active visiting scholar program which allowed her to study with some of the greatest Egyptologists of the time. In 1956 her plans to do research in Egypt were thwarted by the outbreak of war over Suez and the Sinai and circumstances of ill health and family obligations henceforth prevented her from every visiting the country. She had married a Brown physicist in 1952 and they raised two children. Motherhood took her away from active professional work, but in 1967 she returned to Brown as a Teaching Associate and added the History of Ancient Egypt to her course responsibilities. Although Richard Parker had plans to enlarge her teaching role, his successor had other ideas about the offerings of the Department (intending to cut them back sharply). Therefore her career at the University ended prematurely in 1972. She continued to work on the Naga ed-Der material until 1977 when she turned over ten notebooks of information to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Acknowledged widely as a careful scholar, Peck should have been able to succeed much more in her field but worked at a time when Affirmative Action had not yet gone into effect.

Author of biography: Stephen E. Thompson
Includes bibliography? Yes

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Keywords: Wheeling West Virginia, Elliott School of Business, Eagle Indemnity company, Standard Oil Development Company, University of Chicago, Near Eastern archaeology, Oriental Institute, Henri Frankfort, Mesopotamian archaeology, pre-Kassite sculpture, Bismaya, Edgar James Banks, Brown University, Richard A. Parker, J.J. Clére, Georges Posener, I.E.S. Edwards, Jaroslav Cerny, Russell Peck, A. Erman, H. Grapow, George A. Reisner, Naga ed-Der, Henry George Fischer, American Association of University Women, Chicago House, Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design, Ricardo Caminos, Cambridge Ancient History, Anthony Spalinger, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Providence Singers

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Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists
Published by the University of Michigan Press, 2004