Honor Frost

This story map about Honor Frost was created by Writing Honor: The Levant and the History of Archaeological Ideas about Seascapes’ (Jesse Ransley, Crystal Safadi) as part of an Honor Frost Foundation funded project at the Centre for Maritime Archaeology of the University of Southampton. It draws upon a range of sources, mainly Honor Frost’s publications, archival material and interviews. Scroll down to explore the map.

Honor Frost – 28 October, 1917- 12 September 2010

Honor Frost was an early pioneer in the field of underwater archaeology. Born in Cyprus in 1917 she became the ward of the London solicitor Wilfred Evill after the death of her parents. Her love of diving started in a Wimbledon garden when she submerged herself in a ‘well’ using an air hose device as described in her first book ‘Under the Mediterranean’ (1963).

Early Years

Honor studied at the Central School of Art in London and the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford. She later worked as a designer for the Ballet Rambert and was director of publications at the Tate Gallery. In the 1940s she designed a ballet, Khadra, which was choreographed by Celia Franca for the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet to music by Sibelius.

Honor’s artistic calling came to a halt after she fell in love with diving in Marseille, where in the early 1950s she began training with the Club Alpin Sous-Marin in Cannes. This was the start of her passion and interest in ‘under the sea.’ Her mentor was the archaeologist Frédéric Dumas. Dumas took her on her first dive on the wreck of a Roman ship at Anthéor, later known as the Chrétienne A, on the south coast of France. Later, she was able to develop and consolidate her archaeological skills when she joined Kathleen Kenyon at Jericho as a draftsman for the excavations in 1957.

Honor moved to Lebanon from Jericho and explored the ancient harbours of Byblos, Sidon and Tyre, where she developed her special interest in ports, harbours and anchors under the auspices of the Institut Français d’Archéologie in Beirut. She particularly felt that anchors could play a key role in identifying wrecks and revealing patterns of trade, and they continued to fascinate her throughout her life.

Maritime Archaeology

In 1959 Peter Throckmorton located the Cape Gelidonya wreck, a Bronze Age ship off the coast of Turkey. That winter Honor worked on cataloguing and drawing items retrieved from the wreck site and in the summer of 1960 she worked with George Bass on the excavation of the site; this was the first underwater excavation of a shipwreck that utilised systematic excavation techniques by diving archaeologists. These excavations were to play a crucial role in the development of underwater archaeology.

In 1968 Honor was involved in the UNESCO-sponsored project to survey the Pharos lighthouse site in the Port of Alexandria, her survey confirmed the presence of other parts of the Pharos, in addition to the presence of submerged structural features. 

During the 1970’s in collaboration with the Sicilian authorities and the British School at Rome Honor directed the excavation and recovery of a Punic shipwreck, dated to the 3rd Century BC.  For several years she and her team of archaeologists worked on the site. The Punic ship was restored for show in a local building requisitioned for its museum display.

In addition to her excavation work, Honor was instrumental in promoting maritime archaeology as a discipline: she helped found the Council for Nautical Archaeology; was on the Council for the Society for Nautical Research for many years; and played a part in establishing the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology in 1972. She was also made a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1969.

Honor Frost Bequest

In keeping with her love of the Mediterranean, Honor acquired a house in Malta as her second home, but when in London she lived in her Marylebone house, inherited from Wilfred Evill. The flat was filled with an outstanding collection of paintings of 20th century British artists, particularly Stanley Spencer, acquired by her guardian in the inter-war years. She entertained friends and family on a regular basis in the unique setting of this major art collection, which was only very occasionally loaned out for special exhibits.

Towards the end of her life, she decided to leave her valuable collection to establish a foundation to promote maritime archaeology with a focus on the eastern Mediterranean. She entrusted the responsibility of running the charitable foundation to seven trustees, whom she knew well through many different spheres and times of her life. The Evill/Frost collection was sold after her death in June 2011 at Sotheby’s, and most of these funds make up the Honor Frost Foundation’s endowment.

The trustees intend to carry on promoting the interests of maritime archaeology, ensuring that the Honor Frost Foundation achieves a lasting legacy to reflect her dedication to the field she loved so much.



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