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December 12, 2022 marks the 70th anniversary of a pivotal moment in underwater archaeology. 

On a winter evening in December 1952, pioneering underwater archaeologist Honor Frost (1917- 2010) made her first dive, not on the Mediterranean wreck of an historic ship but under 6 metres of freezing water down a well in a Wimbledon garden. She was immediately hooked, left a career in art and theatre and began a new lifelong, hugely influential, career in underwater archaeology. 

Honor Frost went on to become a pioneer in the field of underwater archaeology, a woman in a male dominated field.

After diving training in the south of France, Honor dived on the wreck of a Roman ship on the south coast of France. She then developed and consolidated her archaeological skills when she joined another trailblazing female archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon at Jericho as a draughtsman for 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 ancient ports, harbours and anchors. 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.

In 1960, while diving on a Bronze Age ship off the coast of Turkey, Honor helped develop techniques on the first underwater excavation of a shipwreck utilising systematic excavation approaches by diving archaeologists. 

These hugely influential excavations were to play a crucial role in the development of underwater archaeology and pioneered the techniques used today. 

Honor went on to dive on and excavate many more historic underwater sites and was instrumental in promoting maritime archaeology as a discipline. She helped found the Council for Nautical Archaeology and played a part in establishing the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology in 1972. 

“Honor Frost was at the forefront of the evolution of maritime archaeology.” says Alison Cathie, Chair of the Honor Frost Foundation board of Trustees. “As early as 1960,  she took part in the first excavation of a 13th BC Bronze Age shipwreck which carried a cargo of copper and tin ingots, found off the coast of  Cape Gelidonya, Turkey. Her exquisite drawings, meticulous attention to detail and her brilliant professionalism soon established her reputation. 

In 1968 she was commissioned by UNESCO to explore the port of Alexandria, identifying the remains of the lighthouse and a colossal statue of Isis. Soon after, she brought up a Punic wreck off the coast of Marsala, Sicily, which proved to be a really important excavation in many ways, and her Foundation continues to contribute to research there. A legend in her own time, she and her Foundation continue to inspire the next generation of maritime archaeologists to ever greater endeavours.”

Towards the end of her life, Honor decided to leave her valuable art collection to establish a foundation to promote maritime archaeology ensuring a lasting legacy to reflect her dedication to the field she loved so much. 

Today the Honor Frost Foundation continues Honor’s work supporting underwater excavations, providing grants for research projects, and promoting the interests of maritime archaeology. 

The Foundation promotes the advancement and research, including publication, of maritime archaeology with particular focus on the eastern Mediterranean, specifically Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus and Egypt. Honor’s legacy continues to inspire a new generation of divers to protect underwater heritage.

The Honor Frost Foundation also produces a popular podcast series Dive & Dig about underwater archaeology and the second season dropped in October this year to mark World Archaeology Day. 

For more information about the Honor Frost and the Honor Frost Foundation visit honorfrostfoundation.org


For more information about this release and to arrange interviews with Lucy Blue, HFF’s Maritime Archaeological Director or Lauren Tidbury, Maritime Archaeologist, HFF please contact Frank Crosby of Tricolor Associates at frank.crosby@tricolorassociates.co.uk or 0759 511 9582. 

Hi-res photos of Honor Frost and the work of the Honor Frost Foundation are available on request. 

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