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Collecting the Past, Constructing Identity: The Antiquarian John Mortimer and The Driffield Museum of Antiquities and Geological Specimens

  • Melanie Giles (a1)

2005 marked the centenary of the publication of Forty Years Researches in the British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire by John Mortimer. This review explores the key concepts underpinning his work – those of progress and racial identity – and how they were developed both in the monograph and in the fieldwork and museum arrangements upon which the monograph was based. It argues that although Mortimer is best known for his work on the Neolithic and Bronze Age of East Yorkshire it was the material from Iron Age burials in the region that crystallized his thinking on these issues. The article also explores the way in which this archaeological collection shaped Mortimer's own relationships and sense of place, while contributing more broadly to regional and national discourses on identity. Finally, it highlights the contemporary significance of this collection and its associated archive, currently held at the Hull and East Riding Museum.

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W Greenwell 1867. ‘On the inhabitants of Yorkshire in pre-Roman times’, Proc Yorkshire Geol Polytechnic Soc, 4, 512–44

V Janokovic 2000. ‘The place of nature and the nature of place; the chorographic challenge to the history of British provincial science’, Hist Sci, 38, 79113

R Knox 1850. The Races of Men: A Fragment (A Philosophical Enquiry into the Influence of Race over the Destinies of Nations), London

G W Lamplugh 1911. ‘In memoriam: John Robert Mortimer’, Proc Yorkshire Geol Soc, new ser, 17, 258–60

E Maule Cole 1897. ‘Notes on the Danes Graves near Driffield’, Proc Yorkshire Geol Polytechnic Soc, 13, 299301

J R Mortimer 1885. ‘On the origin of the chalk dales of Yorkshire’, Proc Yorkshire Geol Polytechnic Soc, 9, 2942

J R Mortimer 1897a. ‘A summary of what is known of the so-called “Danes Graves” near Driffield’, Proc Yorkshire Geol Polytechnic Soc, 13, 286–98

J R Mortimer 1897b. ‘Ancient British starworship indicated by the grouping of barrows’, Proc Yorkshire Geol Polytechnic Soc, 13, 201–9

J R Mortimer 1900. ‘Notes on the history of the Driffield Museum of Antiquities and Geological Specimens’, Proc Yorkshire Geol Polytechnic Soc, 14, 8896

J R Mortimer 1909. ‘The stature and cephalic index of the prehistoric men whose remains are preserved in the Mortimer Museum at Driffield’, Man, 9, 35–6

B Trigger 1989. A History of Archaeological Thought, Cambridge

T Wright 1859. ‘On the remains of a primitive people in the south-east corner of Yorkshire; with some remarks on the early ethnology of Britain’, Proc Geol Polytechnic Soc West Riding Yorkshire, 3, 465–91

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The Antiquaries Journal
  • ISSN: 0003-5815
  • EISSN: 1758-5309
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquaries-journal
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