Alan John Bayard Wace Professional Archive

Scope and Content

The Alan John Bayard Wace Professional Archive contains the professional papers of the archaeologist Alan Wace, Director of the British School at Athens 1914-1923, Deputy Keeper of Textiles at the Victoria & Albert Museum 1924-1934 and Laurence Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge 1933-1944, as bequeathed to his daughter Dr Elizabeth B. French. This collection includes Alan Wace's archaeological notebooks prior to commencing work at Mycenae in 1920, photograph albums, photographic negatives, maps, newspaper clippings, correspondence on archaeological topics and copies of some of his publications.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alan John Bayard Wace was born in Cambridge on 13th of July 1879, the second son of Frederic C. Wace and Fanny Wace (née Bayard). Alan attended Shrewsbury School and then read Classics at Pembroke College, Cambridge (matriculated 1898). Wace studied classical archaeology for part two of the Classical Tripos, obtaining a first class with distinction (1902). A pupil of Sir William Ridgeway's, his contemporaries included Richard Dawkins, with whom he shared a deep interest in Greek textiles - the pair both developing their own collections. Letters between Wace and Dawkins are kept in Pembroke College's archive.

Wace became a student of the British School at Athens 1902-1903) and then acted as Secretary on Professor Gardner's Island Cruise around the Aegean on the boat 'Pelops' (1903-1904). He joined another of Gardner's cruises in 1905 and, in the year between, travelled around Laconia, Volo, Skiathos, Skopelos, Delos, Pergamon and Constantinople.

Whilst a fellow of Pembroke College, between 1904–1913, Wace would spend time at the British School in Rome during the autumn studying Classical sculpture, as well as excavating with the British School at Athens (BSA) during the spring and summer at Geraki (1905) and then Sparta. He continued to travel, including journeying with Richard Dawkins through the southern Sporades islands in 1906. Wace was short-listed for the BSA directorship in 1906 but the position went to Dawkins. From 1907, Wace began to excavate in Thessaly, first with John Percival Droop and then Maurice Scott Thompson. This led to Wace and Thompson's Prehistoric Thessaly , published in 1912. Wace and Thompson also studied the nomadic Vlachs, The Nomads of the Balkans: an account of Life and Customs among the Vlachs of Northern Pindus , 1914.

Wace took up a position as lecturer in ancient history and archaeology at the University of St Andrews in 1912. He held this position only briefly as, upon Dawkins' resignation as director of the BSA in 1914, Wace was appointed to the role. Coinciding with the outbreak of World War I, British School excavations paused. During 1915–19 Wace was seconded to the British legation at Athens, working for British intelligence.

Alongside the legation work, Wace excavated by joining Carl W. Blegen (1887–1971), then secretary of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCS), on the ASCS dig at the prehistoric site of Korakou, near Corinth. Blegen and Wace also spent time re-examining pottery from Mycenae excavations, stored in the Nauplion Museum. It was at this time that the two men, who remained close friends throughout their lives, published a BSA article entitled The Pre-Mycenaean Pottery of the Mainland , positing a mainland pottery sequence, which they dubbed 'Helladic', and arguing against 'Mycenaean' being a variant of the Minoan civilization.

Resuming the directorship of the BSA, in 1920, Wace began excavating at Mycenae, having been granted permission by Christos Tsountas, on behalf of the Archaeological Society of Athens (ASA). Alongside these excavations, Wace continued to participate in the work of the ASCS with Carl W. Blegen, this time at Zygouries. A natural storyteller, Wace would tell stories around the dinner table during excavations; a book of these tales was published posthumously in 1964: Greece Untrodden .

In 1923, Alan Wace was succeeded by Arthur Woodward as the director of the BSA. The following year, after a period lecturing in North America, Wace returned to England and was appointed deputy keeper in the Department of Textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). In June 1925 Wace married Helen Pence (1892–1982), an American archaeologist who had been studying in Rome. The pair met at Mycenae in 1922, during a side visit Helen made to Greece. In 1931 their daughter Elizabeth was born in London. Among the visitors was Carl Blegen, who gave Elizabeth the nickname Lisa.

In 1933 Wace joined Blegen for excavations at Troy. In 1934 he was elected to the Laurence Chair of Classical Archaeology in Cambridge, a position he held until 1944.

Wace returned to excavate at Mycenae in 1939, accompanied by his wife and daughter as well as three of his Cambridge students: Frank Stubbings, Vronwy Fisher and Helen Thomas. Further excavations were curtailed by World War II, with Helen and Elizabeth (Lisa) evacuated to America. Wace again worked for the Legation, as well as helping to package objects in the Athens National Archaeological Museum. He was evacuated to Cairo in 1941 where in the Inter-services Liaison Department (a cover name for British Intelligence in the region) he prepared identity documents for agents operating in Greece.

Whilst in Egypt Wace accepted the chair of classics and archaeology at the Farouk I University at Alexandria. In this role he was able to pursue the excavation of Hellenistic Kom al-Dikka, amongst other sites. After the war, Wace reprised his studies of Bronze Age Greece and published Mycenae, an archaeological history and guide in 1949. He resumed his excavations at Mycenae in 1950, discovering Linear B tablets there in 1952. Leaving Alexandria in 1952, Wace took up residence in Cyprus and continued to excavate at Mycenae until 1955 and undertook study seasons in 1956 and 1957.

On the 9th of November 1957 Alan Wace died in Athens at the age of 78. His former student Frank H. Stubbings completed Wace's Companion to Homer (1962), a work in preparation since 1939.


The physical arrangement of the records as prepared by Alan Wace's daughter, Dr Elizabeth French, has largely been retained. It has been intellectually arranged in six series as follows:

  • 1. Notebooks
  • 2. Correspondence
  • 3. Photographic
  • 4. Publications, notes and reports
  • 5. Ephemera, maps and clippings
  • 6. Personal papers

Access Information

The Archives are open by appointment to researchers on Mondays, 10am-4pm. To arrange a visit and to discuss the material that you wish to consult, please contact the Archivist at least two weeks in advance by email Faculty of Classics Archives . On account of prior bookings, public and University holidays and staff availability, you are advised to apply as far in advance as possible.

Acquisition Information

Dr Elizabeth Bayard Wace French.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue detailing the collection's contents to file level is available on a local database in the Archives office in the Faculty of Classics. Wace's correspondence is currently being catalogued to item level. The archive has previously been indexed by Dr Elizabeth French using a card catalogue system, which is also available for consultation.

Archivist's Note

The biographical history was compiled with reference to Gill, David, 'Wace, Alan John Bayard (1879–1957), archaeologist', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . 2004-09-23. Oxford University Press.

Separated Material

Material relating to Wace's excavations at Mycenae is part of the Mycenae Excavation and Publication Archive (GB-3437-MCNE), also held by this repository.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for image reproduction must be made in writing to the Archivist, Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge. The Faculty reserves the right to refuse to authorise image reproduction on copyright, conservation, data protection or other grounds.

Appraisal Information

All records will be permanently retained as the collection had already been weeded by the donor, Dr Elizabeth French, prior to receipt by the repository.

Custodial History

After the death of Alan Wace in 1957, the majority of his archaeological papers were kept by his wife, Helen, and passed on to their daughter Dr Elizabeth French. These papers were gathered from the family home in Cambridge, as well as from Alan and Helen's home in Athens.

The professional records of Alan Wace's archaeological career were first formalised as the Wace Archive by Elizabeth French in January 1984. Initial indexing was started during a search for photos for use in a centenary booklet and materials to be included in the BBC series 'In Search of the Trojan War'. Whilst in the care of Dr French, the archive was made available to researchers.

This specific AJBW collection documents Alan Wace's archaeological work other than Mycenae. Wace's work at Mycenae, including his notebooks and photographs, form the core of the Mycenae Excavation and Publication Archive (MCNE), arranged during the 1970s and 1980s and largely administered by Elizabeth French. This archival collection is also held at this repository.

In 2013, Elizabeth French generously gifted both archives, along with her own professional archive, to the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Classics.


Accruals to this collection are in progress.

Related Material

Alan Wace's correspondence with John Chadwick and Michael Ventris is held by the Mycenaean Epigraphy Group, based in the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Classics.

The University of Cambridge's Pembroke College Library holds nine further notebooks by Alan Wace dating to the period 1907-1912. These notebooks include Alan Wace's notes on Vlach culture and records of his travels and excavations in Thessaly and Macedonia.

London University's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) holds papers relating to Wace's excavations at Kom El-Dikka (1949-1953).

The Bodleian Library holds Alan Wace's correspondence with OGS Crawford (1939-1956) as well as his correspondence with J.L. Myres (1904-1953).

Cambridge University's Emmanuel College Library holds Wace's correspondence with R.M. Dawkins (c.1910-1912).

The Ashmolean Museum holds Alan Wace's letters to Sir Arthur Evans.

The British School at Athens holds notebooks and plans of Alan Wace's excavations at Kom el-Dikka in Egypt, whilst he was Professor at Farouk I University.

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens holds letters from Alan Wace to Carl Blegen.


Scholars, travels, archives: Greek history and culture through the British School at Athens , ed. Llewellyn Smith, M. Kitromilides, P.M. & Calligas, E. 2004 Copac link