Archaeologists Share Victorian Secrets

Feb. 25 lectures will explore Victorian-era archaeology and archaeologists

Fort Rosecrans company barracks

The company barracks at the former Fort Rosecrans in San Diego held hidden secrets. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

RIVERSIDE, California – The Archaeological Institute of America Local Society – Riverside and Inland Southern California will present a program of four lectures, “Victorian-era Archaeology and Archaeologists,” on Saturday, Feb. 25, from noon to 2 p.m. at UCR ARTSblock, 3824 Main St. The event will coincide with the Riverside Dickens Festival.

Archaeology in the Victorian period, though sometimes crude and destructive by today’s standards, was nonetheless pioneering and laid the groundwork for more scientific archaeological practice, said Shawn Ragan, a doctoral student in history at UC Riverside.

Shannon Hayes and Beth McLaughlin of Loyola Marymount University’s Classics and archaeology departments will present the work and legacy of Gertrude Bell, who embraced the Victorian enthusiasm for archaeology. In addition to conducting archaeological fieldwork, she was a travel writer, mountaineer, linguist, British foreign service officer, and spy, and more influential in the British government than her colleague T.E. Laurence (of Arabia).

John Gust

John Gust

Today, the Victorians themselves are subjects of archaeological research. John Gust, a lecturer in UCR’s Department of Anthropology and adjunct faculty of anthropology at the University of Redlands, will compare the archaeology of late 19th century Maya workers growing sugar for land owners in the Mexican Yucatan with those working for logging companies in the colony of British Honduras, now known as Belize.

Studying Victorian-era houses as archaeological sites can reveal a lot about their builders and previous owners, Ragan said. When archaeologist Donn Grenda, president of Statistical Research Inc. and a former member of the California Historic Resource Commission, purchased an Arts and Crafts-style house, he also acquired an archaeological site. Grenda will present some of the secrets found in an ash dump on the property and artifacts inside the walls. From these finds, he has pieced together a partial picture of the lives of the rich and almost-famous of the house’s former residents, Ragan added.

Ron May, president of Legacy 101 Archaeology & Historic Preservation Consultants, will discuss Victorian archaeological secrets, hidden spaces, and evidence of rituals perhaps linked to ancient Celts that were found in the barracks of the former U.S. Army Fort Rosecrans in San Diego.

All presentations will be illustrated. The event is free and open to the public. For more information about the event, visit the AIA Local Society website or Facebook page, or contact AIA Local Society organizers Craig Lesh, CEO of Heritage Education Programs in Redlands (, and Shawn Ragan, Ph.D. student in history at UC Riverside (

The AIA Local Society – Riverside and Inland Southern California strives to implement the mission of the AIA in Riverside and San Bernardino counties by: supporting archaeological research and fieldwork; educating peers, students, and the interested public about archaeology; and advocating for the preservation of archaeological sites around the world as part of our shared cultural heritage.

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Additional Contacts

Shawn Ragan

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