The archaeological field is full of characters. The best advice I got as an undergraduate was to make a fortune doing something that pays, retire early and be a dilettante archaeologist, avoiding all the boring bits along the way. Wellcome seems to have done just that.
Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site
Archaeology abounds with astonishing characters, and firmly in that bracket we find Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936), the wealthy American-born pharmacist and philanthropist pictured above right (courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London). Better known perhaps for spending his huge personal fortune on medical research and collecting, Wellcome was also the pioneer of aerial photography using kites, deploying this method to stereoscopically record his excavation of a site in the Sudan in 1911.
It was five years earlier of course that Stonehenge was photographed from a military balloon by Lieutenant P. H. Sharpe, but Wellcome’s box kite method was rather more portable, if more difficult to control and dependent on wind. Wellcome had visited Stonehenge himself in 1890, collecting lichen (pictured above by Stewart Emmens, courtesy of the Science Museum), apparently exporting the sample from the site in a now lost…
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