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Janet Davidson

Janet Davidson Source: University of Auckland, Department of Anthropology, Anthropology Photographic Archive Reference: I_2_016_025.jp2 Photograph by Bob Jolly.

Archaeologist (1941-)

While Janet Davidson was still at high school in Wellington, her guidance counselor suggested a visit to the director of the Dominion Museum. This led to a "Vacation Assistant" position and, while also doing her first year studies at Victoria University, Davidson’s first practical experience with archaeology – recording at Porirua middens and excavation at the Paremata barracks.

Davidson moved to Auckland to complete her BA and was bitten by two bugs – museum curation and archaeology. In the summer of 1961-62, she carried out field work in the Society Islands at Mo'orea, where she is pictured (above) with a breadfruit pounder from a storage pit. Davidson has since done extensive fieldwork in many places in the Pacific. She was an archaeologist for Auckland War Memorial Museum, an ethnologist for the National Museum of Wellington and a senior curator at Te Papa. Although she retired from there in 2002, she has continued advocacy, consultation and research – such as into the storage of pre-European Maori cultivars of kumara.

Reference: Atholl Anderson, Kaye Green, and Foss Leach, Vastly Ingenious: The Archaeology of Pacific Material Culture: In Honour of Janet M. Davidson (Otago University Press, 2007).

This profile is part of the series 150 Women in 150 Words that celebrates women’s contributions to expanding knowledge in New Zealand, running as part of our 150th Anniversary.