Full Name: Katharine Elizabeth (Menke) (Keeling) Woolley     
Date of Birth: June 1888     
Date of Death: 8 November 1945     
Involvement with Ur: Artist/Assistant     
Season Number: 04: 1925-1926      
Season Number: 05: 1926-1927      
Season Number: 06: 1927-1928      
Season Number: 07: 1928-1929      
Season Number: 08: 1929-1930      
Season Number: 09: 1930-1931      
Season Number: 10: 1931-1932      
Season Number: 11: 1932-1933      
Season Number: 12: 1933-1934      
Time of Involvement with Ur: 1925-27/1928-29/1930-34     
Biography: Born to German parents in England, Katharine Menke studied history at Somerville College. She did not complete a degree due to health problems, and her health continued to give her trouble throughout her life. In fact, there are many indications that she suffered from a condition known as complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, though her life is somewhat mysterious as she had all of her papers burned on her death. She married Colonel Bertram Keeling in 1919, but he died later that same year. The widowed Mrs. Keeling joined Woolley's excavation at Ur as an artist in 1925. A young single woman on the dig stirred controversy; particularly among the Trustees at Penn. Woolley solved the problem by marrying her in 1927. Most descriptions of her say she was charming but also rather cold and manipulative. Nevertheless, she was a talented artist and very capable as an archaeologist. She came to be the primary assistant to Woolley's excavations in the final Ur excavation years, after Mallowan left in 1931. Agatha Christie is said to have styled the murder victim in her book Murder in Mesopotamia after Katharine Woolley.     
Biography: Katharine Menke was born in Birmingham to German parents. Her father, Carl Menke, was a well-to-do general merchant who later became the German and Swiss Consul in Birmingham. Katharine attended a grammar school in Birmingham and then went up to Somerville College, Oxford, to read Modern History, but ill health forced her to leave before she had taken her degree. Despite difficulties with her German parentage, she joined the Red Cross in 1915 and was shortly posted to Alexandria where she worked in one of the large field hospitals. At the end of the First World War, she went to Poland to a former concentration camp housing some 7000 Bolshevik troops being detained in terrible conditions. Menke returned to London in 1919 when she met her first husband, Bertram Francis Eardley Keeling OBE, MC, RE. They married in March 1919. In September 1919, shortly after their arrival in Cairo where Keeling was Director-General of the Survey of Egypt and President of the Cotton Research Board, her husband committed suicide. Katharine Keeling travelled to Baghdad in 1924 with a letter of introduction to Gertrude Bell. She was staying with Lt.Col. J.R. Tainsh, Director of the Iraq State Railways, and his wife. They had taken Katharine to see the excavations at Ur, where she impressed Leonard Woolley with her ability to draw accurately some of the objects emerging from the excavations. Mainly because of this, but also because Woolley had succumbed to her undoubted charm of manner and appearance, he invited her to make a long stay during 1925, and then offered her a post as volunteer at Ur. Her official period as artist to the expedition began in the spring of 1926 when Mallowan helped extend the expedition house at Ur to include a bathroom for her use. The first mention of a payment to “K.K.” for £51.172.3d appears on the accounts at the end of the 1925/1926 season. She continued until the excavations closed in 1934. Katharine married Woolley in April 1927, mainly because George Gordon, the Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum at Philadelphia, insisted that a situation in which a single woman was living in the expedition house with single men was untenable. A letter from Woolley to a legal representative in 1928 makes it clear that the marriage remained unconsummated but its threat to seek an annulment was never implemented. The Woolleys remained married and there is no doubt that Katharine’s contributions to Woolley’s excavations greatly enhanced his career. During the Second World War, Woolley worked closely with Winston Churchill and the Military Intelligence Directorate to monitor Nazi looting of European museums, art collections and royal archives. In this work, Katharine supplied invaluable assistance. Churchill had the Woolleys moved to the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane in October 1943, and it was there, in November 1945 that Katharine died. Her death certificate put multiple sclerosis (from which she had suffered for over a decade) as the cause of her death.      

Media: Katharine Elizabeth (Menke) (Keeling) Woolley Export: JSON - XML - CSV

Media Media Title Title Label Author Omeka Label
Archival Glimpses of the Ur Expedition in the Years 1920 to 1926 Archival Glimpses of the Ur Expedition in the Years 1920 to 1926 1977 Dyson, Robert (none)
Memories of Ur Memories of Ur 1960 Mallowan, Max (none)
Richards, B.J. "More Deadly than the Male: The Life of Katharine Woolley." On Monkey Strums the Brit Richards, B.J. "More Deadly than the Male: The Life of Katharine Woolley." On Monkey Strums the Brit (none) (none) (none)
Season 10 Field Report Season 10 Field Report (none) Woolley, Leonard (none)
Season 11 Field Report Season 11 Field Report (none) Woolley, Leonard (none)
Season 12 Summary Report Season 12 Summary Report (none) Woolley, Leonard (none)
Season 4 Field Report Season 4 Field Report (none) Woolley, Leonard (none)
Season 5 Field Report Season 5 Field Report (none) Woolley, Leonard (none)
Season 6 Field Report Season 6 Field Report (none) Woolley, Leonard (none)
Season 7 Field Report Season 7 Field Report (none) Woolley, Leonard (none)
Season 8 Field Report Season 8 Field Report (none) Woolley, Leonard (none)
Season 9 Field Report Season 9 Field Report (none) Woolley, Leonard (none)
Shilito, Lisa-Marie. "Katharine Woolley-Demanding, Dangerous, and Digging." Blog post on Trowel Bla Shilito, Lisa-Marie. "Katharine Woolley-Demanding, Dangerous, and Digging." Blog post on Trowel Bla (none) (none) (none)
The Ur-Archaeologist The Ur-Archaeologist (none) Luby, Edward (none)
UPM Field Photo numbers UPM Field Photo numbers (none) (none) (none)
  • 15 Media