Alan Wace - Director 1914-1923

Alan John Bayard Wace (1879 – 1957) was an English archaeologist and was Director at the British School at Athens from 1914 -1923. His post coincided with the First World War. Wace was born at Cambridge, the child of Frederick Wace and Fanny Bayard and educated at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge and he was a contemporary of Richard Dawkins with whom he later travelled and who became Director of the British School at Athens in 1906.

Wace became a student of the British School at Athens in 1902 and then travelled around the Aegean as Secretary on Gardner’s (BSA Director, 1887-95) boat “Pelops” in 1903/4 and again in 1905 and between these voyages he travelled around Greece, including going to Laconia, Delos, Pergamon and Constantinople. From 1903 to 1913, while a Fellow at Pembroke College, Wace spent time at the British School at Rome and excavated with the British School at Athens and he continued to travel throughout Greece.

When Alan Wace was appointed Director of the British School at Athens in 1914, his appointment coincided with the outbreak of the war and BSA excavations were closed down. During 1915–19, Wace was seconded to the British legation at Athens, working for British intelligence. During this time however, Wace continued excavating by joining Carl Blegen on the American School of Classical Studies dig at Korakou near Corinth. They also did work together on Mycenaean pottery at Nafplion Museum. At this time they published a BSA article The Pre-Mycenaean Pottery of the Mainland that suggested that Mycenaean style might not be a variant of Minoan civilization.

In 1920, with the British School at Athens open again, Wace began excavating Mycenae.Following his Directorship of the BSA, Wace became Deputy Keeper of Textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum and continued to excavate and write throughout his life. He excavated Troy with Blegen in 1933 and Mycenae in 1939 accompanied by his wife Helen and daughter Lisa and some students. When World War II broke out, Wace again worked a British intelligence officer in Athens and Egypt.

After the war, Wace published Mycenae, An Archaeological History and Guide in 1949 and resumed excavations at Mycenae in 1950, where he discovered Linear B tablets in 1952. Wace continued his work for the rest of his life and died in Athens in 1957 at the age of 78.Wace’s daughter Lisa Wace French (also in this exhibition), who had excavated with her parents since she was a child, went on to become BSA Director in 1989.

Artist’s Note: From student to Director, there were many photos provided to me by the BSA archive to use to gain visual information of Wace’s look and personality. From the photos, I could tell he was a person who undertook his work with a very serious, yet childlike, joy. I have depicted his LEGO portrait at his more mature age when he was Director, and have tried to capture a sense of quiet whimsy on his face.