Elizabeth “Lisa” Wace French - First Female Director 1989-1994

Dr. Elizabeth “Lisa” Wace French (1931 – 2021) was Director of the British School at Athens from 1989 to 1994 and was the School’s first female Director. Wace French was a Mycenaean specialist and a second generation archaeologist, being the daughter of archaeologists Helen Pence and Alan Wace, the former Director of the BSA (1914). She was also the god-daughter of Carl Blegen, famous for his work on Troy and Pylos and a life-long friend of her parents. It was Blegen who gave Lisa her shortened name.

Lisa Wace French began excavation work at 8 years old, working with her parents at Mycenae and she continued to excavate there throughout her childhood and the years of her education. She grew up in both Greece and England and read classics at Newnham College, Cambridge. She was a student at the British School at Athens in 1958/9. Her PhD thesis from University College, London, The development of Mycenaean terracotta figures was awarded in 1961.

As a second generation archaeologist with a deep familiarity with Mycenae and someone who spent much of her time living in Greece from childhood, Wace French was intimately acquainted both with the archaeological subject matter of her research and with contemporary Greek language and society, which would have greatly informed her work as Director of the British School at Athens.

Artist’s Note: As with most of the LEGO portraits in this collection, I have drawn from the photos provided to me from the BSA archive. I depicted Wace French with a sense of straightforwardness that you see with many (if not all) archaeologists, that I tried to depict through her simple clothes, toussled hair and enthusiastic smile, while still hinting at the seriousness of her life’s work.