Women in NL Archaeology: Anne Stine Ingstad

In honour of International Women’s Day & Women’s History Month 2021, the NLAS is profiling women who have made contributions to archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador. Inspired by TrowelBlazers “We’re here. And we always have been,” we celebrate all women in archaeology.

Anne Stine Moe married Helge Ingstad, an explorer and larger than life personality 18 years her senior, in 1941. In the 1950s she studied archaeology at the University of Oslo, completing her Masters degree in 1960. She took a position at the Forest Museum in Elverum but received no family support for her career in archaeology. She made several attempts on her life and her mental health at this time was precarious. As her daughter Benedicte has written:

The belief that she actually had a right to live a fulfilled life, in whatever way she felt most compelled to do so, deeply conflicted with her ingrained traditional beliefs and developed into feelings of a life not worth living.

As Anne Stine struggled to create a professional life for herself, Helge Ingstad identified settlement traces at L’Anse aux Meadows. From 1961-1968, Anne Stine Ingstad led these excavations with an international team, greatly assisted by volunteers from L’Anse aux Meadows. The findings of these excavations were heavily scrutinized as the amateur Helge was deemed to be the leader. Anne Stine’s expertise and knowledge was dismissed. This negative opinion gradually changed, but the initial response to her work by other archaeologists caused her to doubt her abilities for a long time.

Anne Stine published the first of the two-volume L’Anse aux Meadows site reports in 1977 and suffered a minor stroke. In 1978 she defended and was awarded her doctorate from the University of Oslo. Anne Stine was also awarded her Honorary Doctorate from Memorial University in 1979, ten years after Helge.

Dr Anne Stine Ingstad studied the tapestries from the Oseberg ship burial and textiles from the Viking-Age trading site at Kaupang, producing exceptional work, advancing our understanding of the role of women in mortuary ritual.

She died of cancer in 1997 at the age of 79, under her own terms, in her own time.

For the story of Anne Stine Ingstad and Helge Ingstad, read Benedicte Ingstad, A Grand Adventure (Montreal, 2017). 

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