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Hencken, Hugh O'Neill, 1902-1981, Papers: A Finding Aid

Peabody Museum Archives
Harvard University
June 1997



Last updated 2016 August 19

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Peabody Museum Archives, Harvard University
Call No.: 995-18
Location: Peabody Museum Archives
Title: Hencken, Hugh O'Neill, 1902-1981, Papers
Date(s): 1907-1986
Creator: Hugh O'Neill Hencken
Quantity: 16 linear feet
Abstract: Papers include general research materials relating to The Earliest European Helmets 1971. Hencken's research focused on early bronze helmets of Europe and the Aegean and the bulk of the papers relate to the Duchess of Mecklenburg archaeological collection from Magdalenska gora.

Processed by:

Sarah Demb, Archivist June 1997; edited by Patricia H. Kervick, Associate Archivist; August 2009

Acquisition Information:

These papers were transferred from the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University to the Peabody Museum Archives by Victoria Swerdlow in 1987. They were accessioned in 1995.

Access Restrictions:

Access: Unrestricted.

Use Restrictions:

Copying: Unrestricted.

Biographical Sketch:

Hugh O'Neill Hencken was born in New York City on January 8, 1902, the son of Albert Charles and Mary Creighton O'Neill Hencken. He spent his youth in Pennsylvania, and went to Princeton University in 1920. He graduated from Princeton with an A.B. in 1924 and went on to Cambridge University to receive a B.A. (1926), an M.A. (1929), and his PhD in archaeology in 1930. Hencken received numerous honorary degrees from institutions that included Cambridge University and the National University of Ireland. He was appointed Associate in European Archaeology at Harvard University in 1930 and was made Assistant Curator of European Archaeology at the Peabody Museum the following year. He was Curator of the same department from 1933-1960, and also taught at London, Oxford, and Edinburgh universities during this period. Hencken married Mary Thalassa Alfred Cruso October 12, 1935. They had three daughters: Ala, Sophia, and Thalassa. His wife, who had a diploma in archaeology from London University, died June 11th, 1997.
From 1955-1960 Hencken served as the Director of Prehistoric Studies at the American School of Prehistoric Research. He was a Lecturer in Anthropology at Harvard University in 1943-44, 1948 and 1956. Hencken conducted excavations and museum research on Iron Age peoples and objects in England, Ireland, Morocco, Algeria, Italy, Greece and elsewhere in Europe and North Africa. A member of professional and academic societies too numerous to mention, Hencken was also a prolific writer, publishing excavation reports, articles, and books on his work in Europe. He died in 1981.


Scope and Content Note:

Hugh O'Neill Hencken's papers include general research materials (his professional correspondence and some teaching notes and syllabi), research and manuscript materials relating to The Earliest European Helmets (1971) on early bronze helmets of Europe and the Aegean, materials relating to research in Tangiers, and Mecklenburg Collection research materials.
The bulk of the papers relate to the Duchess of Mecklenburg archaeological collection from Magdalenska gora [Magdalenaburg], Slovenia, (Kraijna) [Carniola], Yugoslavia, and include site notes and photographs, extensive specimen notes, photographs/drawings, and relevant research and funding correspondence. This major project in Hencken's work is revealed in great detail through his findings from the Iron Age site materials. Excavated by the Duchess between 1905 and 1914, the collection was brought to New York in 1934 and was bought by the Peabody Museum in 1935 and 1940, except for a small part which went to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University. Under Hencken, the Peabody cleaned and restored thousands of objects, and undertook to draw illustrations of specimens for publication. In 1959, the Peabody began to seek grant funding for continued collection research.
The Mecklenburg materials in Hencken's papers document the extensive research and administrative work that went into funding the Peabody's acquisition of the collection, and the drawing of the objects from it for scholarly publication, as well as the original excavation and subsequent provenance of the collection.
The Hencken Papers are arranged in the following records groups and series:
A. Mecklenburg Collection Research
B. General Research Materials
C. Research relating to The Earliest European Helmets, ASPR Bulletin 28 (1971)
D. Tangiers Research
E. Lecture and Research Note Cards
F. Photographic Material

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