The world's oldest archaeologist





Beatrice De Cardi is in little doubt about what has driven her these past nine decades. Travelling to some of the world's most inhospitable places, coping with boiling heat, ruthless bandits and wild animals with a disarming, old world insouciance, it is, she says, her insatiable curiosity that has kept her going.

"It is exactly the same as if I am walking around a very bendy road," she explained as she prepared for the Society of Antiquaries' Women in Heritage Day at Burlington House in London where she will meet the Culture minister Margaret Hodge. "If I see another curve in the hillside I have to go around it to see exactly what is there."

At 93, Miss De Cardi can lay claim to being the world's oldest practising archaeologist. An expert on the pre-Islamic history of the Lower Arabian Gulf states and the civilisations of her beloved Baluchistan, she is part-Indiana Jones, part-Miss Marple. Her life is an extraordinary testament to a woman whose intense motivation has never left her. One who steadfastly refused to compromise in what was – and many argue still is – an avowedly man's world.

"I have never had any difficulties," she said. "I am not a woman or a man when I am working in the Gulf or anywhere else. I am a professional and they have always accepted that."

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