The Hungarian lady who was the world’s first female archaeologist
According to librarius.hu, the world’s first female archaeologist was known to be a modest, generous person. She spent her fortune on research and charity. She frequently gifted her colleagues with precious findings, even though she had to face many rejections throughout her life.
Zsófia Torma was not an average kid: she played with ancient tiles and historical findings. She was made fun quite a lot during her life, and although the Hungarian scientific world did not acknowledge her work, she was acknowledged by foreign archaeologists.
Her father and brother were both famous archaeologists, so the house Zsófia grew up in looked more like a museum than a home. It is no surprise that archaeology became Zsófia’s passion. Even though several men wanted to marry her, she dedicated her life to archaeology. But her life was not easy since, in the era, women were expected to live up to the feminine principles.
In the beginning, newspapers made fun of the “rummaging lady” but then accepted that she was the example of real education and determination.
However, she was offended by the rejection of her fellow Hungarian professionals – József Hampel, Pál Hunfalvy, Ferenc Pulszky – whom she thought of highly. The publishing of her scientific studies was rejected, they talked about her findings and work depreciatingly. The scientific world basically ignored her.
Zsófia Torma was the first to excavate the Neolithic culture of Tordos, thus attracting attention to the relation between the signs of Tordos and the Assyrian-Babylonian literacy, and the influx of Sumerian literacy through Southeast Europe. She worked in Tordos for twenty years and collected thousands of invaluable findings. She preceded her profession with 30 years because the official excavation of the Vinca-Tordos culture only started in 1908.
The Serbian Miloje Vasic is kept count of as the explorer of the culture, without giving any credit to Zsófia Torma, whose path he followed during his work.
The world’s first archaeologist was known to be a modest, generous person. She spent her fortune on research and charity. She frequently gifted her colleagues with precious findings, even though many times they did not even cite her. Some people just simply left her out from books about the Tordos culture. Not even the Hungarian Academy of Science acknowledged her work and the new scientific direction she represented.
Her collection, which was bought by the National Museum of Transylvania, is made up of 10,387 pieces. But it would be even bigger if she had not gifted the invaluable treasures.
The irony of life
Even though she experienced an awful lot of rejection throughout her life, some people acknowledged and praised the incredible work of the archaeologist. She was also good friends with several foreign colleagues, like the English assyriologist, linguist Archibald H. Sayce, the German doctor, politician, anthropologist Rudolf Virchow and amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann.
Zsófia Torma held her first lectures at the meetings of the Transylvanian Museum Society and later the Historical and Archaeological Association of Hunyadvármegye. She published her dissertations in the yearbooks of the aforementioned organisations.
At the age of 68, a few months before her death, on the 24th of May, 1899, she received the Master of Arts doctoral diploma from the University of Cluj Napoca – with the permission of the king.
Due to the constant rejections, she is not considered the first female archaeologist all over the world, but we, Hungarians would definitely like to keep count of her as the first 🙂
Featured image: Wiki Commons By www.bildarchivaustria.at