Lisa French obituary

Archaeologist involved all her life with Mycenae and an authority on the ancient Greek culture’s terracotta figurines

Lisa French, who has died aged 90, was the leading authority on Mycenaean ceramics. The first archaeologist to study systematically the culture’s terracotta animal and human figurines – “dollies”, as she called them – she was also the first female director of the British School at Athens (1989-94).

Lisa French in 2015, two years after she had donated records of all the British excavations at Mycenae to the classics faculty at Cambridge University. Her father first excavated there in 1920. Photograph: Ann French

Mycenae, situated in the Argolid region in the eastern Peloponnese, 120km south-west of Athens, is one of the principal archaeological sites of the late bronze age in mainland Greece, and now possesses Unesco world heritage status. Ancient Greek legend had it as the home of Agamemnon, who led the Greeks in the war against Troy; and it was where in 1876 Heinrich Schliemann first put spade to earth.


He went on to claim in a telegram to King George of Greece that he had discovered the tombs that the tradition recorded by the 2nd century AD geographer Pausanias pointed to as the graves of Agamemnon and his companions. In the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, Mycenae is described as both well built and rich in gold. The