Henry Austen Layard

Henry Austen Layard (1817 – 1894)

In the spring of 1817, in Paris, Henry and Marianne Layard gave birth to a son who was to make his mark on the world of Archaeology, then a relatively new discipline to the passions of mankind. It is pertinent to remind the reader that his birth was immediately following the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars. Both England and France, weary over the desolation of some thirty years of war, were to turn their national psyches to far more creative pursuits. Adventure and excitement were no longer to be gained on the battlefront and the era of great scientists, botanists and technologists were to change the human race dramatically. In Layard’s time personalities such as Darwin, Agassiz and Watt were typical of pinnacles that represented the new face of achievement in a world thirsty for knowledge in fresh arenas. The explosive growth of Archaeology from perhaps a souvenir gathering pastime to a respected science was driven by such pioneers as Layard, Botta, Champollion and the like. To contemplate why this growth occurred is beyond our present scope but one suspects that such endeavors can only flower in times of peace and for Layard and his contemporaries such a time was about to begin. Further to this, it is important, in our judgments, to remind the reader that Layard and his ilk were relative pioneers and should not be judged from our rigorous modern archaeological viewpoint. Rather, as Churchill is often quoted as urging, use the standards of the era in which that history unfolds.

henry austen layard
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