Dorothea Bate
Dorothea Minola Alice Bate FGS
Geological Society of London
The Geological Society of London is a learned society based in the United Kingdom with the aim of "investigating the mineral structure of the Earth"...

 (8 November 1878 – 13 January 1951), also known as Dorothy Bate, was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 palaeontologist, a pioneer of archaeozoology. Her life's work was to find fossils of recently extinct mammals with a view to understanding how and why giant and dwarf forms evolved.

Early life

Born in Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire is a unitary authority in the south west of Wales and one of thirteen historic counties. It is the 3rd largest in Wales. Its three largest towns are Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford...

, Bate was the daughter of Police Superintendent Henry Reginald Bate and his wife Elizabeth Fraser Whitehill. She had an older sister and a younger brother. She had little formal education and once commented that her education "was only briefly interrupted by school".


In 1898, at the age of nineteen, Bate got a job at the Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is one of three large museums on Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, England . Its main frontage is on Cromwell Road...

 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, sorting bird skins in the Department of Zoology's Bird Room and later preparing fossils. There she remained for fifty years and learned ornithology
Ornithology is a branch of zoology that concerns the study of birds. Several aspects of ornithology differ from related disciplines, due partly to the high visibility and the aesthetic appeal of birds...

, palaeontology, geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

 and anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

, in the early years often working as a piece-worker.

In 1901 Bate published her first scientific paper, A short account of a bone cave in the Carboniferous limestone of the Wye valley, which appeared in the Geological Magazine
Geological Magazine
The Geological Magazine is a peer-reviewed scientific journal established in 1864, covering the earth sciences. It publishes original scientific research papers on geological topics. The journal is published bimonthly by Cambridge University Press....

, about bones of small Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....


The same year, she first visited Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, at her own expense, to search for bones there, finding twelve new deposits in ossiferous caves, among them bones of Hippopotamus minor. In 1902, with the benefit of a hard-won grant from the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

, she returned to Cyprus, and in a cave in the Kyrenia
Kyrenia is a town on the northern coast of Cyprus, noted for its historic harbour and castle. Internationally recognised as part of the Republic of Cyprus, Kyrenia has been under Turkish control since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974...

 hills discovered a new species of dwarf elephant
Elephants are large land mammals in two extant genera of the family Elephantidae: Elephas and Loxodonta, with the third genus Mammuthus extinct...

, which she named Elephas cypriotes, later described in a paper for the Royal Society. While in Cyprus she also observed (and trapped, shot and skinned) living mammals and birds and prepared a number of other papers, including descriptions of the Cyprus Spiny Mouse
Cyprus Spiny Mouse
The Cyprus Spiny Mouse is a little known rodent endemic to Cyprus. These nocturnal animals are generally found in arid areas. After the last reliable record in 1980 no considerable effort has been made until 2007 when four individuals were rediscovered...

 (Acomys nesiotes) and a subspecies of the Winter Wren
Winter Wren
The Winter Wren is a very small North American bird and a member of the mainly New World wren family Troglodytidae. It was once lumped with Troglodytes pacificus of western North America and Troglodytes troglodytes of Eurasia under the name Winter Wren.It breeds in coniferous forests from British...

 (Troglodytes troglodytes cypriotes). In Cyprus, Bate lodged mostly at Paphos
Paphos , sometimes referred to as Pafos, is a coastal city in the southwest of Cyprus and the capital of Paphos District. In antiquity, two locations were called Paphos: Old Paphos and New Paphos. The currently inhabited city is New Paphos. It lies on the Mediterranean coast, about west of the...

 with a District Commissioner called Wodehouse. When not travelling in remote areas, often alone, she led an active social life.

She later undertook expeditions to many other Mediterranean islands, including Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, Corsica
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the island of Sardinia....

, Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

, Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, and the Balearic Islands
Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain with Palma as the capital...

, and parts of Africa, including the Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

, publishing work on their prehistoric fauna. In the Balearics in 1909, she discovered Myotragus balearicus
Myotragus balearicus
Myotragus balearicus , also known as the Balearic Islands Cave Goat, a species of the subfamily Caprinae which lived on the islands of Majorca and Minorca until its extinction around 5,000 years ago...

, a previously unknown species of the subfamily Caprinae. On the plateau of Kat, in eastern Crete, she found remains of the Cretan dwarf hippopotamus
Cretan Dwarf Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus creutzburgi is an extinct species of hippopotamus which lived on the island of Crete. Hippopopotamus colonized Crete probably 800,000 years ago and lived there during the Middle Pleistocene....

. In Crete, she got to know the young archaeologists then excavating Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

 and throwing light on the Minoan civilisation.

Finding herself pursued by the British Vice-Consul in Majorca, Bate commented: "I do hate old men who try to make love to one and ought not to in their official positions."

According to The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...


In the 1920s, Bate worked with the archaeologist Professor Dorothy Garrod
Dorothy Garrod
Dorothy Annie Elizabeth Garrod CBE was a British archaeologist who was the first woman to hold an Oxbridge chair, partly through her pioneering work on the Palaeolithic period. Her father was Sir Archibald Garrod, the physician.-Life:Born in Oxford, she attended Newnham College, Cambridge...

 in Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, and in 1937 they published together The Stone Age of Mount Carmel volume 1, part 2: Palaeontology, the Fossil Fauna of the Wady el-Mughara Caves, interpreting the Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel ; , Kármēlos; , Kurmul or جبل مار إلياس Jabal Mar Elyas 'Mount Saint Elias') is a coastal mountain range in northern Israel stretching from the Mediterranean Sea towards the southeast. Archaeologists have discovered ancient wine and oil presses at various locations on Mt. Carmel...

 excavations. Among other finds, they reported remains of the hippopotamus
The hippopotamus , or hippo, from the ancient Greek for "river horse" , is a large, mostly herbivorous mammal in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal and the heaviest...


Bate also worked with Percy R. Lowe
Percy Lowe
Percy Roycroft Lowe was an English surgeon and ornithologist.Lowe was born at Stamford, Lincolnshire and studied medicine at Jesus College, Cambridge. He served as a civil surgeon in the Second Boer War, and it was whilst in South Africa that he became interested in ornithology...

 on fossil ostrich
The Ostrich is one or two species of large flightless birds native to Africa, the only living member of the genus Struthio. Some analyses indicate that the Somali Ostrich may be better considered a full species apart from the Common Ostrich, but most taxonomists consider it to be a...

es in China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. She was a pioneering archaeozoologist, especially in the field of climatic interpretation. She compared the relative proportions of Gazella and Dama remains.

In the late 1930s, towards the end of her career in field work, Bate found the bones of a giant tortoise in Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...


Many archaeologists and anthropologists relied on her expertise in identifying fossil bones, including Louis Leakey
Louis Leakey
Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey was a British archaeologist and naturalist whose work was important in establishing human evolutionary development in Africa. He also played a major role in creating organizations for future research in Africa and for protecting wildlife there...

, Charles McBurney, and John Desmond Clark.

During the Second World War, Bate transferred from the Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is one of three large museums on Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, England . Its main frontage is on Cromwell Road...

’s department of geology in London to its zoological branch at Tring
Tring is a small market town and also a civil parish in the Chiltern Hills in Hertfordshire, England. Situated north-west of London and linked to London by the old Roman road of Akeman Street, by the modern A41, by the Grand Union Canal and by rail lines to Euston Station, Tring is now largely a...

, and in 1948, a few months short of her seventieth birthday, she was appointed officer-in-charge there. Although suffering from cancer, she died of a heart attack on 13 January 1951, and as a Christian Scientist was cremated. Her personal papers were destroyed in a house fire shortly after her death. On her desk at Tring was a list of 'Papers to write'. By the last in the list she had written Swan Song.

Her estate at death amounted to £15,369.

In 2005, a 'Dorothea Bate facsimile' was created at the Natural History Museum as part of project to develop notable gallery characters to patrol its display cases. She is thus among other luminaries including Carl Linnaeus, Mary Anning
Mary Anning
Mary Anning was a British fossil collector, dealer and palaeontologist who became known around the world for a number of important finds she made in the Jurassic age marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis where she lived...

, and William Smith
William Smith (geologist)
William 'Strata' Smith was an English geologist, credited with creating the first nationwide geological map. He is known as the "Father of English Geology" for collating the geological history of England and Wales into a single record, although recognition was very slow in coming...

. They tell stories and anecdotes of their lives and discoveries.

In her biography Discovering Dorothea: the Life of the Pioneering Fossil-Hunter Dorothea Bate, Karolyn Shindler describes Bate as "witty, acerbic, clever and courageous". Shindler is also the author of the biography in the 2004 edition of the Dictionary of National Biography
Dictionary of National Biography
The Dictionary of National Biography is a standard work of reference on notable figures from British history, published from 1885...


Selected publications

  • A short account of a bone cave in the Carboniferous limestone of the Wye valley, Geological Magazine, new series, 4th decade, 8 (1901), pp. 101–6
  • Preliminary Note on the Discovery of a Pigmy Elephant in the Pleistocene of Cyprus (1902–1903)
  • Further Note on the Remains of Elephas cypriotes from a Cave-Deposit in Cyprus (1905)
  • On Elephant Remains from Crete, with Description of Elephas creticus (1907)
  • Excavation of a Mousterian rock-shelter at Devil's Tower, Gibraltar (with Dorothy Garrod, L. H. D. Buxton, and G. M. Smith, 1928)
  • A Note on the Fauna of the Athlit Caves (1932)
  • The Stone Age of Mount Carmel, volume 1, part 2: Palaeontology, the Fossil Fauna of the Wady el-Mughara Caves (with Professor Dorothy Garrod, 1937)


  • 1940: Wollaston prize of the Geological Society
    Geological Society of London
    The Geological Society of London is a learned society based in the United Kingdom with the aim of "investigating the mineral structure of the Earth"...

  • 1940: Elected fellow of the Geological Society


A watercolour portrait of Bate as a young woman, drawn by her sister, is at the Natural History Museum. In it she wears a black dress trimmed with white lace, and a large pink rose.


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