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Nancy Movius, 93; helped excavate, explain Stone Age sites

Nancy (Champion de Crespigny) Movius of Cambridge, an archeologist who took part in excavations in England, the Middle East, and France, died in her sleep Dec. 6 at her Cambridge home. She was 93.

 

Mrs. Movius and her late husband, Hallam L. Movius Jr., a retired Harvard professor, visited Stone Age sites in 1936 and 1937 in Burma, Malaya, and Java. They spent more than a decade excavating in the small French town of Les Eyzies, where they helped uncover artifacts as old as 40,000 years.

Some of the Moviuses' discoveries, including the skull of a 20,000-year-old female, were put into The Musee de l'Homme in Paris. In 1990, the French government opened a museum on the excavation site in Les Eyzies.

Mrs. Movius, who was born in Adelaide, Australia, attended the University of Melbourne, where she graduated in 1933 with a history degree. She studied archeology at the University of London and Newnham College of Cambridge University.

"It was something that was getting a lot of press in the '30s and she was interested in the excitement surrounding archeology," her son Geoffrey H. of Cambridge said yesterday.

While she was studying at Cambridge, she met an American who was working on his doctorate at a dig site in Larne, Northern Ireland. They married in 1936.

The couple's data, collected from sites in Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, provided the underpinning of the much-debated "Movius Line" theory developed by Dr. Movius: the Stone Age world could be divided into two groups based on their tool-making abilities. The `Line' separated the more sophisticated tool makers of Africa and Eurasia from their Far East brethren.

Mrs. Movius illustrated many of his publications, drawing tools they had found during fieldwork. An avid reader, she was also her husband's editor.

In the late 1930s, they moved to Sudbury. When her husband, an Air Force reservist, went into active duty in 1942, Mrs. Movius stayed in Sudbury with their young son.

Their daughter was born in 1947, two years after her husband returned from the war.

For more than a decade beginning in 1953, the family spent several months a year in France on the Les Eyzies excavation site. Mrs. Movius helped feed the excavators, served as "confessor" to many of the 1,000 students who worked at the site, and led them on weekend tours of other, nearby dig sites.

After her husband suffered a stroke in 1969 and had to give up most of his field work, she helped him continue his research.

Following his death in 1987, Mrs. Movius spent her time reading and gardening at her home in Cambridge. Her son said she once told her friends and family, "I have a rich inner life." She was present at the 1990 dedication of the museum on the Les Eyzies excavation site.

In addition to her son, Mrs. Movius leaves a daughter, Alice V. N. Johnson of Salem; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

A memorial service will be held at a later date. Burial will be private.

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