She was an only child who, after school in Dartford, went on to study English at Bedford College, London. Access to Old English literature led her to discover the contribution archaeology could make to the study of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. Her research began under the supervision of Vera I. Evison (Birkbeck College), but they soon fell out and their rivalry continued for several decades before they agreed to bury the hatchet.
In those early years, her interests concentrated on the animal art styles which decorate the fine metalwork of dress and weapon fittings, recovered from graves of the fifth to seventh centuries AD. Her detailed study at museums in Maidstone, Liverpool and especially the British Museum culminated in her 1958 appointment as Curator of Scunthorpe Museum.
It was the appearance of three major papers in 1958 and 1961 which established her as a significant new contributor to debates with a European dimension. A reassessment of a cemetery discovered in 1928/29 at Finglesham in Kent was the first of these with its discussion of Style I animal ornament, which she renamed Jutish Style B. Another re-examined what she called Jutish Style A, which is now called Quoit Brooch Style. Although her attempt to link and rename the two styles has not been adopted, these articles still contain valuable and perceptive observations.
The third paper, "Soldiers and Settlers", published in Medieval Archaeology in 1961, presented a new interpretation of Late Roman belt equipment in Britain, supported by a full catalogue put together with the help of G.C. Dunning. This remains the starting point for a still active debate. So impressed were her German colleagues that this paper was translated into German and published in a leading periodical there with some minor updating.
Her own excavations at Finglesham (1959-67) and Worthy Park, Hampshire (1961-62), provided fresh data to add to earlier finds, and will give us near-complete views of communities in death. It had similarly been her wish to excavate and publish the entire cemetery at Updown, Eastry near Finglesham, but in the event this was limited to a 1976 transect containing 36 graves.
Another major project of the 1960s was to present the material from the 19th-century sites of Bifrons and Sarre in Kent as catalogues with British Academy funding. Sadly none of these projects was published, though most of them are so close to completion that it will take little to finalise them. Together, hopefully, with the publication of her Iron Age excavation at Longbridge Deverill, Wiltshire, these will form a fitting memorial to her archaeological career.
Of course, she provided many specialist contributions for excavation reports by others, and published several important papers presenting both synthetic and original research during the 1970s and 1980s. She was also a founding editor, in 1979, with James Campbell and David Brown, of the invaluable occasional series Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History.
After her marriage to Hawkes in 1959, Sonia was based in Oxford, carrying out her research and teaching at the Oxford Institute of Archaeology. Official recognition was delayed, however, until her appointment in 1973 as an Oxford University Lecturer, but ironically she suffered terribly from "stage nerves" and was never comfortable as a lecturer. Lecture courses were not infrequently cancelled part way through and last-minute announcements would appear that she could not attend an international conference for which she had offered a paper. Her research students knew perfectly well that this was not because she lacked expertise in her field, for indeed her knowledge was encyclopaedic.
Her reputation as a teacher came particularly through her graduate students. She had a real ability to spot and develop talent and amongst those students are present-day teachers at university departments in Cardiff, London, Oxford, Reading and York. In the 1980s, she also created a splendid inter- disciplinary seminar series, though only one of these on Anglo-Saxon warfare was actually published (Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England, 1989).
After nursing her first husband in his declining years, Hawkes took early retirement in 1994, fell in love with and married Svetislav Petkovic. Sadly her happiness was cut short by diagnosis of terminal cancer, which she faced with enormous dignity, making careful arrangements for her career's work to be completed.
Sonia Elizabeth Chadwick, archaeologist: born Dartford, Kent 5 November 1933; Curator, Scunthorpe Museum 1958-59; Research Assistant, Oxford Institute of Archaeology 1959-73; University Lecturer, Oxford University 1973- 94; married 1959 Christopher Hawkes (died 1992), 1995 Svetislav Petkovic; died Oxford 30 May 1999.Reuse content