Dorothy Cross Jensen

By: Erin Bloodgood

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Dr. Dorothy Cross Jensen was a prominent archaeologist in New Jersey with a career that spanned over three decades. Dr. Cross was born in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania on October 21st, 1906. Little is known about her childhood but she earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1928. She became an archaeological assistant at the New Jersey State Museum in 1929 and then worked for Penn’s University Museum in 1930 focusing on Middle Eastern Archaeology, later to return to the NJ State Museum as a field supervisor in 1931.

She received her PhD in Oriental Studies and Anthropology in 1936 from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1931 while still in graduate school, Cross was able to travel to northern Iraq with the University Museum and the American Schools of Oriental Research at Tell Billa and Tepe Gawra. Her time spent working and excavating in Iraq allowed her to contribute a chapter of a book entitled The Excavations at Tepe Gawra, which was published by the University of Pennsylvania in 1935. She also wrote her dissertation on her findings in Iraq, entitled Movable Property in the Nuzi Documents which analyzed documents such as family records, business transactions, and court proceedings that had been translated from the cuneiform. The Oriental Society published her work in 1937.

Dorothy Cross Jensen in front of Bevans Rock Shelter. Image digitally colored from glass lantern slide.
Dorothy Cross Jensen in front of Bevans Rock Shelter. Image digitally colored from glass lantern slide.

She became an instructor of Anthropology at Hunter College in New York City in 1938 while also becoming the State Archaeologist and Curator for the New Jersey State Museum. The fieldwork for which she is most well known for began in 1936 when she was chosen to be the field supervisor for the Indian Site Survey of New Jersey, a newly implemented project of the Works Progress Administration, which was sponsored by the New Jersey State Museum. This project had several goals, to identify archaeological sites throughout NJ, to catalogue collections, and to carry out large-scale excavations. Excavations were conducted throughout the State, including, most famously, Abbott Farm.  The Indian Site Survey resulted in two volumes authored by Cross entitled Archaeology of New Jersey: Volume I (1941) and Archaeology of New Jersey Volume II: The Abbott Farm (1956).  These two volumes remain important today, as they provide insight into prehistoric peoples of NJ and the work that was done at the Abbott Farm National Historic Landmark.

Dorothy Cross balanced her professional career in archaeology and the State Museum with her career as an instructor and eventually as a full professor. She spent her time between academia and educating the public. She was a founding member of numerous archaeological societies including the Archaeological Society of New Jersey and the Eastern States Archaeological Federation and the chairperson for the Anthropology department at Hunter College. She had a long career and was involved in the world of archaeology up until she passed away in 1972. She was a dedicated professional whose works live on today.

Dorothy Cross Jensen (front center) and crew at Fairy Hole Rock Shelter, 1936.
Dorothy Cross Jensen (front center) and Crew at Faery Hole Rock Shelter, 1936.
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