My daughter Marie was very interested in archaeology as a young girl, perhaps because she lived in a house where archaeology was often mentioned. The same is true of my granddaughter Dorothy, who shares the same interest with her father, a Roman archaeologist.
I suppose it was inevitable that I would have an archaeologist for a son-in-law, and a child and grandchild interested the subject because I have, myself, had an interst in archaeology for many years.
I didn’t have much awareness of archaeology as a young child. I remember being interested in dinosaurs but not archaeological excavations. There was no opportunity for me to learn about archaeology in either high school or college. Spending the summer of 1970 in Greece certainly whetted my interest in Greek archaeology but once I started a graduate program in Classics at The Johns Hopkins University in 1971, I was suddenly fully engaged in the subject.
Hopkins traditionally had five professors in the Classics Dept, one Latinist, one Hellenist, one historian, one linguist and one archaeologist, and each graduate student was expected to take at least one course in each area. We all dreaded the course in archaeology because the professor, whom I shall not name here, had a very bad reputation for his bad temper and sexism. I was lucky, I suppose, that he and I got along fairly well and I actually enjoyed learning about Greek pottery in that class and then Greek bronzes in another class.
Even more I enjoyed attending the regular lectures sponsored by the Baltimore Society of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), which we graduate students were expected to attend. In those days, the lectures consisted of slide presentations, not Powerpoints, but I always found them interesting and looked forward to attending them.
My interest in archaeology was further whetted in my third year of graduate school, which I spent in Paris, France, due to the fact that my wife, Anne, was a graduate student in French and was expected to spend that year studying in Paris. Several of my Hopkins professors were very supportive of my studying in Paris as well. The archaeologist was one of my advocates and suggested that I spend some of my time in Paris, in the Louvre, familiarizing myself with their antiquities collection in gernal, and extending my study of Greek bronzes in Paris by working on the small Arcadian bronzes in the Louvre, such as the shepherd depicted below.
As a result I arrived in Paris with a letter of introduction from my archaeology professor. The day I was scheduled to present myself and my letter to the director of the Louvre’s Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities, I was worried about my French and persuaded my wife to come along. That decision was fortuitous, because it meant that we both left the office that day with passes not only to the Lourve but to all of the Musées Nationaux de France. In addition to my weekly visits to the Louvre, Anne and I took great advantage of those passes during that year to visit many other museums in France. As a result, my appreciation of archaeology was set in stone and I came away from Paris with a deep appreciatoin for the important role archaeology can and should play in the discipline of Classics.
When we returned from Paris and I started work on my dissertation, it wasn’t on an archaeological topic, but I continued to attend AIA lectures regularly. While teaching at Howard University in Washington, DC I kept up my membership in AIA but didn’t attend lectures as often as I would have liked because of the demands of raising a family. Family mealtimes and bedtimes usually conflicted with lectures.
When I was hired in 1984 to rebuild the Classics program at Monmouth College, I knew that archaeology should be an important component of that program. So I always tried to intergrate archaeological topics into my courses and, in December, 1984, organized a lecture entitled “Pompeii and Its Art” by Fr. Raymond Schoder of Loyola University, who, it turned out, was well known to several Monmouth faculty. That lecture led, eventually, to the establshment of the Western Illinois Society of the AIA and to hundreds more lectures held on the Monmouth campus, as well as on the campuses of Knox College, Western Illinois University and Augustana College. Over the years Anne and I hosted many of these speakers in our home.
While I never succeeded in persuading the college to hire a full-time, permanent archaeologist, I am happy to know that many Monmouth students had the opportunity to attend AIA lectures and to recognize the importance of archaeology in the world of Classics.
In my retirement, I now find myself serving the AIA as a Society Trustee and as a member of the AIA Governing Board. I am also honored that an anonymous donation has made possible the establishment at Monmouth College of the Thomas J. and Anne W. Sienkewicz Lecture in Roman Archaeology which complements the Classics Dept’s Bernice L. Fox Classics lecture and guarantees the continued presence of classical archaeology in the life of Classics at Monmouth College and insures that future Monmouth students will study virum monumenta priorum (“the monuments of prior men”). This quote from Vergil’s Aeneid (8.312) is the fitting motto of the Archaeological Institute of America and is inscribed on the institute’s seal.