Frederick R. Matson— 1981 Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology
In the course of his distinguished career, Frederick R. Matson has strived, with untiring persistence and ultimate success, to demonstrate the value of scientific analysis in the study of ancient ceramics. As far back as he can remember, Matson wanted to be a ceramic engineer. While pursuing his engineering degree at the University of Illinois, he developed an interest in anthropology and took courses in Greek and Roman archaeology taught by a young instructor named George Mylonas. Matson received the M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in anthropology and ceramic archaeology under the guidance of Carl Guthe, A. E. R. Boak and Clark Hopkins. The last offered Matson his first archaeological field experience at Seleucia-on-Tigris. On his return from Iraq, Matson was introduced to Greek archaeology in Athens by the famous I 930's Agora team, many of whom became his lifelong friends.
Returning to Ann Arbor in 1937, Matson was asked by Carl Guthe to establish a laboratory for the analysis of the materials in the Ceramic Repository for the Eastern United States. During this period Matson began his pioneering efforts to join his technical expertise in ceramic analysis to his knowledge of archaeology. The structural analysis of ancient ceramics was seen by Matson as an important tool in the ultimate search for the understanding of a culture. In 1954-55, in Iraq, Matson began to observe the activities of village potters. By the early 1960's he was in the forefront of those who emphasized the observation of traditional pottery-making, a dying art, as a means of understanding the potters of antiquity. Since then Frederick Matson has pursued several lines of inquiry. He has continued his laboratory analysis of ancient pottery from many parts of the world. He has established himself as the leading expert in applying observations of modern potters of Iran and Afghanistan to the study of ancient pottery. He has acted as ceramic analyst for excavations at Dura-Europos, Jarmo, Persepolis, Tarsus, Pylas, Lerna, Porto Kheli, the Franchthi Cave, Messenian sites, Siphnos and the Athenian Agora.
He held a professorship at The Pennsylvania State University for thirty years until his retirement in 1978. He has maintained a breathless schedule of travel, lectures and publication as the leading proselytizer of the method he helped create. He organized the important "Ceramics and Man" conference in Austria in l 961 and edited its proceedings. His numerous awards testify to professional acclaim, culminating in his election to the Presidency of the Archaeological Institute of America for 1975-76. Modern ceramic-oriented ethnoarchaeology has no more vigorous spokesman.
In presenting to Frederick R. Matson the Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology, the Archaeological Institute of America honors one who has joined ceramic science to cultural anthropology and traditional archaeological fieldwork. What has seemed only common sense to Matson—not much "to raise an eyebrow about"—has in fact provided an important technique for the understanding of the social, political and economic structure of antiquity.