John Langdon Caskey— 1980 Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement

Award Citation:

John Langdon Caskey, excavator and interpreter of preclassical Greece, has transformed and enriched our understanding of the preliterate cultures of the mainland and the Cyclades.

In the Argolid he wisely selected the mound beside the Lernaean spring to test our concepts of Helladic prehistory. Working with a team of associates and apprentices, he exposed the House of the Tiles as a clue to Early Helladic art and architecture, economy and organization, with due regard for bio-archaeology. The fate of this mansion, its destruction well before the end of the third millennium B.C., and the rebuilding of Lerna in utterly different form by people of different customs, led Caskey to re-examine carefully, in many Hesperia reports and other discussions, the story of the coming of the Greeks. He recorded the progress in protohistorical understanding in the pages of the new Cambridge Ancient History. On the site, the House of the Tiles was preserved and roofed in a simple and effective way so that it stands as a monument to the predecessors of the Greeks in the Argolid.

At Ayia Irini on Keos, the Cycladic island off the Attic southeast coast, Caskey selected his second major objective with keen insight and instinct. With a team taught through his lucid and methodical approach, he brought to life the Bronze Age town on the bay of Ayia Irini, its growth as an island community in contact with neighbors and rivals, Minoans and mainlanders, and he again made us discern matters of cultural interaction and chronology, of Greeks and pre-Greeks, and this time, also of major art and religion. The temple at Ayia Irini, with its bold architectural form and its large terracotta statues, stands as a physical reality and scholarly challenge in the sea of hypotheses concerning Aegean religion. Ayia Irini has thus become the starting point for a new study of Aegean beliefs and cult practices.

The site and museum of Keos are being prepared for the completion of the excavation and its study by the younger generation of archaeologists trained by Caskey. The volumes of the final reports on Keos and Lerna have begun to appear and those in progress are even now part of lively and constructive scholarly discussion in the wide world of modern Aegean archaeology.

As a beginning student, Caskey participated in the University of Cincinnati's excavations at Troy under Carl Blegen in the 1930's and subsequently took an important part in the four-volume publication of Troy. He forms a link with the era of Dörpfeld, who came back to Troy to discuss the site with the Cincinnati excavators.

In 1949, Caskey began a decade of distinguished service as Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, seeing the School through the exciting but difficult phase of returning after the disruptions of war to the level of scholarly activity and excellence it had previously enjoyed. In this arduous service he earned the affectionate respect of many Greek and foreign colleagues as well as members of the American School. Numerous honors attest to his status as a Philhellene. Lerna was excavated during this period, as an undertaking of the American School.

In 1959, Caskey became Head of the Department of Classics of the University of Cincinnati, under whose auspices he excavated in Keos. He maintained the high reputation this Department had acquired under Blegen, attracting first-class students and giving them first-class training.

In awarding John L. Caskey the Gold Medal for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement the Archaeological Institute of America honors an excavator, author, teacher and administrator who has broadened the great tradition of archaeology and opened new horizons in the early history of Greece and its people.

 

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