Martin J. Aitken— 1997 Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology

Award Citation:

Martin Aitken, who retired in 1989 as Professor of Archaeometry and Deputy Director of the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, Oxford University, is truly one of the 'founding fathers' of archaeometry. He joined the Research Laboratory in 1957, two years after its establishment by Teddy Hall, and began to apply magnetic methods to both the dating and location of kilns and hearths. In 1958 he undertook the first archaeological proton magnetometer survey, on the Roman city of Durobrivae, near Water Newton. This interest in magnetic survey led in 1962 to the establishment of a series of conferences in Oxford, which expanded to become the International Symposia on Archaeometry, of which Martin is still the president. Also in 1958, the Laboratory published the first volume of the journal Archaeometry, which has become one of the leading vehicles for the publication of scientific research in archaeology. In 1960, he turned his attention to the application of the phenomenon of thermoluminescence to the dating of ceramics. He continued his interests in archaeomagnetism and luminescence dating up until his retirement.

He has published over 150 scientific papers, and his first book, Physics and Archaeology, was published in 1961 (second edition, 1974). He published a book on thermoluminescence dating in 1985, and produced his most widely-known volume, Science-based Dating in Archaeology, in 1990, which has rapidly become the standard undergraduate text on the subject, both for archaeologists and the wider geological audience. He has almost single-handedly promoted the view that archaeology is part of a wider scientific endeavor, perhaps best encapsulated in his contribution to the 1983 Smithsonian round table discussion on "Future Directions in Archaeometry", which he entitled "Archaeometry Does Not Only Serve Archaeology". In recognition of his scientific achievements he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1983- a tribute not only to Ins outstanding ability as a scientist who chose to work in archaeology, but also a recognition of the fact that science in archaeology had come of age.

Dig Deeper

Email the AIA
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!