Charles Kaufman Williams, II— 1993 Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement

Award Citation:

Charles Williams has made an inestimable contribution to the training in classical archaeology in Greece of a full generation of students. For a quarter century as director of the Corinth Excavations of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens he has devoted himself to the instruction of young people in the field, during an excavation season that stretches through spring and early summer. It is hard to imagine anyone who has given a more thorough grounding in the techniques of excavation to so many students. The results of each season's work in his annual excavation reports are a regular feature of Hesperia, and the information they contain will form the basis for all future interpretations of the history and monuments of Corinth. Each fall he leads a trip for students through southern Greece to examine and discuss architectural problems in buildings of all periods. Yet, despite the burden imposed by such a schedule, he has produced a body of scholarly work that has focused on the religion and cults of Greek and Roman Corinth as well as specific topics, such as roof tiles, that grew out of his architectural interests and expertise.

Charles Williams began his career with an A.B. degree with honors from Princeton University (1953), followed by an M.F.A. in Architecture from the same university (1956). During that time art, architecture, and archaeology vied for his attention. His two seasons with Alan Wace at Mycenae sealed his fate, however, and they were followed by further work at Mycenae and then at Aghios Stephanos, Morgantina, Gordion, Nemea, and Ha1ieis. He completed his doctorate in classical archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1966 he became director of the Corinth Excavations.

It was as an excavator that Charles Williams found his metier. In addition to doing the architectural work of plans and drawings for his excavations, he has made himself proficient in the analysis of ceramics. In each spring's training session he teaches students to observe and record systematically slight changes in texture, color, and consistency of the soil and the relations of strata to associated architecture. Often with a sharp and probing line of commentary he challenges them to defend their analyses and conclusions. Students are then led through the ceramic analysis for their deposits as well as the stratigraphic descriptions and consequent interpretations. They inventory their finds, relate them to earlier excavated material, and write a final report. Students thus learn what is meant by archaeological evidence, how to form and test hypotheses, to find the limits of inference for a given set of data, and on what bases its validity depends. For many seasons Williams attacked problems left unsolved in earlier excavations, particularly the Sacred Spring, the racecourse and its attendant shrines, and the area east of the theater with its rich deposit of wall paintings. Over 300 young people have taken part in some part of the training sessions, including historians, philosophers, philologists, and others for whom archaeology is not their primary interest. Charles Williams, by his thoroughness, devotion to detail, and the energy with which he has pursued his goals in the field, is bound to leave an important mark on future studies of ancient civilization.

Not only new discoveries have claimed Charles Williams's attention. One of his first projects as director at Corinth was to bring out two unfinished works by B. H. Hill. All records and objects from earlier excavations have been located and recorded so that they are now readily available for ongoing research. With his active encouragement and support, nearly 20 dissertations have been completed on Corinthian material. He has devoted much of his time to assisting scholars, both American and foreign, by providing new plans, photographs, and contextual information. He has sponsored a new survey of the Roman city, investigations into the geological framework of the site, analysis of materials, and other special projects that contribute to our overall understanding of the archaeology and history of the region.

His interests have not been circumscribed by any one time period or type of material. His research ranges from the earliest remains of Greek Corinth through its history as a Roman colony and Early Christian city. When a Frankish monastery recently came to light at the western edge of the Forum, he pursued its excavation with characteristic vigor and enthusiasm. His study extended not only to the recording and publications of the archaeological remains, but to placing the monastery within the history of Frankish Greece and to tracing its origins in Europe.

As field archaeologist and scholar Charles Williams is outstanding, but his most important contribution to the field is the training of students in the understanding and the use of the archaeological record.


Dig Deeper

Email the AIA Facebook Instagram YouTube Twitter
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!