George (Rip) Rapp, Jr.— 1988 Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology

Award Citation:

George R. (Rip) Rapp, Jr., personifies research at the interface between geology and archaeology, an interdisciplinary field of fundamental importance to our understanding of the archaeological record. Through numerous reports on archaeological geology involving sites in Greece, Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia, he bas been instrumental in popularizing the application of a wide array of scientific techniques to archaeological problems throughout the Mediterranean. These research efforts have been combined with an active teaching career at the University of Minnesota, which has itself cultivated a group of researchers committed to following his example of enriching archaeological understanding by means of physical scientific methods.

Rapp, who was granted the B.A. degree in Geology and Mineralogy from the University of Minnesota in 1952, and the Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania State University in 1960, had decided on a career in academic research, centering on high-temperature geochemistry. He began this promising work at the South Dakota School of Mines (1957-1965) and continued it at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) Geology Department in 1965.

Involvement in an exotic research field such as archaeological geology requires a creative response to the lure of a new and untapped field of inquiry. In Rapp's case, it was his meeting in 1965 with William McDonald, Director of the Minnesota Messenia Expedition and 1981 recipient of the AIA Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement, which diverted him from conventional geological research. H. E. Wright, the 1984 recipient of the AIA Science Medal Award, already was working on questions of paleoenvironmental reconstruction of Bronze Age Messenian vegetation and climate based on pollen analysis. Rapp soon realized that another useful contribution to archaeological reconstruction could be made by studying the lithic materials and the sedimentary sequences at sites such as Nichoria, as well as by applying established techniques in sedimentology to determine local paleogeographic change. The publication in 1972 of The Minnesota Messenia Expedition: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Regional Environment (University of Minnesota Press), as a solid example of the utility of interdisciplinary research, helped to lure many graduate students to the new Center for Ancient Studies and to collaborative projects in archaeological geology with Rapp.

Rapp's commitment to interdisciplinary teaching at the graduate level is exemplified by the Center for Ancient Studies at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities), which he co-founded with William A. McDonald in 1973. He has supervised seven theses and three dissertations in the Center, and regularly teaches courses in archaeometry and archaeological geology for the Center's students. His Archaeometry Laboratory on the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota is used for graduate research projects in trace-element provenance studies, phytolith studies, prehistoric archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean, Holocene coastal change, and environmental archaeology of prehistoric sites in the upper Midwest. Rapp's publications in archaeological geology total some thirty-six articles and five edited volumes, co-authored or edited with numerous colleagues, many of whom are former graduate students in geology or archaeological geology.

Rapp's unique talents center on his ability to sense promising avenues of research, his innate organizational, administrative and fundraising skills, and his exceptional productivity in terms of projects and publications. The archaeological community is indeed fortunate that he has devoted his research interests and energies to addressing, and often resolving, its questions by means of geological methodologies, and it seconds the feelings of the geological community in honoring him with this award.


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