James Wiseman—2008 Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement

Award Citation:

James R. Wiseman has made manifold contributions to the discipline of archaeology in general, to the field of classical archaeology in Greece and the Balkans in particular, and to the promotion of public understanding and appreciation of archaeology through the Archaeological Institute of America.

After his initial education at the University of Missouri, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Jim Wiseman received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. His work in ancient Corinth at that time resulted in numerous articles and the monograph, The Land of the Ancient Corinthians (Göteborg 1978), which remains a prime source for those studying the Corinthia. His subsequent fieldwork at Stobi, in the Republic of Macedonia, and the series of monographs on the work there brought a virtually unknown ancient city to scholarly prominence. This publication series is ongoing, and its importance to the archaeology of the region has been recognized by several public honors in Macedonia itself. A third program of fieldwork was focused on the Nikopolis region of western Greece and brought in the use of satellite, aerial, and ground-based remote sensing methods, demonstrating their utility to archaeologists at a time when few had realized these methods’ potential.

Over the past two decades, in collaborative conferences with NASA and others, Wiseman has brought home this message; the use of remote sensing methods and geographic information systems (GIS) to manage archaeological and topographical databases is now increasingly standard practice. Jim Wiseman also helped establish the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, the first such center anywhere to bring remote sensing and GIS methods and specialists together with archaeology in a productive relationship.

Wiseman’s scholarly standing has been recognized with prestigious fellowships from Cambridge University (Clare Hall and McDonald Institute), Dumbarton Oaks, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Mellon Foundation (at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton), and with election to the German Archaeological Institute and the Society of Antiquaries of London.

In service to the discipline and profession of archaeology, Wiseman has done more than almost any other single person in recent decades. He founded the Department of Archaeology at Boston University, the first such stand-alone department in the United States, and brought into it classical, historical, Mesoamerican, Near Eastern, south Asian, and other specialists to construct a truly world-spanning curriculum that does not limit archaeology by period or region. Wiseman has ensured that the Center for Remote Sensing serves archaeology widely—not just within the university. He also established and acted as the first editor of the Journal of Field Archaeology, widely acknowledged as one of the main international peer-reviewed journals and frequently used as a source of information on publication patterns, as are the American Journal of Archaeology, American Antiquity, and Antiquity—in other words, it is a brand leader in the field of professional publications. Wiseman's visionary organization of the Joint Archaeological Congress at Baltimore in 1989 is another example of his broad and holistic concept of the discipline. It was ahead of its time in trying to persuade anthropological archaeologists that they had something in common with those working in the classical and Near Eastern worlds.

While his service to the AIA was recognized with a previous award, we note that he served as president at a time when the Institute was in need of strong financial and organizational support.  He brought it through those troubles to a state of renewed prosperity and devoted himself to pursuing the AIA’s continued success. As part of this, he wrote a column for several years for Archaeology Magazine, in which he laid out for the general public the Institute’s concerns and their relevance to the real world: this has been a signal service in public education, the ultimate effects of which may reach beyond our immediate ability to document.

In Archaeology Magazine, in the Journal of Field Archaeology, and in such forums as the AIA’s Professional Responsibilities Committee, Jim Wiseman has sought to educate his peers, the profession, and the public about the crisis facing archaeology worldwide because of the rampant looting, smuggling, site destruction, and threats to historic monuments resulting from civil and international wars. In much of this, he has been—as so often—a pioneer in thinking ahead and bringing others along with him.

For his long-standing and invaluable contributions to the understanding of the human past and educating others in appreciating and protecting its remains, it is with pride and pleasure that the AIA awards the 2008 Gold Medal for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement to James R. Wiseman.

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