Maria C. Shaw and Joseph W. Shaw—2006 Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement

Award Citation:

Maria C. Shaw and Joseph W. Shaw have made many contributions to the field of Greek and Aegean Bronze Age archaeology since their graduate student days in the early 1960s.  Joe served as excavation architect at the University of Chicago's excavations at Kenchreai, eastern port of Corinth, from 1963-68 and supervised the important underwater work carried out there by a team of graduate students and young faculty. His contribution to the final publication of the architecture at the site, a volume which he co-authored with Robert Scranton and Leila Ibrahim in 1978, was significant as was his chapter on ancient Greek and Roman harbors in George Bass' innovative History of Seafaring Based on Underwater Archaeology (1972) (written while he was still a graduate student).  At the same time in the 1960s he served as architect at Nicolas Platon's major excavations of the great Minoan palace of Kato Zakro on the east coast of Crete, work that led to his own University of Pennsylvania dissertation on Minoan construction techniques.  The published version of this—Minoan Architecture: Material and Techniques (1973)—is still a handbook on the subject.

Maria Shaw received her doctorate from Bryn Mawr College in 1967 and became a leading expert on Minoan and Mycenaean wall painting, on which she has published a number of important articles in the American Journal of Archaeology and other major journals.  She has authored ground-breaking studies on subjects ranging from Aegean-Egyptian interconnections to representations of natural landscapes in Aegean frescoes to the reconstruction of civic life in Crete. Early in her career she participated in excavations at Ancient Corinth, Mycenae, and Kenchreai.

While Joe and Maria individually are notable scholars, it is for their joint work at Kommos that the Shaws are most distinguished.  In 1976 Joe and Maria together began major excavations at Kommos, a Minoan and post-Minoan town on the south coast of Crete near Phaistos.  This project occupied the rest of their careers.  Here they not only made significant discoveries that illuminated both Bronze Age and Iron Age civilizations on Crete, but they proceeded promptly to publish both preliminary and final reports on the site. Bringing in some of the leading scholars of both the Bronze Age world and subsequent periods, they have overseen the publication by Princeton University Press of a series of large and well-produced volumes on various aspects of the site. These books number among the most important recent publications on Crete in North America.  The Minoan town of Kommos has emerged as a major emporium for trade moving into and out of the Aegean with contacts both to the east and to the west.  The post-Minoan sanctuary at the site is recognized as a link between Phoenician and Greek cultures during a formative period of the classical world.

For more than thirty years until they retired, both Joe and Maria taught at the University of Toronto, training a number of graduate students in Bronze Age archaeology who have gone on in the field.  At Toronto, the Shaws were recognized as enthusiastic and articulate educators whose classes were often filled to capacity and attracted numerous auditors from other departments.  In addition, both Joe and Maria managed the affairs of the Toronto Society of the AIA for many years and Joe served on the Executive Committee of the parent organization including a term as Vice President.

Throughout their careers Maria and Joe have continued to be an inspiration to their friends, students and colleagues. For nearly forty years they have dedicated their lives to the study of Minoan Crete and Greek archaeology in the Aegean area.  Their contributions are many, and they have influenced and continue to influence the field through their scholarship, publications and fieldwork.  They have left an indelible mark on our knowledge of Aegean art and archaeology.  Therefore, it is with great pleasure that the AIA awards them the 2006 Gold Medal for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement.

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