March 29, 2021
Dr. Jeffrey Lamia has been a longtime friend of the AIA. He’s served in both national and local capacities as a former General Trustee and Treasurer on the AIA Governing Board and current President of the New York City Society. In 2008, he was recognized for his service and steadfast commitment to the mission of the AIA when he received the Martha and Artemis Joukowsky Distinguished Service Award.
On top of his long list of AIA accomplishments, Jeff is an all-around interesting person. He’s passionate about archaeology and the ancient world, a retired international banker and accomplished ceramicist, and an avid reader of ARCHAEOLOGY magazine. Most importantly, Jeff recognizes the need to promote archaeological research and to share that research with the general public.
The AIA is grateful for Jeff’s longtime faithfulness to the Institute and we’re excited for you to get to know him better by reading his words below.
What interests you about archaeology?
Adventure, exploring our common humanity. I first became interested in archaeology as a grade-school youth seeing ancient Rome and Egypt as “exotic” and long, long ago. I read whatever I could find and kept notebooks, especially about ancient Rome. Later a career in international banking led to travel over many years on five continents, but I always found some free time to explore ancient ruins and monuments. It kept my interest alive. Business across many different cultures around the world made me realize that ancient societies were not exotic but rather part of the odyssey of our common human adventure.
How did you find out about the AIA?
While in graduate school, I happened upon ARCHAEOLOGY magazine that had several effects. First, it rekindled my interest in the ancient world; Second, it opened up my eyes to archaeology generally and; Third, given the state of flux of the then mainstream of economic theory, it led me to question exactly what economic activity was in ancient societies. ARCHAEOLOGY magazine led me to the AIA and its critical mission to foster the professional practice of archaeology and to disseminate the results of that practice to the general public. There are many specialist archaeological organizations but the AIA is unique in speaking for archaeology generally and for its inclusion of professionals and lay enthusiasts. I wanted to get involved and help however I could. As it turned out, I was pleased to help as a member of the AIA’s Governing Board. It also led me to volunteer on digs, field surveys, and study seasons working on ceramics (I am a potter).
What made you decide to get more involved with your local Society?
One crucial aspect of the work of the AIA is to reach out to the general public. For scientific investigation to flourish, more than money is needed. Scholars form conclusions that in the course of further work they may modify or even change completely. This ability to change ideas requires “social space”, that is, the understanding among the general public as to how scholarship advances. Without this understanding, the general public working through its government and other institutions can close down the freedom of scholarly endeavor. We have seen this too often. Thus the AIA’s local Societies are the organizational ambassadors to the general public explaining what archaeologists do. So I was honored to join the board of the AIA-New York Society and over the years have participated in various roles, including currently as President of the Society. Joining a local Society is also a way to meet folks with similar interests. Thanks to the AIA I have lots of friends in New York City and indeed across the U.S. and Canada. Local events are just plain fun.