Wilhelmina F. Jashemski— 1996 Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement

Award Citation:

Wilhelmina F. Jashemski is best known for her contributions to the excavations of Pompeii. A recent reviewer said her accomplishments include the creation of a new field in ancient studies, the investigation of ancient gardens.

Professor Jashemski received her B.A. summa cum laude in Latin from York College in York, Nebraska, in 1931 and her M.A. in ancient history and classics from the University of Nebraska in 1933. She started her teaching career at Indiana Central College in Indianapolis (1935-1940) and at Lindenwood College in St. Charles, Missouri (1942- 1945). Jashemski completed her education with J.A.O. Larson at the University of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. in 1942. In Chicago she met her husband, the physicist Stanley Jashemski. Her dissertation, The Origins and History of the Proconsular and Propraetorian Imperium to 27 B.C., was published in 1950 by the University of Chicago Press and reprinted in 1966 by "L'ERMA" di Bretschneider in its Studia Historica series. Professor Jashemski taught at the University of Maryland at College Park from 1946 to 1980 and since that time has been Professor Emerita. She was named Outstanding Woman on the University of Maryland Campus in 1980 and Distinguished Scholar/Teacher in 1982.

After a well-received dissertation in Roman constitutional history, she turned her attention toward Roman gardens. The study of ancient gardens sounded like too much fun to be serious scholarship, but after discussions with her husband in their own garden in Silver Spring, she undertook a preliminary investigation and discovered that little had been done in this field. In 1961 she was granted permission to excavate at Pompeii – an opportunity rarely given to foreign scholars. She located and cleared the root cavities of ancient plants and poured and excavated casts of these trees, bushes, and smaller plants. Later the plants were identified and in many cases replanted in their original settings in the houses and villas of Pompeii. Publication of her research on ancient gardens has ranged from the delightful Letters from Pompeii, written to explain her work to her nieces and nephew, to the monumental two-volume The Gardens of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Villas Destroyed by Vesuvius, which appeared in 1979 and 1993. High among priorities for publication were the wonderful color photographs of the gardens and the garden paintings taken by her husband, Stanley. Three additional books are completed and waiting at the publishers: Wild Flowers Amid the Ruins: Greece and Pompeii; Medicinal Plants at Pompeii: A Pompeian Herbal; and The Natural History of Pompeii and Other Vesuvian Sites, edited papers from a working symposium of specialists from many disciplines. She has currently returned to the first book she planned in this field; a survey of gardens of the Roman Empire.

Wilhelmina Jashemski directed the University of Maryland excavations at Pompeii, Boscoreale, and Oplontis from 1961 to 1983. In addition she has dug at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli (1987-1988) and at Thuburbo Maius in Tunisia (1990). When she started excavating gardens there were few, if any, colleagues in the same field, a problem apparent when she first organized an international colloquium on "Ancient Roman Gardens" in 1979. This colloquium was followed by another on "Ancient Roman Villa Gardens" in 1984. Both are published in the Dumbarton Oaks series. She has organized five international conferences to date and continues to edit those contributions for publication. As a result of her tireless efforts, both in the field and organizing these international meetings, there is now a new generation of young scholars excavating and studying ancient gardens.

Professor Jashemski’s love for teaching, field archaeology, and all aspects of life in ancient Pompeii is reflected in the wide range of dissertations produced under her direction and the dedication of a cadre of former students whose careers she has continued to follow and influence. Evidence of this appreciation is obvious in the two-volume festschrift Studia Pompeiana et Classica in Honor of Wilhelmina F. Jashemski (New Rochelle 1989).

Throughout Wilhelmina Jashemski’s teaching career and in the years since retirement from the classroom, her home and garden have served as the meeting point of friends and colleagues from around the world. Former students and their families, young excavators of gardens from all areas of the ancient Roman Empire, and colleagues interested in ancient history, archaeology, and landscape design continue to receive advice and criticism and to enjoy her friendship. For all these reasons, the Archaeological Institute of America is proud to present the Gold Medal for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement to Wilhelmina F. Jashemski.


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