The Archaeologists

The First Generation

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The Agora Excavations staff and work force, 1933. Archaeologists, staff, foremen, and workmen gathered under the Hephaisteion for a group photograph.
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The staff of the Agora Excavations, 1934. Front row (left to right): Gladys Baker, Joan Bush [Vanderpool], Lucy Talcott, T. Leslie Shear, Josephine Shear, Dorothy Burr [Thompson]. Standing: Sophokles Lekkas, Piet de Jong, Catherine Bunnell, Alison Frantz, Dorothy Traquair, Rodney Young, Eugene Vanderpool, James Oliver, Arthur Parsons, Sterling Dow, Charles Spector, Homer Thompson.

“Professor Shear had numerous qualities which contributed greatly to the School over many years, generosity, vision, vigorous action, but the one for which he will be best remembered and for which the School is most in his debt was his remarkable ability to select a staff of excavation workers of unusual capabilities, to forge them into a harmonious team and to keep them together in their hard-working activities of field work, study and publication, inspired by his own energy and scholarly care for meticulous observation and recording and prompt sharing of results with the scholarly world” (L. S. Meritt, History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1939–1980 [1984], p. 176).

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T. Leslie Shear, director of the Agora Excavations, 1931–1945.
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Homer A. Thompson, director of the Agora Excavations, 1946–1967.
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Dorothy Burr Thompson, though diminutive in stature, brought energy and intellectual acumen to her work as an excavator and scholar. Above, she inspects the rock face of the north slope of the Areopagus in 1934. Dorothy married Homer in 1934.
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E.V. studying the text of the “Law against Tyranny” inscription (I 6524). Affectionately known by students and colleagues by only his initials, Eugene Vanderpool began his career at the Agora in 1932. Later he was appointed Professor of Archaeology of the American School, 1947–1971.
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John Travlos began working at the Agora excavations in 1935.
Architect of the School, 1940–1973.
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Piet de Jong at work in the Old Excavation House, 1937.
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Virginia Grace joined the records staff of the Agora in 1932. Miss Grace is best known for her lifelong study of amphoras from the Agora which she used to form the basis of her research concerning transport amphoras in the Mediterranean.
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Lucy Talcott, one the original members of the 1931 staff, was responsible for developing the card catalogue system for the objects. She also coauthored, with Brian Sparkes, Agora XII.
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Alison Frantz came to the Agora in 1934 as an assistant to Lucy Talcott. An interest in photography was soon rekindled, and by 1939 she was staff photographer of the excavation, a position she held until 1964. Her talent for shooting archaeological subjects was such that she was asked to photograph throughout the Mediterranean, but Frantz was also a Byzantine scholar and she worked closely with John Travlos to restore the Church of the Holy Apostles. She authored two Agora volumes, Agora XX and Agora XXIV.
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Margaret Crosby studying architectural fragments in the basement of the Agora museum, 1956. “Her primary responsibility at the Agora was the supervision of fieldwork, and from 1935 to 1939, and then again from 1946 to 1955, she spent every season in the field” (Agora Picturebook 26 [2006], p. 53). Crosby also coauthored, with Mabel Lang, Agora X, combining her interests in weights and measures and inscriptions.
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Rodney Young began excavating in the Agora in 1934. The photograph above was taken in 1947 for an article entitled “Pot’s Progress,” published in the first issue of Archaeology Magazine (vol. 1, no. 1, 1948, p. 13). Young was posed sitting amidst stacks of pottery removed from a well (Deposit A 17:2) that were ready for sorting.
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Mary Zelia Pease [Philippides], shown here flanked by Eugene Vanderpool and Virginia Grace, was a member of the staff in 1933. Together with Gladys Baker, she assisted Josephine Shear in cataloguing the coins that year. She returned to the Agora on fellowships in 1957/8 and 1967/8 to study the Attic black-figured pottery, and later coauthored, with Mary B. Moore, Agora XXIII. Mrs. Philippides was the Librarian of the School from 1958 to 1971, and is the last surviving member of the excavation’s original staff.

Spyros Spyropoulos

The spirit of Spyros Spyropoulos still lingers in the stoa many years after his death. A “jack of all trades,” he assisted all who came to the Agora Excavations for research and study. Spyros was the individual behind the scenes who worked tirelessly at any task asked of him. Many fondly remember experiencing a symposium hosted by him when he relaxed, often in the nearby Epirus Taverna.

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Spyros Spyropouolos mending a pot.
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Caretaker of an injured owl that had found shelter in the Agora, Spyros and Bouphos contemplate each other in the upper colonnade.
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A symposium held by Spyros at the Epirus Taverna, July 1975: (left to right) John Traill, Hardy Hansen, Spyros, waiter, Dan Geagan and Merle Langdon.

A Radical Departure in the Conduct of Excavation

In 1980, there was a major change in the way the Agora was excavated. While a professional staff was maintained, including a core group of experienced Greek workmen, the actual digging would be done for the first time by student volunteers.

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The staff of 1980 and visiting scholars. Standing (left to right): Leslie Mechem, Spyros Spyropoulos, Sally Roberts, Susan Rotroff, Robert Pounder, Lynn Grant, Helen Townsend, Mary Moore, Malcolm Wallace, Steve Koob, Alison Adams, Margie Miles, Robert Vincent, Kyriaki Moustaki. Sitting: John Camp, T. Leslie Shear Jr., Dorothy Thompson, Homer Thompson, Virginia Grace, Bill Dinsmoor Jr.
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Excavation staff, 1980. From left to right: Kostas Pikoulas and his father, Elias Pikoulas, foreman Nikos Dervos, Yiannis Dedes, Ioannis Paiipetis, Dionysios Soundias
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Agora staff and student volunteers, 1980. Front row (left to right): Martha Payne, Vasso Petsas, Kathi Donahue, Liz Bartman, Frayna Goodman, Jody Melander, Athena Sax, Chris Renaud, Nadine McGann, Alexandra Shear, Betsy Flood. Second row: Marc Pershan, Lora Johnson, Panetha Nychis, Lisa DeRensis, Judy Weinstein, Mary Lou Ross, Ann Bozorth, Julia Shear, Pam Posey, Bonnie Leah Griffin, Ann Schelpert, Barbara Hamann, Nancy Moore. Third row: Georgia Karagianni-Giorgoulea, Brian McConnell, Dean Politis, Claire Gabriel, Margie Miles, Alison Adams, Helen Townsend, Ione Shear, Peter Zimmerman, Pam Coravos, Charles Hedrick, Kyriaki Moustaki. Fourth row: Andy Sherwood, Frank DeMita, Richard Liebhart, Hans vander Leest, John Camp, Leslie Shear, Bill Dinsmoor, Richard Hamblen, Kevin Donovan, Mark Fullerton, Robert Vincent.
Excavations in the Athenian Agora are conducted by the American School of Classical Studies.
Primary funding is provided by the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI).