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Swansea Archaeologist Honoured

A Swansea University academic has received a prestigious award for his work to raise awareness of the threats posed by the international antiquities trade.


Dr David Gill, Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University, has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the Archaeological Institute of America’s (AIA) prestigious Outstanding Public Service Award.

The award, which honours those whose work promotes the public understanding of archaeology and the preservation of the archaeological record, will be presented at the AIA’s Annual Meeting, which will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in January, 2012.

Dr Gill, from Tycoch in Swansea, who is based at the Swansea University’s Department of History and Classics, said: “I am extremely honoured to be the recipient of this distinguished award from such an international organisation. My research has contributed to the debate about the scale of the international antiquities trade and the damage sustained to the archaeological record.”

Elizabeth Bartman, President of the AIA, said, “On behalf of the Institute, I offer Dr Gill my warmest congratulations. This nomination has been greeted with enthusiastic approval by the AIA’s Governing Board and I am delighted to recognize his ongoing efforts to educate both professional archaeologists and the public at large on the threats posed by the international antiquities trade.”

Professor Noel Thompson, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic Development) at Swansea University said, “This prestigious award is an acknowledgement of the wide ranging work Dr Gill has carried out in researching antiquities, analysing their international trade and bringing it to wider public attention. The College of Arts and Humanities and the University are immensely proud of what he has achieved.” 

During his career, Dr Gill has carried out research into Greek archaeological material in Italy and he is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome. More recently his research has concentrated on the major series of photographic archives that have been seized in Switzerland. These raids have resulted in the return of well over 100 antiquities from a series of public and private collections in New York. These have included the famous Euphronios krater that was acquired by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1972 for $1 million, and the marble Aphrodite form the J. Paul Getty Museum that had been purchased for $18 million in 1988.

For many years, Dr Gill has worked closely with Dr Christopher Chippindale, curator of world archaeology at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Their ground-breaking study of marble figurines made in the Cycladic islands of the southern Aegean in the third millennium BC drew attention to the material impact of looting as well as to the intellectual consequences of interpreting material that had lost its archaeological context. A subsequent study of private collections of classical antiquities published by the Archaeological Institute of America was placed in the Times Higher Educational Supplement’s top 10 most cited international articles in classical studies.

In recent years Dr Gill has been analysing the sale of antiquities in London and in New York. This has provided important information about the collecting histories for the objects that have surfaced on the market. His work with Christos Tsirogiannis of Cambridge University has helped to identify a number of items from the photographic archives that have been seized by police authorities in Greece and Switzerland.

Dr Gill is a contributing editor of the Journal of Art Crime published by ARCA Association for Research into Crimes against Art. He has a regular column, Context Matters,  that provides a biannual survey of the market and important news stories. He also initiated the Looting Matters blog: http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/

Dr Sebastian Heath, Vice-President for Professional Responsibilities, Archaeological Institute of America said, “Dr Gill's work as founder and editor of Looting Matters represents an important step forward in how scholars can bring their work to the attention of the general public. His passion for action is as clear in his blog as it is in his scholarship. Looting Matters is helping to shine a light on the antiquities market and is one of the "go to" sources for information about the real-world consequences of the trade in undocumented antiquities. I'm very pleased that the AIA is recognizing Dr Gill's work and congratulate him on this well-deserved honour.”

For more information about Swansea University’s Department of Classics, Ancient History, and Egyptology visit http://www.swansea.ac.uk/classics/.

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