Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Insight: An American Presence in Greece Volume 53 Number 4, July/August 2000
by James Wiseman

Homer A. Thompson, one of North America's most distinguished archaeologists, died at his home in Hightstown, New Jersey, on May 7 at the age of 93. Much of his professional life was devoted to the study of Athens, Greece, where from 1947 to 1967 he directed excavations of the Agora, the civic center of the ancient city, for the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. He earned international renown as a meticulous excavator and brilliant interpreter of the monuments and other remains of ancient Athens, especially in the Agora, whose true location was not even known in 1931 when American excavations began under the direction of Theodore Leslie Shear, with a young Homer Thompson as a staff member from its inception. The Agora, which spreads north from the Acropolis near the center of the modern city, was for decades the scene of annual discovery of buildings and artifacts with which Homer and his colleagues illuminated the architectural, civic, and social history of one of antiquity's most famous cities. He became one of America's best known and most respected classical archaeologists and was honored by numerous scholarly institutions in Europe and America. He was also, as I observed over more than 40 years of friendship, a man of kind and generous spirit, good humor, and a profoundly endearing nature.

Homer Thompson was born September 7, 1906, in Devlin, Ontario. He studied at the University of British Columbia, the University of Michigan, and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. The Athenian Agora is a testament to his archaeological career, and so too are the many scholars he helped on their way. He took joy in knowing people, and he was a joy to know. We shall miss him.

James Wiseman is a contributing editor to ARCHAEOLOGY and is professor of archaeology, art history, and classics at Boston University. The author thanks Glen Bowersock

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America