Shaw, Joseph W.

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Shaw, Joseph W.

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Joseph Winterbothams Shaw was born on 6 July 1935 in Chicago, Illinois. Some of his professors at Brown University, from which he received a BA in 1957, awakened in him a lifelong interest in the Classical world. After graduating, he took a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut (1959). He then enrolled in the 1959 winter program at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, where he got to know many who would become eminent scholars in various aspects of ancient Greek and Roman culture. In the spring of 1960 he was hired as an assistant draftsman (but immediately promoted) by Oscar Broneer of the University of Chicago who in 1952 had begun excavations of the sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia. Here Professor Shaw received a crash course in architectural surveying, and his subsequent two years of military service did not dim his enthusiasm. After discharge he went to the Illinois Institute of Technology to learn drafting techniques and aspects of Greek architectural construction. In 1962-1963 Robert Scranton, Broneer’s successor, hired Professor Shaw to make architectural plans and drawings during an expedition to Kenchreai, the eastern port of Corinth. (His association with Kenchreai was to continue until 1972.) The result was several summers of work in Greece until 1969. Shaw gained experience as an excavation architect at Thebes (with E. Stasinopoulou Touloupa), Isthmia (with Professors Oscar Broneer, Paul Clement), Corinth (with Professor Henry Robinson, Gladys Weinberg, Charles Williams), Mycenae (with Professor George Mylonas), Amnisos (with Dr. Stylianos Alexiou), and Thera (with Professor Sypridon Marinatos). The opportunity to remain in Greece during the winter also allowed him further to develop his skills through apprenticeship and, in 1964, to go to the island of Crete where he was hired by the Greek Department of Antiquities as excavation architect at the Minoan palace of Zakros. In the summer of 1965, he also visited the Kommos site on Crete; it was to be the focus of much of his future archaeological work.

By then he had met Maria Coutroubaki, an excavator at Corinth, who he married in February 1965. They returned to North America later that year, where Maria completed her doctoral dissertation at Bryn Mawr College and Joseph enrolled in the PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania where he took a course in nautical archaeology and wrote his thesis on the history of port establishments in the Mediterranean. He received his PhD in 1970 and was immediately hired by the University of Toronto as an assistant professor in the Department of Fine Art.

At the University of Toronto Professor Shaw quickly moved up through the ranks to associate professor (1973) and full professor in 1977. He served three terms as associate chair and graduate co-ordinator in the Department of Fine Art (1977-1978, 1983-1985 and 1986-1987) before becoming chair in 1987, a position he held for two years. In 1991 he became director and co-founder of the Ancient Studies Program, which he headed until 1996. During the spring term of 1992 he served as acting graduate co-ordinator in the Department and as acting chair for the 1992-1993 academic year. In 1995-1996 he was associate chair and graduate co-ordinator of the Department, again becoming acting chair for the spring term. His final stint as acting chair was in the fall of 1997. Over a period of thirty years, beginning in 1976, Professor Shaw has received grants totalling over $3,000,000 for his Kommos excavation projects, part of which has gone toward yearly attendance of qualified students at the excavation in Crete. He has taught at least seventeen courses and has supervised eight doctoral students.

Other academic positions have included adjunct professor at the American Institute of Nautical Archaeology (1972-1983); research associate at the Royal Ontario Museum (from 1972); Special Research Fellow, at the American School of Classical Studies, 1982 83; and George Mylonas Memorial Lecturer at the University of Missouri at St. Louis in1992.

Professor Shaw has been very active in professional organizations. With the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, he was a member of its alumni council (1976 -1979) and served on its managing committee, beginning in 1991. From 1980-1986 he was a member of its executive committee. He was, at the Archaeological Institute of America, a member its executive committee and chair of its committee on affiliated institutions from 1973 to 1976 and vice-president from 1985 to 1987. He later served on its nominating committee (1992) and its fellowship committee (1992-1994). From 1986 to 1988 he chaired its gold medal award committee. He was also president of the Institute’s Toronto chapter from 1979 to1982 and from 1984 to 1989, and treasurer, beginning in 1990. From 1982 to 1984 he was vice president of the National AIA Organization.

Professor Shaw’s familiarity with grant applications (over 30 of his were successful) and his expertise in his field meant that he was much in demand on adjudication boards and panels. From 1980 to 1984 he was a member of the academic committee of the Canadian Mediterranean Institute, and in 1985 became a member of the panel committee of its Athens branch. From 1992 to 1999 he was member of the application review committee of the Institute for Aegean Prehistory. In 1981 he sat as a panellist for the National Endowment for the Humanities. At the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, he was a member of its adjudication committee for 1981-1982 and later (1992, 1993) served as a panellist on the adjudication board for Committee 6.

Professor Shaw has also served in many editorial capacities. In 1975 he was consulting editor to The Lost World of the Aegean, and from 1975-1985 he was a member of the editorial advisory board of The Journal of Field Archaeology. He followed this with a decade on editorial board of the American Journal of Archaeology. In 1987-1988 he served as a consultant for volume 1 of Time-Life Books’ Time Frame project.

From an early age, Professor Shaw has been writing about the results of his archaeological excavations and related research projects. These have appeared, beginning in 1967, as some 80 articles and chapters of books, and 11 books, of which he is the sole author, joint author, or a co-editor. A few manuscripts have not found publishers. Some of these publications are products of addresses at conferences, where Professor Shaw has been a popular and familiar figure.

Professor Shaw has been widely recognized for his work. In 1981 he was elected to the excavation committee of the Canadian Mediterranean Institute and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (London). In 1987 he received a Doctor of Humane Letters, from Brown University. In 1990 he was elected a Fellow of Trinity College, University of Toronto, and in 1993 a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2006 he received, with Maria Coutroubaki Shaw, the Gold Medal of the Archaeological Institute of America for Lifetime Achievement.


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This biographical sketch is drawn principally from Professor Shaw’s c.v. and from his book, Kommos: A Minoan harbor town and Greek sanctuary in Crete (2006).

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