GSA Medals & Awards

Rip Rapp Archaeological Geology Award

Norman Herz
Norman Herz
University of Georgia

[ view response ]


All 2007
Division Award Recipients

Presented to Norman Herz

 Citation by Scott Pike and ErvanGarrison

It would be wrong to say that this year’s recipient of the Rip Rapp Award in Archaeological Geology has always wanted to be an archaeological geologist. Don’t take this wrong, but who had? Even by the time he entered graduate school, no one had had the debate yet on whether “archaeology” should qualify “geology” or “geology” should qualify “archaeology.” The two disciplines were worlds apart. Even in his first foray into the interdisciplinary world of archaeological geology in the 1950s, our awardee had no idea that his work with the renowned late archaeologist W.K. Pritchett was going to be a major watershed event towards the integration of the natural sciences into classical archaeology. This is not to say our awardee did not have vision or direction. He certainly did. Just as it took Odysseus twenty years to return to his home, it took our wayward traveler nearly two decades to return to academia, leaving the world of hard rock geology at the USGS to take on the Chair of the Department of Geology at University of Georgia.

It was at Georgia that our friend, mentor and today’s honoree, Norman Herz, established himself as a preeminent visionary in the nascent field of archaeological geology. Looking to discriminate between the many sources of ancient white marble in the Mediterranean, Norm worked to find an analytical technique that was at one end objective and at another end required very little sample. Norm found that technique by delving into the measurement of carbon and oxygen stable isotopes. From the late 1970s through the 1980s, Norm went on “arduous” expeditions to collect multiple samples from the important ancient marble quarries in Turkey, Greece and Italy. Working alongside archaeologists and art historians, Norm was able to show that many quarries had unique stable isotope signatures. Norm was able to assign provenance to many marble artifacts and address important questions regarding the use, trade and quarrying of this important ancient resource. Norm has consulted on numerous projects including studying the marble sources of various temples and monuments at sites such as ancient Olympia, Bassai, the Athenian Agora, and Delos. He has worked closely on collections from the British Museum in London, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, The National Gallery in Washington DC and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Norm’s work has been published in over 200 articles. Norm’s exhaustive work and his willingness to share his data has resulted in his stable isotope database for Mediterranean white marbles being referenced by researchers throughout the world.

In December, 1986, a Penrose Conference, the first devoted to archaeological geology, was held on St. Simons Island, Georgia. It was organized by Charles Vitaliano, of Indiana University and, our awardee, Norman Herz. The official conference title was “Archaeological Geology: Environmental Siting and Material Use.” Fifty-four invited participants, including the namesake of our award, George “Rip” Rapp, were in attendance. The presentations and discussions at this landmark conference, led to the shaping of the discipline we call archaeological geology today. It is a tribute to Norm’s vision, and credit, that he was a key arbritrar in the modern definition of our field.

Later, in 1988 Norm spearheaded the organization of the Association for the Study of Marbles and Other Stones used in Antiquity (ASMOSIA). Along with his colleague Marc Waelkens, Norm convened a NATO-sponsored Advanced Research Workshop (ARW) in Tuscany, Italy. This was the first ARW devoted to the Archaeological Sciences in the International Scientific Programmes of NATO. At this first meeting, Norm was elected President. There have now been eight international ASMOSIA conferences bringing together a truly interdisciplinary group of scholars including geochemists, geologists, chemists, physicists, statisticians, archaeologists, museum curators, art historians and others who share research interests and perspectives on ancient stone. By maintaining a single session format the ASMOSIA meetings promote a true interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and research between scholars from diverse academic backgrounds. Since that first meeting of 53 participants, ASMOSIA’s membership has grown to over 300 from over 23 countries. The continued success of the biennial ASMOSIA conferences is an excellent testament to Norm’s vision and leadership in fostering interdisciplinary research. Norm saw the need for true collaboration across academic fields long before multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary became the buzzwords they are today. The proceedings of each conference have been published and can now be found in archaeology and classics library collections around the world. Norm was re-elected President several times and in 2000 he was elected Honorary President.

Norm’s dedication and service to classical archaeology is well renowned. In 1985, the American Journal of Archaeology celebrated its one hundredth anniversary. In a review of the stewardship of Ashton Sanborn as editor, only two articles were cited as “significant events”. One was the aforementioned paper by Herz and Pritchett in 1953 which “raised issues that have continued to be of interest to scholars in many specialties, and only recently have sophisticated laboratory techniques begun to answer some of the vexed questions of marble identification.” Four years later, in the January-February special issue of Archaeology dedicated to “Archaeology in the 21st Century,” George F. Bass, then president of Archaeological Institute of America, further recognized that Norm was the “first to apply his geologic knowledge to archaeological problems.” Norm’s international reputation was further enhanced where, in 1988, he was invited to be the keynote speaker at the 18th International Symposium of the International Association of Engineering Geology where the focus of the conference was on the engineering geology of ancient works, monuments and historical sites. In 1995 the classical archaeology community recognized Norm’s contributions to archaeology by awarding him the prestigious Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology of the Archaeological Institute of America.

The recognition of Norm’s achievements just don’t come from the archaeological community. During his tenure with the USGS, Norm spent six years in Brazil as a research scientist studying the country’s mineral deposits. Not only did he learn the Portuguese language, he made a significant impact within the Brazilian scientific community. This is reflected by his election in 1981 as a Foreign Associate of the Sao Paolo State Academy of Science followed by his election in 1991 as a Foreign Member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

Norm’s great success is further mirrored by his ability to win funding for what was once considered non-traditional research. Organizations that have valued and supported Norm’s research include the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the NATO Science Committee and the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences.

Norm’s true nature as a Renaissance man is further exemplified by his recently published historical book Operation Alacrity: The Azores and the War in the Atlantic. The book recounts the top secret operation that led to the construction of an Allied airfield in the Portuguese-controlled and therefore neutral Azores island chain that may well have changed the course of World War II. Norm took part in the operation, but until his research he was unaware of the stakes of his mission. The book has won awards including the 2005 Book of the Year by the Portuguese Tribune.

Despite the accolades that are due him, perhaps Norm’s greatest strength is his humility and willingness to share. He has a biting sense of humor and is respected by colleagues throughout the world. Erv Garrison, his co-author on his 1998 Oxford University Press textbook, entitled “Geological Methods for Archaeology”, and contributor to this citation, recalls how easy it was to work with Norm on something as difficult as a co-authored textbook. They say if a marriage can survive building a house, then, by analogy, the same should be said of friendships and writing textbooks. Norm and Erv remain the best of friends and present-day colleagues at UGA.

Personally, I give Norm the credit or is it blame for my own professional trajectory. I remember vividly during my first year in graduate school walking down the sidewalk in front of the UGA Law School and running in to Norm. The conversation went something like this: “Hi Scott. I was wondering. I have a project for you if you’re interested. Do you want to go to Greece?” Despite all his achievements Norm is generous and modest. He seeks to involve new scholars and averts seeking credit and accolades for himself. In fact, I was a bit nervous nominating him for this award as he would have to sit through this hazing ceremony. And even though I have only given you a small excerpt of his accomplishments you get the idea that this award is almost overkill so I will stop talking and give Norm his chance for rebuttal.

 top 2007 Rip Rapp Archaeological Geology Award - Response by Norman Herz

On July 19, 1788 Thomas Jefferson representing our new nation in Paris, then in an intellectual ferment with startling new scientific concepts such as the origin of volcanoes, the principles of crystallography and the origin of the solar system wrote to the Reverend James Madison back in Virginia: “As you seem willing to accept the crumbs of science on which we are subsisting here, it is with pleasure I continue to hand them on to you …”

I was very fortunate to have worked with some great archaeologists and geologists who handed down enough ‘crumbs’ to enlighten and inspire me throughout my career. Thanks to them I am here today and so in their names I am proud to accept this great honor, the Rip Rapp award in Archaeological Geology.

With the end of World War II which effectively cut short a career as an Air Force 2nd lieutenant I entered the Johns Hopkins University. There I fell under the influence of Professor Ernst Cloos, one of the great structural geologists of the past century. His good friend Professor Homer Thompson of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study was director of the excavations of the Agora in Athens where, he felt, a geologist was needed to work along with the archaeologists. Thompson despaired of finding anyone, having been rejected by geologists and geology departments at Princeton and elsewhere who could see no possible geological good to come out of such a project. Thompson proposed the idea to Cloos, adding that only a ‘rara avis’ would accept the assignment. Cloos decided that I qualified as a rare bird and so in 1951 off I went with a Fulbright to Greece to see if a geologist really belonged on a dig.

In Athens I worked on different projects, many designed to show archeologists how a geological approach might help answer some of their most difficult problems. I was fortunate to work also with Professor William “Ken” Pritchett a great classicist then also at the Institute for Advanced Study and later head of the Classics Department at Berkeley. Together we wrote a paper promoting geological applications to archaeology and published it in 1953 in the American Journal of Archaeology. It turned out to be a landmark publication, cited in the AJA when in 1985, it celebrated its hundredth anniversary. In a review of the stewardship of Ashton Sanborn as editor, only two articles were cited as “significant events”. One was our 1953 paper “which raised issues that have continued to be of interest to scholars in many specialties, and only recently have sophisticated laboratory techniques begun to answer some of the vexed questions of marble identification”.

This exciting start in classical archaeogeology was quickly cut short, followed by 18 years with the USGS as a hard rock research geologist, 8 of which were spent in Brazil. Then in 1970 I accepted a position as department head at the University of Georgia, and settled in to a new life in academia. Several years later came the siren’s call from Pritchett to return to Greece now that I was free of governmental obligations and resume a career in archaeogeology. He posed an interesting problem: many fragments of ancient Greek inscriptions on marble he felt had been joined incorrectly following epigraphical rules—according to the joiner—and not paying attention to the physical features of the stone. Could I propose a physical test to check the association of the pieces using a method which needed only milligram-size samples?

Stable isotopic ratio analysis was tried and worked beautifully. The results appeared in an article co-authored with Dave Wenner in Science in 1978, “Assembly of Greek Marble Inscriptions by Isotopic Methods” which proved to be another landmark publication; it was translated and published in the French Encyclopedia Universalis. I was now convinced that much could be done working with archaeologists, that geochemical methods especially stable isotope analysis might help resolve the most intransigent problems of provenance and authenticity of stone and metal artifacts. Today such analyses have become routine, databases have been accumulated, analytical equipment has been perfected and is widely available, and numerous researchers and laboratories are actively using isotope geochemistry to help solve archaeological problems.

I have also had a large measure of success disseminating “the crumbs of science” encouraging cooperation between scientists and archaeology. Among my proudest achievements are establishing a flourishing program in Geoarchaeology at the University of Georgia, organizing the Center for Archaeological Sciences which brought together members of the UGA departments of Geology, Geography, Anthropology, Classics, and Art History, and helping to start ASMOSIA, the Association for the Study of Marble and Other Stones in Antiquity, an international society of archaeologists, museum people, scientists, and others working together cooperatively.

Again I thank the GSA for this great honor, as well as my mentors for pointing out the way. I cannot conclude without acknowledging a great debt of gratitude to my colleagues and students for their encouragement and assistance which made the way both much easier and more enjoyable.