Dr. Smith is the Past President of the Canadian Institute in Greece and Chair and Associate Professor in the Classics Department at Brock University. He specializes in the archaeology, art, and culture of Bronze Age Greece.
He is also a co-recipient of the Archaeological Institute of America’s prestigious 2021 Anna Marguerite McCann Award for Fieldwork Reports for the publication:
Ayia Sotira: A Mycenaean Chamber Tomb Cemetery in the Nemea
Valley, Greece (2017, INSTAP Academic Press).
How did you become an archaeologist?
My interest in archaeology began at university when I took courses about ancient art and eventually about Aegean prehistory. I loved the idea
that as an archaeologist one could not only learn about other cultures but also literally discover clues about them that had been hidden away
underground for centuries or millennia. I also liked that it afforded the opportunity and excuse for travel. In fact, I think I became hooked on
archaeology for life after a semester abroad in Greece where we travelled to sites and museums all around Greece and Turkey, then a summer
in Spain where I helped excavate a Roman site on the island of Mallorca.
Where did you go to school?
I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, but went off to boarding school in New Hampshire, then university at Dartmouth College, also in New Hampshire.
After that I spent a year at Cambridge University getting an MPhil in Archaeology and Anthropology, and then earned my MA and PhD in the
Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia. I was very privileged to have been taught and
mentored by some of the best teachers and archaeologists in the world, and it was their knowledge, dedication, and enthusiasm that guided me
to where I am today.
What did you find most fascinating about working at Ayia Sotira?
I think the most fascinating thing about working at Ayia Sotira was the teamwork. Jim Wright
and Mary Dabney are both consummate archaeologists and their dedication to conscientious
and engaged archaeological practice was inspiring.
How does it feel to be a co-recipient of such a prestigious award?
Wonderful! I am very proud of our team at Ayia Sotira and very honoured to receive the Anna
Marguerite McCann Award.
If you weren’t an archaeologist/professor, what would you be?
Probably unemployed. Ha ha. No, actually I’d probably be a writer or artist of some type. So,
Who is your favorite historical figure and why?
I have great admiration for Harriet Boyd Hawes, the original excavator of the Minoan site of
Gournia, where I’m now working. She was the first woman to direct a major archaeological
project in Greece, back in 1901, and the first to speak before the Archaeological Institute of
America. And she published the Gournia excavations very quickly, in 1908. She also served
as a nurse during several wars and raised two children. A remarkable and inspiring woman.
If you were an artifact, what would you be?
Some sort of pot, no doubt. Probably an LM IIIA1 piriform stirrup jar.
My least favorite thing about archaeology is?
Being apart from my family in the summertime.
When I’m not working, I like to…
Read fiction. Go for walks with my family and dogs. I love to ski when I’m able, and recently
I’ve started playing platform tennis, which is another great outdoor winter sport. I USED to like
going out and seeing movies, and I’m looking forward to being able to do that again one day!
If I could go back in time and excavate any site in the world, I would choose…
This is a tough question! I’d love to bring modern archaeological techniques to some important
sites that were excavated a long time ago, like the Palace of Minos at Knossos or Grave Circle
A at Mycenae. A bit closer to where I’m currently working, at Gournia on Crete, are the ceme-
teries at Sphoungaras and Pacheia Ammos, excavated in the early 20th century by Edith Hall
and Richard Seager. They contained some fascinating material and burial traditions, and were
in fact published. But of course, publication standards were not then what they are today, and
important elements such as the skeletal material were largely ignored. It would be wonderful to
be able to travel back in time and fill in such gaps!
My favorite place in Greece is…
The Mirabello Bay on Crete. I’ve been working there since the early 1990’s, and therefore it’s been more of a constant in the last 30 years of my life than anywhere in North America. I very much missed being there last summer, and very much hope to be able to return in 2021.