Crawford Greenewalt receives prestigious award for work at site of ancient city of Sardis

Crawford H. Greenewalt, Jr., a UC Berkeley emeritus professor of classical archaeology, has received the Archaeological Institute of America’s (AIA) Bandelier Award for Public Service to Archaeology for decades spent exploring and supervising an expedition at Sardis. The city of Sardis was the capital of the ancient empire of Lydia, and is believed to be where money was invented and introduced.

Crawford Greenewalt Jr. at Sardis. Image courtesy of The Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/Harvard University.

The award was presented Wednesday, April 25 at the institute’s annual spring meeting in New York City. The AIA recognized Greenewalt’s excavations and research for having “transformed the understanding of all periods of Sardian history.”

Sardis, the focus of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis long led by Greenewalt, was the home of King Croesus, a leader of legendary wealth who lost his empire in a war with the Persians in mid-6th century B.C. The Persians then built the Royal Road, a 1,600-mile highway, from Sardis to Babylon. The city surrendered to Alexander the Greek in 334 B.C. and went on to thrive during the Hellenistic and Roman eras. It was devastated by a major earthquake in 17 A.D.

The Sardis Expedition has been underway since 1958, through the sponsorship of the Harvard University Art Museums and Cornell University. To date, some 14,000 objects found at the site have been inventoried and thousands more saved for future study.

Learn more about Sardis

Click here to watch the AIA’s “Digging Beneath the Surface” video that includes Greenewalt and others discussing the Sardis expedition.

Check out the AIA awards dinner menu, which mostly featured foods that might have been found in ancient Sardis.

Greenewalt joined as its first official photographer after graduating from Harvard, and literally dug right in.

He “found and burrowed into ancient tunnels in the acropolis of Sardis, topped with its picturesque Byzantine ruins, as early as 1960,” noted a 1997 story about the Sardis Expedition in Harvard Magazine. “Greenie…and others had crawled fearlessly through the heat and collapsing passages and had excavated as far as 144 meters of down-spiraling tunnel into the acropolis before throwing in the trowel in 1964 and concentrating life, limb, and finances on further exploring the royal tombs …”

He went on to serve as the AES field director from 1976 to 2007, supervising a staff of archaeologists, art historians, architects, conservators, numismatists, epigraphers, object illustrators, photographers, anthropologists and other scientists.

Greenewalt at work, accompanied by a friend. Image courtesy of The Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/Harvard University

The AIA announcement of Greenewalt’s Bandalier Award commended him “as much for his extraordinary hospitality, generosity, and respectfulness ­as he is for his scholarship. Under his exemplary leadership, the excavation experience at Sardis is renowned as a congenial and gratifying experience.”

Today’s visitors to Sardis find a number of unearthed, well-preserved structures, such as the Temple of Artemis, a bath-gymnasium complex, Byzantine shops, sections of Byzantine walls, and a partially-restored synagogue, said to be the largest ancient synagogue outside of Palestine. They also will encounter the Bin Tepe cemetery, with its more than 200 burial tombs dating from the 7th and 6th centuries.

Greenewalt’s works include “A Helmet of the Sixth Century B C. from Sardis” (with A.M. Heywood, 1992), a scholarly paper about the 1987 discovery in the ruins at the Acropolis of Sardis of hundreds of fragments of a bronze-decorated, iron helmet with an unusual skull-piece design.  The paper summarizes the initial discovery of the helmet pieces and the painstaking reconstruction and analysis, which concluded that the helmet may date back to the mid-6th century B.C. – and also may be linked to the dramatic capture of Sardis by Persia’s Cyrus the Great .

Other Greenewalt publications include “When a Mighty Empire Was Destroyed: The Common Man at the Fall of Sardis, ca. 546 B.C.” (1992), “Arms and Weapons at Sardis in the Mid 6th Century B.C.” (1997), as well as “Ritual Dinners in Early Historic Sardis” (1978).

Greenewalt was honored in 1993 with the Henry Allen Moe Prize by the American Philosophical Society in recognition of his paper, “When a Mighty Empire Was Destroyed,” and for his role in reconstructing the history of the people of Lydia.

He retired from UC Berkeley in January 2010, after more than four decades in the Classics Department.

The Bandelier Award is named for Adolf Bandelier, who was sent by the AIA in 1880 to study prehistoric sites in the Southwest. At Los Alamos, New Mexico, Bandelier investigated Tyuonyi pueblo, Long House, and other sites that were preserved as the Bandelier National Monument in 1916.