UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 11 Winter 19 Library
UVA Art History Professor John Dobbins, left, and UVA wrestling coach Steve Garland (being thrown) collaborated in a unique way to try and solve a mystery surrounding an ancient Greek vase residing in the Louvre museum in Paris. Photo Credit: Sanjay Suchak, University Communications
Art History

Revisiting Pompeii and History with John Dobbins

With the retirement of internationally-acclaimed archaeologist and educator John Dobbins, one might think that the last secrets of Pompeii may be safe for a while. But the Professor Emeritus in the McIntire Department of Art and the Director of the Pompeii Forum Project—an internationally-known interdisciplinary project that has been rewriting the history of the forum in Pompeii—and noted scholar of a place that holds some of history’s most enduring mysteries, is not done yet. Dobbins reports that he will continue to use some of his time to write about Pompeii and Morgantina, as well as work as a visiting lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America. As a field archaeologist, Dobbins has excavated in Spain, Italy (Tuscany, Pompeii, Morgantina), Greece, Syria, and right here on Grounds around the Rotunda as part of a rescue excavation of the UVA Rotunda in 2001. Another domestic project for the Danvers Historical Society in Massachusetts found Dobbins exploring sites associated with the Salem Witch Trials. His work has also included co-editing a 2007 book, The World of Pompeii, which examines Pompeian life, and many of his specialized articles pertain to the forum at Pompeii. Dobbins’ research has also extended to the houses and mosaics of Antioch (now Antakya, Turkey), and the capital of the Roman province of Syria.

Dobbins' legacy work around the world is accompanied by the many legacies he leaves UVA, from groundbreaking work on the Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds to archaeological activities throughout the Charlottesville community. He has done important collaborative work with 3D modeler Ethan Gruber (formerly of the UVA Scholars' Lab and now with the American Numismatic Society) to demonstrate 3D modeling's utility in archaeological research and how it can be used to restore ancient houses and mosaics digitally. John Dobbins earned numerous teaching awardsincluding the Richard A. & Sara Page Mayo NEH Distinguished Teaching Professorship and the All University Teaching Award; he co-founded the Interdisciplinary Archaeology Program and Major at UVA and the graduate program in Classical Art and Archaeology in the McIntire Department of Art. In addition to continuing his explorations of Pompeii, John reports that his post-UVA life will include more non-academic reading, international travel with his wife Kathy, and exploring civilizations of a much different kind – as a beekeeper!

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