Former Penn Museum curator George Bass to receive Drexel Medal

George Bass receives Drexel Medal

George Bass before his dive to the Titanic in 2003.
Photo credit: David Concannon

Underwater archaeologist George Fletcher Bass, former curator of the Penn Museum’s Mediterranean Section, will receive the Museum’s Lucy Wharton Drexel Medal on Friday, March 26, for exceptional achievement in archaeology. Bass will also deliver the museum’s annual Petersen Lecture.

Bass, an underwater archaeologist, is professor emeritus of the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University. His lecture, “The Million Piece Jigsaw Puzzle: Excavating a Cargo of Medieval Glass,” will tell the story of the excavation of a 1,000-year-old shipwreck by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. The ship carried a three-ton cargo of broken glass--the largest collection of medieval Islamic glass in existence--that conservators spent two decades piecing back together, publishing their results in 2009.

Bass came to Penn in 1959 to pursue a doctoral degree in classical archaeology. Soon after his arrival, his department chairman asked him if he would learn to dive in order to excavate a late Bronze Age shipwreck off the Turkish coast reported by journalist and archaeologist Peter Throckmorton. After taking six diving lessons at a local YMCA, Bass left for Turkey, where he directed the excavation off Cape Gelidonya, the first ancient wreck excavated in its entirety on the seabed, and the first shipwreck excavation directed and published by a diving archaeologist.

After earning his Ph.D. at Penn in 1964, Bass stayed on as a professor until 1972, when he founded the American Institute of Nautical Archaeology (now the Institute of Nautical Archaeology). Bass is the 30th recipient of the Drexel Medal, established in 1889.

The medal ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. at the Penn Museum. The lecture will begin at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. The program is pay-what-you-want. A reception with a cash bar will follow. The reception is free for Museum members at the Fellows level and above; $15 general admission.

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Originally published on March 18, 2010