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Jon Morter
1956-1997

Jon Morter, 41, was killed tragically in a road accident in May 1997. At the time of his death, Jon was nearing the end of his first year as assistant professor of anthropology at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. He and Hillary, his wife, had driven to Washington, D.C., on a weekend trip with their daughters and were returning home when the accident occurred in Virginia.

Jon Morter was born in Lancashire, England, March 17, 1956, and grew up in Kidderminster, near Birmingham. He began his archaeological career at 16, digging Romano-British sites near his home in Worcestershire. After receiving his B.A. in ancient history and archaeology from the University of Birmingham in 1977, Jon spent several years working as an artist for the British Institute in Ankara. He then emigrated to the United States, where he spent three years on contract archaeology projects in Montana and Wyoming. A career at the University of Texas-Austin followed, including an M.A. on Hittite social structure in 1986 and a Ph.D. on the Italian Neolithic in 1992. After several years as a research associate in Austin with responsibility for information systems and data analysis and publication, Jon moved to Charleston to begin teaching at the College of Charleston.

As an archaeologist, Jon was responsible for major excavations and surveys at the Italian Neolithic site of Capo Alfiere, Calabria, and at the Greek colonies of Metaponto, Italy, and Chersonesos in the Crimea; these were carried out under the aegis of the Institute of Classical Studies (University of Texas). Several of these projects were nearing publication at the time of his death. Jon greatly enjoyed field archaeology and dreamed of writing a definitive manual of field techniques. At the time of his death, he and I were planning new fieldwork on Neolithic sites in Calabria.

Academically, Jon's interests were broad. He spanned the gulf between anthropology and classical archaeology and was an expert as well at the use of computing systems in archaeology. He was theoretically a generalist and liked a good argument; he was willing to entertain any interpretation of the past as long as it was interesting and did justice to the archaeological record. His methodological interests tended to develop out of the need to deal with things he had excavated: architecture after digging a highly unusual Neolithic structure at Capo Alfiere, or pottery in the course of publishing his survey and excavations. Outside of academia, Jon was especially interested in war and military history. He was very talented at negotiating situations of conflicting interests and personalities amicably, and his interest derived in part from wanting to know why wars occurred.

Jon's teaching attracted many students and was highly valued by colleagues and pupils alike. He had the gift of simple, direct, and intelligent communication, which made complex ideas accessible, and he was willing to spend long hours helping students on projects. Almost all of the many memorial statements about Jon by friends, colleagues, and students mention his sense of humor: dry, quietly ironic, rarely directed against others, often combined with deep seriousness. This sense of humor stood him in good stead throughout the trials of the postdoctoral job hunt and through the happy, busy time of his first year at Charleston.

A memorial service for Jon was held at the College of Charleston, and he was buried in a nondenominational cemetery in the English countryside near Ludlow. As an archaeologist, he was wont to comment on the destruction of information involved in cremation, and his family chose to bury his ashes in a handmade urn inscribed with his name, birthdate, and profession. It was a touch of humor masking deep feeling that Jon would have approved.

Jon is survived by his wife, Hillary Hutchinson, their daughters, Kate and Clare, his parents, Ron and Margaret Morter of Kidderminster, England, and a brother, Tom Morter.

John Robb is at the University of Southampton, England.


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