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Subject: Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA)

Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA)

From: Jennifer Mass <jmass<-at->
Date: Tuesday, January 13, 2009
    The recent precipitate firing of researchers at the Penn Museum
    includes another world-class scholar and scientist in Near
    Eastern archaeology and archaeological science among its
    casualties. Why was Patrick McGovern, who heads MASCA's
    Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory, fired?  McGovern, who
    received his Ph.D. at Penn in Near Eastern Archaeology, has made
    a series of stunning discoveries and set a standard for how the
    sciences and the humanities can be effectively integrated
    together in his 40+ year career at Penn (C.V. posted on his
    personal website, below).  Indeed, McGovern's academic
    achievements embody the interdisciplinary research that the
    university espouses in The Penn Compact and its new PIK ("Penn
    Integrates Knowledge") Professorships.

    His Vita reads like a compendium of major scientific
    breakthroughs and accomplishments:

        Pioneered the rapidly developing, interdisciplinary field of
        Biomolecular Archaeology.  This field is at the
        technological cutting-edge of modern archaeology.

        Discovered the earliest Royal Purple (the famous dye of the
        Phoenicians), grape wine, barley beer, alcoholic beverages
        generally (China, ca. 7000 B.C.), and chocolate.

        Published these findings in high-impact scientific journals,
        including three in Nature (one as the cover story) and two
        in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (one
        as the cover story).

        Published 10 peer-reviewed books, most recently Ancient Wine
        (Princeton University Press), which garnered numerous
        awards. Uncorking the Past (University of California), in
        press, traces alcoholic beverages around the world and as
        far back in time as possible from a multi-disciplinary
        perspective.  Published 50 peer-reviewed articles, ranging
        from geophysical prospecting for archaeological sites to
        some of the earliest steel ever found to the earliest DNA
        evidence for wine yeast, and another 70 additional articles,
        reviews, and book chapters.

        Directed major excavations in Jordan, and collaborated on
        archaeological projects throughout the Middle East, Europe,
        and Asia.  His Baq`ah Valley Project was one of the first
        excavations in the Near East to successfully incorporate
        scientific methodology in the field and the laboratory
        (published as a museum monograph).   An older excavation
        (Beth Shan, Israel), part of the museum's Near East
        collection, was subjected to similar scientific scrutiny
        (published as a museum monograph).

        Built up a state-of-the-art laboratory in MASCA for
        archaeological chemical research (with Fourier-transform
        Infrared Spectrometer, High-performance Liquid
        Chromatograph, and other instruments).  It is one of the few
        such facilities in the U.S., and is staffed by Ph.D.
        chemists and Penn students. Numerous close collaborations
        with laboratories at Penn and around the world have given
        his lab access to the latest, most sensitive

        Developed an innovative, cost-effective ceramic analysis
        program which combines multiple analytical techniques
        (Neutron Activation Analysis, petrography and heavy-mineral
        analysis, xeroradiography, etc.) to solve important
        anthropological questions.

        Established an academic program in the archaeological
        sciences by teaching (cross-listed in Penn archaeological
        and science departments). Students, who were trained in his
        lab, have gone on to careers in archaeology and conservation

        Received grants from the NEH, NSF, American Philosophical
        Society, Wine Institute, Fulbright Foundation, universities,
        and many other funding agencies and private individuals
        world-wide, together with in-kind contributions (i.e.,
        equipment donations, gratis analyses at outside labs, and
        the expertise of volunteer chemists).  These monies,
        combined with the value of his publicity for the museum and
        university, amount to millions of dollars.  He has leveraged
        a very small budget into a very productive research program.

        Re-created the "King Midas" funerary feast, the first time
        that a historic meal has been reconstructed by chemical
        analysis of ancient organic residues

        His ground-breaking research has resulted in 15
        international stories, and widespread public and scholarly
        exposure and acclaim. It has been profiled in ten video
        programs, including a full-length feature filmed at the
        Midas Tumulus in Turkey, and has been the focus of museum
        exhibits in Philadelphia, Athens, the Napa Valley, France,
        and elsewhere.

        Given keynote addresses around the world (most recently at
        the National Museum in Tblisi, Georgia, after the Russian
        invasion), and has collaborated with over 400 scientists and
        archaeologists in museum and academic institutions in more
        than 30 countries.

        On-going studies include testing ancient compounds for their
        anti-cancer and medicinal effects (Abramson Cancer Center
        and Penn Medical School), grape and yeast DNA, prehistoric
        Chinese fermented beverages, New World chocolate, and early
        wine, ranging from Neolithic villages in the Taurus and
        Caucasus Mountains to Iron Age shipwrecks in the eastern
        Mediterranean Sea.

    In short, McGovern has made a huge contribution to both Near
    Eastern Archaeology and archaeological science.  Few other
    museum researchers has the distinction of so many peer-reviewed
    books and articles, which is the ultimate measure of research

    At a time when science and technology have become increasingly
    important in our society, why would a museum, which is
    supposedly looking to the future, fire a researcher of
    McGovern's caliber?  To destroy a laboratory which took years to
    create, in a matter of days, is not only short-sighted, it is
    contradictory to the very essence of a university and museum in
    advancing human knowledge and preserving the past.  The loss in
    human capital and facilities is incalculable, and not easily

    Why weren't other, less draconian, measures explored before
    firing McGovern?  During the Great Depression, all Penn
    employees pulled together and took an across-the-board 10% pay
    cut.  Some of the fired researchers might even have been willing
    to take larger cuts, to continue their careers.  Moreover, if
    McGovern had been evaluated as an individual, based on his
    annual performance evaluations, peer-reviewed publications,
    grants received, teaching, etc., he could never have been fired.

    We urge our colleagues, who have benefitted from Dr. McGovern's
    research, to not let this decision stand, but to express their
    objections to the museum Director Richard Hodges, the Deputy
    Director Brian Rose, university President Amy Gutmann, and
    Provost Ronald Daniels (addresses, below).

    Specifically, we encourage our colleagues to stress that by
    firing McGovern, the professions of Near Eastern archaeology and
    the archaeological sciences, the museum, the university, and the
    academic world generally will suffer serious losses.  The Penn
    administration needs to find another solution in keeping with
    McGovern's significant contributions and world-wide reputation.
    If enough colleagues register their dissatisfaction with the
    decision and highlight different aspects of McGovern's career,
    the combined effect might well provide a compelling argument for
    the administration to find another solution.

    Please consider submitting one such letter, and feel free to
    forward this request to other colleagues.


    Ofer Bar-Yosef
    MacCurdy Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology
    Department of Anthropology
    Harvard University

    Garman Harbottle
    Research Professor
    Department of Geosciences
    Stony Brook University

    Timothy Harrison
    Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology
    University of Toronto
    President of the American Schools of Oriental Research

    David Killick
    Professor of Anthropology
    University of Arizona

    Victor H. Mair
    Professor of Chinese Language and Literature
    Consulting Scholar, Museum Asian Section
    University of Pennsylvania

    Jennifer L. Mass
    Director, Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory
    Winterthur Museum
    Winterthur Delaware

    Lawrence E. Stager
    Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel
    Director of the Semitic Museum
    Harvard University

    News releases on Penn firings:

    Daily Pennsylvanian (also look for responses under Article


    Philadelphia Inquirer:

    Dr. Patrick McGovern's websites
    Personal website: <URL:>

    **** Moderator's comments: The above URLs have been wrapped for
    email. There should be no newlines.

    Addresses of Penn administrators:

        Dr. Richard Hodges, Director
        University of Pennsylvania Museum
        3260 South Street
        Philadelphia, PA 19104

        Dr. Brian Rose
        Deputy Director and Chief-of-Curators
        University of Pennsylvania Museum
        3260 South Street
        Philadelphia, PA 19104

        Dr. Amy Gutmann
        Office of the President
        University of Pennsylvania
        100 College Hall
        Philadelphia, PA 19104-6380

        Ronald Daniels, Provost
        University of Pennsylvania
        122 College Hall
        Philadelphia, PA 19104-6303

Jennifer Mass, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist
Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory
Winterthur Museum and Country Estate
Winterthur, DE 19735
Fax: 302-888-4838

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:40
                 Distributed: Sunday, January 18, 2009
                       Message Id: cdl-22-40-002
Received on Tuesday, 13 January, 2009

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