John James Coulton (24 February 1940 – 1 August 2020)
The BSA notes with great sadness the passing of Jim Coulton in Edinburgh on 1 August 2020, aged 80. After completing a BA in Classics at Cambridge, Jim wrote his doctorate there under the supervision of W. H. Plommer, on the architectural development of the Greek stoa. He first came to the BSA, in 1962, to research that topic and was a regular visitor throughout the 1960s and 1970s, as he revised the work for publication in 1976 for the Oxford Monographs on Classical Archaeology. Jim’s interest in the practicalities of ancient architecture is evident in his influential book Greek Architects at Work: Problems of Structure and Design (1977) and a long series of articles that moved the field away from the more traditional concentration on architectural aesthetics. All his publications were enhanced by his own outstanding drawings and reconstructions.
Jim’s first academic post was as Lecturer in Classics at the Australian National University in Canberra. He returned to the UK in 1968, briefly to Manchester University, then to the Department of Classical Archaeology in Edinburgh from 1968 to 1979. He then assumed a Readership in Classical Archaeology at the University of Oxford, associated with Merton College, a post he held until his retirement in 2004. A colloquium published in 2005 as Architecture and Archaeology in the Cyclades marked his retirement.
Jim’s field experience was considerable. In Greece participation in excavation at Perachora, first excavated by Humfry Payne in the 1930s, fed into his research on stoas, while the ‘Australian connection’ brought him to the key site of Zagora on Andros, under Alexander Cambitoglou, where coincidentally he met his wife Mary. The early 1980s saw him at Lefkandi, as part of the team led by Mervyn Popham, Hugh Sackett and Petros Kalligas excavating the famous heroön at Toumba. Jim’s reconstruction of the building is widely reproduced. In the 1990s he excavated the fort of Phylla-Vrakhos, also on Euboea, in collaboration with Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki. Both excavations were published promptly as BSA Supplementary volumes in 1993 and 2002 respectively.
Turkey was another area of interest: Jim worked there with our sister institute, the British Institute at Ankara (BIAA), studying aspects of the sites of Oenoanda and Aphrodisias, and directing an archaeological survey of the territory of Balboura in the 1990s, which he edited for publication by the BIAA in 2012. He also edited BIAA’s monograph series for several years.
Those who knew Jim – as teacher, colleague or simply friend – will remember him with exceptional warmth. His constructive habit of worrying away at problems till a solution was found, his avoidance of sweeping generalisations and of easy solutions all mark his scholarship out as being in the first rank.
Jim is survived by his wife Mary, to whom, together with his surviving family, we send our deepest condolences.
Robin Barber, John Bennet | Athens | August 2020