Noted Archaeologist Hanfmann Dead at 74

George M. A. Hanfmann, a noted Harvard archaeologist who led the expedition that uncovered the largest known temple in the Roman world, died of a heart attack in Cambridge Thursday. He was 74.

Friends and family held a funeral service for Hanfmann, who was Hudson Professor of Archaeology Emeritus, in his Watertown home Saturday.

Hanfmann, who retired in 1982, had taught at Harvard since his emigration from the Soviet Union in 1934.

Albert M. Henrichs, professor of Greek and Latin, said Hanfmann was an outstanding archaeologist because of his enormous breadth of knowledge. "His knowledge of Greek art ranged from the archive period [800 B.C.] to the Byzantine period [500 A.D.]--an amount impossible to acquire today."

Henrichs also said that Hanfmann was "a great magnet who attracted huge numbers of students."


Hanfmann is best known for his leadership of the archaeological excavations at Sardis in western Turkey, where he led the Harvard-Cornell archaeological expedition from 1958 to 1978. He remained senior editor and adviser for this expedition until his death.

The expedition led to the excavation of the largest known synagogue in the Roman world, in which a statue of the Lydian goddess Cybele was found. Other findings of the expedition included gold and silver refineries and a marble-paved shopping street.

Hanfmann and his colleagues also found evidence to verify the legend that Sardis, capital of the ancient Lydian kingdom under King Croesus, was seized by Greek veterans of the Trojan War in the 12th century B.C.

The scholar also wrote more than 350 books, articles, and reviews, mainly on Greek art history and the Sardis expedition's discoveries.

Hanfmann was born in the Soviet Union on November 20, 1911, and received a doctorate summa cum laude in classical philology from the University of Berlin in 1934. He emigrated to the United States the same year.

He received a second Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1935, and was curator of ancient art at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum from 1949 to 1974.

Hanfmann leaves his wife Ilse; daughters Vera Weisskopf of Huntsville, Ala., and Ruth Higgins of Hammondsport, N.Y.; and brothers Alexander and Andrew Hanfmann of Pennsylvania.