J.J. COULTON (1940-2020)

J.J. Coulton drawing plans on site at Zagora in 1971.

It is with deep regret that the AAIA notes the death of J.J. Coulton, one of the leading team members of the original Australian expedition to Zagora, Andros, directed by Alexander Cambitoglou in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The members of the current team investigating the site, and the AAIA more generally, are keenly appreciative of Jim’s fundamental contribution to our understanding of ancient Zagora. Everybody involved in the study of this important Early Iron Age settlement is indebted to him for his published scholarship, and most critically his unpublished archives of plans, sections and ethnographic documentation which form the backbone of the current Zagora 3 project, as well as for his personal interest in the current investigations and his enthusiastic willingness to share his detailed knowledge.

Jim received his university education at Cambridge, where he was awarded his MA and PhD. In the mid-sixties he moved to Australia, and he held the position of Lecturer in Classics at the Australian National University, Canberra, from 1964 until 1968. On his return to his native UK he took up a position at the University of Edinburgh, and in 1979 a readership at Oxford –attached to Merton College– where he taught and undertook his research until the early 2000s. He was a recognized world authority on ancient Greek architecture and produced major publications that covered architectural topics that range from the Early Iron Age through to Archaic and Classical periods and on to the Roman.

His monograph Development of the Greek Stoa (1976) was groundbreaking and his book Greek Architects at Work. Structure and Design (1977) was equally so, a publication that brought many aspects of the process of building in antiquity clearly to light.

In addition to these books and his other publications archaeological researchers, particularly in Australia, will always be indebted to him for his work at Zagora. His plans of the site and, even more so, his analysis of the eighth-century BC architectural remains and their presentation set a very high bar. His work at the site –part of which was presented as major contributions in the volumes Zagora 1 and Zagora 2 as well as the Guide to the Zagora museum display– is still used as core material and admired by researchers, lecturers and students alike around the globe.

I am certain that for many Zagora equates with his drawings and reconstructions of the site’s houses, temple and fortification wall. Sensitive to Zagora’s environment and to the traditional building practices of the Cyclades Jim was in a unique position to interpret the excavated remains. His interpretations are prime exemplars of academic enquiry. Jim’s drawings and analyses continue to inform the current Zagora investigations as well as the Zagora 3 project. Furthermore, his insights proved fundamental to the creation of the models (by Thorb Model Makers, London) which now grace the Zagora display in the Archaeological Museum of Andros.

Jim also put his acute eye, belief in precision and deep knowledge to good effect elsewhere in the ancient Greek world. He worked on ancient architectural remains, and their wider contexts, from a range of regions, including on Euboia (at Lefkandi and Phylla), at Perachora in the Corinthia, and Balboura and Oinoanda in Lycia (southwestern Turkey). However, beyond his primary research it should never be forgotten that Jim was a much-loved teacher. He was, and will be for a long time yet, renowned among his students and their peers for his broad appreciation of classical antiquity and his engaging and supportive manner. J.J. Coulton the man was greatly admired and he has bequeathed the most humane of memories as well as an outstanding body of scholarship.

Dr Stavros Paspalas,
AAIA Acting Director


Dr Stavros Paspalas – Director
Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens, Room 480, Madsen Building (F09), University of Sydney NSW 2006 Australia
+61 2 9351 4759 +61 (0)2 9351 7693 arts.aaia@sydney.edu.au