Virginia Grace (1901-1994) had the sheer vision to create, almost single-handedly, a whole new area of archaeological research: the study of stamps on ancient Mediterranean amphorae, invaluable for dating purposes and for mapping ancient trade routes.
Most of her working life was devoted to the American Excavations at the Athenian Agora, where she pioneered the cataloguing and interpretation of the 25,000 stamped handles found there. Her collaborations ranged from opinions on individual handles to large-scale international projects.
She lived in a small apartment in Athens with an Acropolis view, and maintained a workroom in the Stoa of Attalos. Here she was tireless in consulting with other excavators, almost to the end of her life.
It’s hugely impressive that she achieved all this without stable funding; the Amphora Project she initiated was a ‘shoestring operation’ (see her bio in Breaking Ground), yet with major consequences for the study of the ancient world.
It takes a true trowelblazer to realise the significance of these fragments, and to have the passion and dedication to build a new area of research from scratch. Trowelblazers: they had style, they had Grace.