Donald White, emeritus professor of archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania and curator-in-charge of the Penn Museum’s Mediterranean section for more than 30 years, died on November 21 from injuries sustained in a car accident. He was 83.
Dr. White was born in Boston and raised in Cohasset, Massachusetts. He graduated from the Groton School in 1954 and Harvard College in 1957 with a degree in classics. He then spent several months in the US Army before enrolling in the classical archaeology program at Princeton, earning his doctorate in 1963. He was fluent in Latin, ancient Greek, Italian, German and French, and he also spoke some Arabic.
Dr. White taught at the University of Michigan 1963-1973, serving as chair of the interdepartmental program for classical archaeology beginning in 1969. In 1970, he also took on the role of research curator at the university’s Kelsey Museum of Ancient and Mediaeval Archaeology.
In 1973, he joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania as associate professor of classical archaeology, later becoming a full professor. He was the lead curator in the reinstallation of the Greek, Etruscan and Roman galleries at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to which he devoted nearly 13 years. An avid competitive rower well into his 50s, Dr. White served for several years on the Committee on Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics at Penn. He retired and earned emeritus status in 2004.
Dr. White was especially well known as a field archaeologist. As a graduate student, he joined Princeton’s excavation team at Morgantina in central Sicily, which led to a PhD thesis on the introduction and spread of Demeter’s cult in Sicily.
He then turned to the coastal region of Libya, directing excavations at the port city of Apollonia and then the Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone at nearby Cyrene. In a series of seasons lasting from 1969 until 1981, Dr. White and his international team excavated an enormous amount of the Cyrene sanctuary, with discoveries ranging from the 7th century BC to the 3rd century AD. As series editor for the Cyrene Final Publications, he edited five monographs and authored three more himself.
In 1984, Dr. White turned to the northwest coast of Egypt, where he conducted three seasons of excavation on a small island near the city of Marsa Matruh (ancient Greek Paraitonion). He concentrated on the Late Bronze Age (second millennium BC) settlement and published his results in two volumes, demonstrating that the site marked an important western distribution point for Minoan, Mycenaean and Cypriot pottery.
Dr. White is survived by his wife, Joan; sons Arthur, Malcolm and Owen; four granddaughters; and a brother. He is also survived by his first wife, Sarah White.