Gordon, G. B. (George Byron), 1870-1927Variant names
Sir Leonard Woolley directed the excavations at Ur in southern Iraq from 1922 to 1934 for the Joint Expedition of the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Museum. As part of this involvement, the University of Pennsylvania Museum sent Leon Legrain, Curator of the Babylonian Section, as a cuneiformist during the 1924–1925 and 1925–1926 seasons. Most of the records of the Ur expedition are located at the British Museum. The Museum Archives hold only a few records.
From the guide to the Ur, Iraq expedition records, Bulk, 1922-1934, 1920-1976, (University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives)
George Byron Gordon, explorer in Central America and Alaska, and first to teach undergraduate and graduate courses in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, was born in New Perth, Prince Edward Island, Canada on August 4,1870. He was the son of James Gordon and Jane MacLaren Gordon, one of six children. Gordon attended the University of South Carolina for one year in 1888 then completed his degree at Harvard University. Selected as an assistant to John G. Owens in 1892, Gordon accompanied Owens on the Harvard-sponsored excavation at Copan, Honduras. When Owens died in the field, Gordon was given the leadership to close down that portion of the work and then continued as Director of the next six sessions in Copan, until 1900. While performing these duties, Gordon attained his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1894.
Gordon joined the Free Museum of Science and Art(later the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology)in 1903 as Assistant Curator in the Section of General Ethnology. He led two expeditions to Alaska, in 1905 and 1907 with his brother MacLaren Gordon. The Gordons chose a new approach to exploration of the region. They descended the Yukon River to Tanana, then followed the Tanana south reaching formerly unknown Lake Minchumina, the source of the Kuskokwim River. Gordon named the hitherto unknown aboriginal tribe from this area as "Kuskwagamutes." His trip laid the groundwork for future exploration in the area and was described in Gordon's book, In the Alaskan Wilderness(Philadelphia:John C.Winston Company,1917).
While selected courses in Anthropology had been offered in the field at the University of Pennsylvania by Daniel Garrison Brinton, George Gordon was first to teach a regular schedule of undergraduate and graduate courses from 1907 through 1915. During this time, the Department of Anthropology was established by Frank G. Speck. Gordon was appointed Director of the Free Museum of Science and Art in 1910 and oversaw one of the largest periods of growth in its collection and prestige. He established the Museum Journal which later became the Museum Bulletin. Gordon is also known for his keen eye as a collector, purchasing the finest of antiquities and driving a hard bargain to obtain them. He oversaw additions to the Museum's collection of treasures from Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, and the American Continent. Gordon's most lasting gift is the Museum's Chinese collection.
Gordon was a voracious reader and writer of both scholarly works and those in the literary vein. He wrote on the history of London in, Rambles in Old London(Philadelphia:George W. Jacobs& Co.,1924) and the collection contains examples of his attempts to publish more popular material.
In 1926, the University of Pennsylvania conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Science on George Byron Gordon. Gordon died, following an accident at the Philadelphia Racquet Club, on January 30, 1927. At the time of his death, Gordon was Director of expeditions conducted by field staff in Beisan (Bet Sh'ean)in the area then known as Mesopotamia(Israel) and at Ur(Iraq).
Gordon was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the Franklin Inn Club, the Lenape Club, the Rittenhouse Club, the Explorer's Club of New York, the American Anthropological Association, the American Ethnological Society, and the Authors Club of London. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
From the guide to the George Byron Gordon Central America expedition records, Bulk, 1893-1924, 1893-1956, (University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives)
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