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G. Kenneth Sams

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G. Kenneth Sams Obituary
G. Kenneth Sams


G. Kenneth Sams, 74, of Carrboro, NC, passed away on Monday, September 17, 2018. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Gilbert Sams and Margaret Russelburg Sams. He is survived by Judy, his wife of 52 years, his son Charles, daughter-in-law Jennifer, and four grandsons, Elijah, Sebastian, Alexander, and Gabriel.

Dr. Sams graduated from the University of Cincinnati magna cum laude in 1965. He received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his PhD in 1971. He began teaching as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Art Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1970. The next year, he started teaching in the Department of Classics at UNC, where he ultimately became full professor, serving as chair of the department from 1986-1996. He retired from the department in 2017. While still a graduate student in 1967-1968, Ken was a Regular Member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, for which he would later serve as a Managing Committee representative for the University of North Carolina from 1977 until 2017. He was a career-long member of the Archaeological Institute of America, serving on the executive board of the local chapter, and also as lecturer both locally and nationally. From 1992 to 2010, Ken served as president of the American Research Institute in Turkey, overseeing the Institute's steady expansion of research support. He was a long-time Consulting Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia.

Ken's doctoral research was on the painted pottery from Gordion, the city of Midas in central Turkey and the capital of the ancient Phrygians. He studied under the direction of Rodney S. Young, who was then director of the excavations at Gordion, where Ken had begun working in 1967. He would work at the site every year until 2014, serving as director of the project from 1988 through 2013. He wrote countless articles about Gordion and the history of Turkey, but his most important contribution to the scholarship of the site was the two-volume publication The Early Phrygian Pottery in 1994, which has become a standard reference for every scholar working in the area. His non-Gordion archaeological experience included excavations at Corinth in Greece, under the direction of Charles K. Williams. Ken also had the opportunity to work with George Bass excavating a shipwreck off the island of Yassi Ada near Bodrum, Turkey, and Ken later served on the board of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology.

The funeral will take place on Saturday, September 29, at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, at 1 o'clock in the chapel.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Chapel of the Cross, 304 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC 27514.

He is and will be missed not only by his family, but also by the Gordion family and his many friends and colleagues in the U.S. and in Turkey.Condolences may be directed to CremationSocietyNC.com.
Published in The News & Observer from Sept. 25 to Sept. 26, 2018
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