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Esther Boise Van Deman

Born 1 October 1862
South Salem, Ohio
Died 3 May 1937
Nationality United States
Fields archaeology

Esther Boise Van Deman (1 October 1862 – 3 May 1937) was a leading archaeologist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was born in South Salem, Ohio to Joseph Van Deman and his second wife Martha Millspaugh. She was the youngest of six children including two boys by her father's first marriage.


Education and career

She earned an A.B. (1891) and A.M. (1892) from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After teaching Latin at Wellesley College and the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland, she received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1898. She then taught Latin at Mount Holyoke College (1898-1901) and Latin and classical archaeology at Goucher College (1903-06). From 1906 to 1910 she lived in Rome as a Carnegie Institution fellow, and from 1910 to 1925 she was an associate of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. Between 1925 and 1930 she taught Roman archaeology at the University of Michigan.

Her life's work centered around the analysis of building materials to establish a chronology of construction on ancient sites. In 1907, while attending a lecture in the Atrium Vestae in Rome, Van Deman noticed that the bricks blocking up a doorway differed from those of the structure itself and showed that such differences in building materials provided a key to the chronology of ancient structures. The Carnegie Institution published her preliminary findings in The Atrium Vestae (1909). Van Deman extended her research to other kinds of concrete and brick construction and published "Methods of Determining the Date of Roman Concrete Monuments" in The American Journal of Archaeology in 1912. Her basic methodology, with few modifications, became standard procedure in Roman archaeology. Van Deman's major work, written after she retired and settled in Rome, was The Building of the Roman Aqueducts (1934). She died in Rome, Italy, on May 3, 1937. She is buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, near the Porta Ostiense. At the time of her death, Van Deman was at work on a monograph-length study of Roman construction. Her work was completed and published as Ancient Roman construction in Italy from the prehistoric period to Augustus. A chronological study based in part upon the material accumulated by Esther Boise Van Deman (1947) by Marion Elizabeth Blake (1882-1961).

Van Deman's nephew, Ralph Van Deman Magoffin (1874-1942), published a study of the Italian city of Praeneste, A study of the topography and municipal history of Praeneste (Baltimore, 1908).

See also


  • The Atrium Vestae 1909
  • The so-called Flavian rostra 1909
  • "Methods of determining the date of Roman concrete monuments", American Journal of Archaeology. April-June 1912
  • The porticus of Gaius and Lucius 1913
  • The Sacra via of Nero 1925
  • The building of the Roman aqueducts 1934


"Van Deman, Esther Boise" Notable American Women, Vol. 3, 4th ed., The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1975

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