Cynthia Jones Eiseman

In 1967, Cynthia Jones, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Classical Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, with a degree in classics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, helped excavate the Late Roman shipwreck at Yassi Ada, Turkey. She performed so ably that the following year she became George Bass’s graduate assistant in the University of Pennsylvania Museum. In that capacity she handled most of the logistical arrangements for the 1969 continuation of the excavation, but sacrificed the excitement of diving and excavating in order to stay in Philadelphia that summer to become a curatorial trainee at the Philadelphia Maritime Museum and to oversee the sale of the University Museum’s two-person submersible Asherah, whose limited visibility through small ports made her less than perfect as an underwater search vehicle. Representing the University of Pennsylvania in the sale was Philadelphia attorney James Eiseman, Jr. They must have worked well together, for in 1972 Cynthia and Jim were married! In 1970, Cynthia had returned to fieldwork by assisting David I. Owen in the excavation of a classical Greek ship in the Straits of Messina, near the Italian village of Porticello, for the University of Pennsylvania Museum and the Geographical Society of Philadelphia.

When INA was formed in 1973, and president George Bass and vice president Michael Katzev based themselves on Cyprus, it was clear that the institute needed an officer and office in the United States. Cynthia agreed to become INA’s first executive director, with INA’s main office a spare bedroom in the Eiseman home. Jim Eiseman volunteered to be INA’s first pro bono counsel.   

As executive director, Cynthia handled INA’s finances, developed its membership, began the INA Newsletter (now the INA Quarterly and INA Annual), and was on the team that excavated the Bronze Age shipwreck at Sheytan Deresi, Turkey. In addition, she was asked by Dr. Owen to prepare the final excavation report on the Porticello wreck, which served as her doctoral dissertation for the University of Pennsylvania and later, co-authored by sculpture authority and Professor of Classical Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College, Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, was published in the INA Nautical Archaeology Series by the Texas A&M University Press.

After the 1974 war on Cyprus ended the practicality of an INA base on the island, Jim Eiseman flew to Texas to help negotiate the terms of affiliation that moved INA’s headquarters from Philadelphia to College Station in 1976. Before the move took place Cynthia worked on the INA excavation of one of General Cornwallis's scuttled ships in the York River, Virginia. Even though neither Cynthia nor Jim had an official INA role once the move was made, Cynthia continued working with INA in 1977 and 1978 on its excavation of the Serçe Limanı “Glass Wreck" in Turkey, finding the time to join the University of Texas terrestrial excavation at Incoronata (Metaponto) in Italy in 1977, and later helping to survey the Penobscot River in Maine. The Eisemans remain good friends of the institute, and it has been a pleasure to host them on their visit to INA’s Bodrum Research Center.

Cynthia Eiseman with husband Jim Eiseman

Cynthia Eiseman with Donald Frey at Porticello