SAS Bulletin
Volume 19 Number 3/4 July /December 1996

Daniel Wolfman: 1939-1994

We sadly note the passing of Dan Wolfman on November 25, 1994, in Albuquerque, due to complications from a chronic heart condition.

Dan's B.S. in mathematics was followed by M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in anthropology. He was assistant professor of anthropology at the University of the Americas, Mexico City (1966-1968), staff member of the Arkansas Archeological Survey, professor of anthropology at Arkansas Technical University and at the University of Arkansas (1973-1988), and staff member at the Office of Archaeological Studies, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe (1988-1994). Dan was a long-time member of the SAS, and a consular of the Society from 1982 until 1993. More details on Dan's life and career, and a bibliography of his publications, can be found in Schaafsma and Schaafsma (1996).

Dan's career was an interesting case study in the doing of archaeometry and the training of archaeometrists. His early mathematical background helped infuse his work with quantitative thinking. Archaeomagnetism, where Dan made his greatest contributions, is a field where the few labs in North America are roughly split between archaeologists and geophysicists. Dan approached archaeomagnetism from the archaeological side. As an anthropology graduate student, he spent several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s with geophysicist Robert DuBois (University of Oklahoma) where he and anthropology undergraduate Jeff Eighmy were introduced to archaeomagnetic field and laboratory techniques. [Jeff got me interested in archaeomagnetic directions when he was finishing his doctorate in archaeology and I was beginning my Ph.D. work in geophysics at the University of Arizona.] Later, Dan helped get me started on my ongoing archaeomagnetic research in Israel by connecting me with Egon Lass, an archaeologist in Israel whom Dan taught how to collect archaeomagnetic samples at Modoc Rock Shelter with University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students.

Wolfman was an energetic proponent of the archaeomagnetic method for both geophysical and dating applications (see Wolfman 1984; articles in Eighmy and Sternberg 1980). He carried out fieldwork in Mexico, Central America, the American Southeast, the American Southwest, South America and West Africa. Dan had an encyclopedic knowledge of archaeomagnetism, having visited many labs around the world, and obviously having spent much time locating some of those arcane bibliographic references on paleomagnetism, archaeomagnetism, and the history of these disciplines. He struggled for many years to measure samples without a laboratory of his own, taking him to labs at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Dan showed real boldness in giving up his position in Arkansas for a less certain status in new Mexico, where he was delighted to finally set up his own lab. I was unfortunately not able to visit Dan's lab until after he passed away, but I was impressed with what he had put together, with the large number of samples already measured, and with those still waiting to be processed by his long-time assistant, Jeff Cox.

On a more personal note, Dan and I had an ongoing dialogue about our mutual interest in archaeomagnetism. We often differed on how best to interpret archaeomagnetic data. One does not have to read too finely between the lines of our papers in Eighmy and Sternberg (1990) to see that. But we always enjoyed discussing our work together. I even began to second guess my differences with Dan when I read of other paleomagnetists who approached secular variation data from lava flows in a fashion similar to how Dan interpreted his archaeomagnetic data (Holcomb et al. 1986; Rolph et al. 1987). In the final analysis, as Dan and I often said, we 'agreed to disagree.'

I always pictured Dan as a friendly bear, full of life. When I called him on November 28, 1994, I was shocked to hear of his death. He was taken away too soon. We will miss him.


Eighmy, J.L. and R.S. Sternberg (eds.). 1990. Archaeomagnetic Dating. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Holcomb, R., D. Champion and M. McWilliams. 1986. Dating recent Hawaiian lava flows using paleomagnetic secular variation. Geological Society of America Bulletin 97: 829-839.

Rolph, T.C., J. Shaw and J.E. Guest. 1987. Geomagnetic field variations as a dating tool: application to Sicilian lavas. Journal of Archaeological Science 14: 215-225.

Schaafsma, P. and C. Schaafsma. 1996. Daniel Wolfman. American Antiquity 61: 291-294.

Wolfman, D. 1984. Geomagnetic dating methods in archaeology. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 7: 363-458.

Rob Sternberg

To the S.A.S. Bulletin Contents
To the Society for Archaeological Sciences