“You are lucky to be going to Texas,” an Ohio archeologist
wrote to a high school student in 1958. “A brilliant young
archeologist named Epstein has just joined their anthropology
Jeremiah (Jerry) Fain Epstein was a scientist with extraordinarily
broad interests. Born in New York City on February 14, 1924,
he entered the U.S. Army at the age of 18 and served in the Aleutian
Islands (1943), Bougainville and Solomon Islands (1944), New
Britain (1944), Luzon (1945), and Tokyo (1945). He was awarded
a Purple Heart for his wounds and meritorious service. Like many
veterans, his army experience had a strong influence on his later
life. During a particularly trying experience, he promised himself
that if he survived the war he would try first to enjoy each
day (and to have a beer with every lunch).
His attitude was that all of us could embrace and master anything
that stimulates our curiosity or contributes to the enjoyment
of life. He sailed and played squash and Flamenco guitar. He
was an expert metal worker and produced metal mobiles that were
works of art and engineering. It was completely in character
for him to build his modern home on the lake with his own hands.
He took flying lessons with the attitude that anyone could fly
right side up – flying was more fun upside down!
He used the GI Bill to pursue his college education, earning
a B.S. in agriculture from the University of Illinois (1949)
and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (1957). He was
broadly trained as an anthropologist: first as an ethnologist,
then as a physical anthropologist, but followed his interest
to pursue archaeology. His dissertation, which analyzed Late
Ceramic Horizons in Northeast Honduras, left him with a life-long
interest in technology.
He conducted ethnological field research in Mexico and Guatemala
(1953). His archeological fieldwork took him to Arizona (1949),
Illinois (1950, 1956, 1958), Belize (1953), Texas (1958-59),
Mexico (1960, 1962-67), France (1961), and Honduras (1975). His
knowledge of French archeology led him to be one of the first
scientists to recognize the wide dispersal of the burin technique
in the Americas.
He was chairman of anthropology from 1971-74 when the College
of Arts and Sciences was divided into four colleges. It was a
difficult period for chairmen, and he had to deal with a new
administration and horrendous budget problems.
Jerry’s research interests reflected his eclectic background
and experience. His major focus was archaeology of Mesoamerica
and Northern Mexico, early man in the New World, long distance
trade and contacts, trans-oceanic contacts (a question that took
him to the Azores), and boat building traditions from all over
the world. The solid research that he pursued in these subjects
was supported by real world experience. He could perform the
skills he studied – from making an atlatl or a concrete
boat. His systematic analysis of Pre-Columbian coins in the United
States is a classic treatment of the subject.
Jerry died in his home on December 15, 2005. A wide circle of
colleagues, students, and friends who were stimulated by him
will miss him dearly. His discipline is less rich with his passing.
William Powers Jr., President
The University of Texas at Austin
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The General Faculty
This memorial resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting of Professors
Claud Bramblett (chair), Henry Selby, and Thomas Hester.