Anna McCann Taggart '54

Alumnae Achievement Awards 1997

Anna McCann Taggart '54
Classical Underwater Archaeologist

Anna M. McCann Taggart was the first female underwater archaeologist, known for her study of ancient harbors and for her deep sea exploration using robotic technology. After graduating from Wellesley College with honors in art history and a minor in classical Greek, she received a Fulbright fellowship to study at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Her experience in Greece deepened her interest in the ancient world.

Dr. McCann (as she is professionally known) received her master’s degree at the Instituted of Fine Arts at New York University in 1957, and obtained her doctorate from the University of Indiana in 1965. However, Dr. McCann had her share of difficulties breaking into the male-dominated fields of art history and archaeology. In 1964, Dr. McCann was awarded the Rome Prize Fellowship in Classical Studies by the American Academy in Rome. It was in Cosa, Italy, while she was working as a photographer for the excavations at Cosa, that she discovered underwater pier at the port. Her find was dismissed by the director of the American Academy, but she was able to raise funds to continue studying the port area of Cosa. She received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of Missouri to study the port, a study which continued for twenty-two years.

Dr. McCann taught art history and archaeology at the University of Missouri and at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1974, she joined the curatorial staff at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in order to catalog their Roman sculptures. She published those records in her book, Roman Sarcophagi in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which received the national Outstanding Book Award in 1978 from the American Association of University Presses.

Another significant archeological project undertaken by Dr. McCann was in collaboration with Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. She became the Archeological Director of the JASON Project 1989, which was established for the education of children in technology and the sciences. The technology developed by Ballard has been used to explore the Titanic, and Dr. McCann utilized the technology to explore the Mediterranean, trade routes between Carthage and Rome, and excavated ships in the deep sea.

Dr. McCann is currently one of the leading underwater archaeologists in the world, as well as an authority on ancient Roman sculpture. She is a pioneer in the archaeological branch of underwater exploration of ancient harbors.


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