In Memoriam: Dr. Anna McCann Taggart '54

In Memoriam: Dr. Anna M. McCann Taggart '54


Anna M. McCann Taggart '54


Dr. Anna Marguerite McCann Taggart ‘54 passed away on February 12, 2017, surrounded by friends and family in Sleepy Hollow, New York. She was 83 years old.

Dr. McCann was an internationally renowned scholar and author in the fields of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, as well as a pioneer in underwater archaeology. The first female American underwater archaeologist, Dr. McCann specialized in the use of robotic technology to study of ancient Roman harbors. 

She began her study of the ancient world at Wellesley College, where she studied Art History and Classics. After graduating with honors from Wellesley, Dr. McCann moved to the American School of Classical Studies in Athens on a Fulbright grant. She later earned a Master’s degree from New York University and a doctorate from Indiana University in 1965.

Dr. McCann held faculty positions at the University of Missouri and the University of California at Berkeley, and in 1974 joined the curatorial staff at the Metropolitan Museum of New York. There, she helped catalog their Roman sculptures, a topic about which she was widely published.

Dr. McCann began diving in the 1960s, excelling in the young, male-dominated field of underwater archaeology. In Cosa, Italy, in 1964, she discovered an underwater pier. Her discovery was initially dismissed by the director of the American Academy, but Dr. McCann pressed forward and managed to secure funding for excavations from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of Missouri. Her study continued in the area for 22 years.

In 1989, in collaboration with members of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, Dr. McCann began to utilize robotic technology to further explore the Mediterranean. McCann was the first recipient of the James R. Wiseman Book Award of the Archaeological Institute of America in 1989 for her publication, The Roman Port and Fishery of Cosa: a Center of Ancient Trade (Princeton 1987).

In 1997, Dr. McCann received the Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award, the highest honor given to Wellesley alumnae, and, in 1998, she was awarded the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement, a distinction from the Archaeological Institute of America in "recognition of a scholar who has made distinguished contributions to archaeology through his or her fieldwork, publications, and/or teaching."

Beyond her professional successes, Dr. McCann was a generous supporter of Classical Studies at Wellesley College, including establishing an eponymous an award for study related to the ancient world, to allow future Wellesley students to follow in her footsteps. In addition, she made an important contribution of a Greek marble sculpture to the College’s Davis Museum: Head of Septimius Severus, dated: 193-211 C.E.

The Wellesley College Department of Classical Studies honors Dr. McCann as a leader in her field.