Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mark Wilson Jones: A Clarification

Many, many years ago I wrote a short review of Mark Wilson Jones' book Principles of Roman Architecture for Minerva Magazine. It was a quick review for a magazine attempting to explain archaeology at a popular level, and was re-edited by the editor - it was meant to praise the book, and I have no issues with that.

Yale put a quote from my review on the cover of the paperback edition, several people told me they had picked up copies because of that, and again I have no problem with this. It was an interesting book, and I thought people interested in the subject should read it, just as I think people should read Joan Breton Connelly's work (I disagree with it, but that is not the point - her work is thought-provoking). 

Wilson Jones had been given my phone number by someone and rang me around 1999 asking for evidence that supported his theory of triglyphs being petri-fied tripods. I thought the idea sounded nutty, but nutty ideas should still be explored, so I told him so. I also gave him "evidence" to support his theory - I gave him the information about every Greek example of a triglyph replaced by an object, including a remodelled Hellenistic villa on Samos with tripods in the place of triglyphs.

Wilson Jones published his theory as: Tripods, Triglyphs, and the Origin of the Doric Frieze, AJA 106, No. 3, Jul., 2002 etc (JSTOR). He forgot to thank me or mention my name in any footnote, but old men sometimes have memory problems and once must be understanding. (Honestly, I would rather not be thanked in this sort of research anyway). He must have been too busy re-excavating the Samos villa, as he has re-dated it to the third century BC (JSTOR), whilst I was sure the German dig reports put the initial phase of the villa to that period, and the re-modelling the frieze belongs to, to a much later period. It was not a big deal.

I was a little surprised that Wilson Jones (again in the AJA) discovered that the unit of measurement for the Parthenon was Vitruvius' but ... again, this is something I learnt at university as an undergraduate, and again it depends on which measurements one uses. Again, no biggie.

Over five years ago Wilson Jones asked me - or rather told me to - read a draft of his new book on Greek architecture. It was incomprehensible, as I repeatedly tried to tactfully tell him. I was shocked that the same man who produced Principles of Roman Architecture had written this work.

Wilson Jones insisted on trying to foist on me his friend's theory, published in an obscure journal, about the Mausoleum. He has sent it to me several times, and each time I have tried to take the time to explain to him why the theory does not work. Wilson Jones has not bothered to listen to a word I said, and instead is turning into what I can only describe as an unprincipled bully. I had not seen him for many years until 2012, although we had exchanged the odd email. 

We both spoke at a conference in Copenhagen last year. Wilson Jones insisted on bringing up this ridiculous article in the questions section after my PowerPoint, and I declined to discuss it again.

I don't think much of Wilson Jones' recent work, and people who actually know the field find his theories increasingly eccentric. His current project involves going into archaeological sites and using lasers to scan everything, although the people running the sites are rather more competent and can do this themselves.

I was rather surprised to discover that since the Copenhagen Conference people are under the impression that I am not a fan of Mark Wilson Jones' research because they think I am being bitter and twisted because we had a romantic relationship that went wrong. I'd like to say I don't know where this theory originates, but alas I do.

More the record: I have never had a romantic relationship with Mark Wilson Jones, I have never wanted to have a romantic relationship with Mark Wilson Jones, I have never discussed having a romantic relationship with Mark Wilson Jones, I have never French kissed Mark Wilson Jones, I have never slept with Mark Wilson Jones, etc, etc. Either that, or he really wasn't memorable. For a long time I had assumed he was gay, but didn't ask as it is none of my business, and he is in any case not my type.

I think very little of Mark Wilson Jones' work based solely on his work. I am sure that if his Greek architecture book is published, a quote from my puff review in Minerva will appear on the back - if so, please ignore it. If you want a real review from me of Mark Wilson Jones' work on Greek architecture, there here is one "ignore everything he says."

Quick update - I know Mary Beard is making a big fuss about internet trolls, but ... who cares what strangers say. Sexual harassment from colleagues is frankly more serious. 
The more I think about Mark Wilson Jones' nonsense, the more I wonder if he's pulled this stunt on us, what has he pulled on others. I dropped his head of department a note, and he might or might not get back to me. I also explained my issues to Yale, and they have assured me that no praise from me will be printed on any blurb associated with Mr Jones' next book on Greek Architecture.


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