Jack Golson was born on 13 September 1926 in Rochdale, England. He pursued higher education in history and archaeology at Cambridge University.

Career Beginnings

In 1954, Golson took up a position as a lecturer in the archaeology department at Auckland University in New Zealand. Here, he initiated studies on the pre-history of the Pacific Islands. Golson also played a pivotal role in elevating the standards and methods in New Zealand’s archaeology field and was instrumental in organizing the New Zealand Archaeological Association.

Research and Field Work

Savai’i Island

In 1957, Golson embarked on the first systematic survey of archaeological remains on Savai’i Island in Samoa. This was a groundbreaking project that set the stage for future archaeological work in the region.

Australian National University

In 1961, he was appointed as a Fellow in Prehistory at the Australian National University. During his time there, he carried out extensive research not just in Australia but also in Papua New Guinea.

World Archaeological Congress

Golson served as the president of the World Archaeological Congress from 1990 to 1994, further solidifying his influence and contribution to the field.

Honors and Awards

Officer of the Order of Australia

In the 1997 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Golson was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his “service to education, particularly in the fields of pre-history and archaeology research in Asia and the Pacific Region.”

Centenary Medal

In 2001, he was awarded the Centenary Medal, another prestigious recognition of his contributions.

Australian Archaeological Association and World Archaeological Congress Awards

In 2002, Golson became a Life Member of the Australian Archaeological Association. In 2009, he and Clare Golson were bestowed the World Archaeological Congress Inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award.

Later Years and Legacy

Golson retired in 1991 but continued his research as a visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, focusing mainly on Papua New Guinea.


Jack Golson passed away on 2 September 2023, at the age of 96. His life and work have left an indelible mark on the field of archaeology, particularly in Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia.


  1. Date of Birth: 13 September 1926, Rochdale, England
  2. Early Career: Auckland University, New Zealand Archaeological Association
  3. Savai’i Island Survey: 1957, Samoa
  4. Australian National University: Fellow in Prehistory, 1961
  5. World Archaeological Congress: President, 1990–1994
  6. Retirement: 1991, Australian National University
  7. Officer of the Order of Australia: 1997 Queen’s Birthday Honours
  8. Centenary Medal: 2001
  9. Australian Archaeological Association and World Archaeological Congress Awards: Life Member, 2002; Lifetime Achievement Award, 2009
  10. Death: 2 September 2023, Age 96