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Major Gift Adds Depth to Archaeology Center

A new collection of artifacts from across the ancient world is on display in LMU’s Archaeology Center thanks to a major gift from a private collector.

The bequest from the estate of Michael Shubin includes items ranging from an Etruscan frieze dated around 450 BC to a collection of Coptic fabrics from 200-500 AD. It also includes a large number of Mesoamerican figurines and rare pieces from Iran, Gandharan Afghanistan and the Indus Valley.

Archaeology etruscan

Etruscan frieze with Gorgon, C. 5th-3rd Cen BC [LMU1892] Gift of Michael Shubin.

William Fulco, S.J., National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Studies, became friends with Shubin, a Russian immigrant, 10 years ago. “He was an antiquities expert who worked for many dealers in the Los Angeles area as a scholar,” he says. “Every penny he had went into the collection. He hold told me he was going to leave a few things for our students in his will, but as it turned out, he left us his entire collection."

However, the catalog of Shubin’s collection existed only in his head, meaning Fulco and his students spent a good portion of summer and fall going through the $300,000 worth of artifacts and identifying their age and place of origin. Art history professor Katherine Harper also helped identify items from the Indus Valley.

Also among the artifacts are more than 1,000 ancient books, including an Egyptian dictionary that Fulco described as a “high-ticket item.” A set of copper bowls and ladle were determined to be from 5th Century Persia, and a Roman bronze cuirass with the head of a Gorgon on it came from the 1st Century. Fulco says many of the items originated from regions and eras that were not represented in LMU’s existing collection.

“He was an avid collector because he loved the stuff,” Fulco says. “For him, that was more important than anything else.”

LMU’s Archaeology Center houses thousands of artifacts, acquired by Fulco either through his own digs or via gifts, and gives students the opportunity to handle relics with their bare hands -- a practice that is not typical among university archaeology programs.