Daniel G. Roberts, 66, archaeologist

Daniel G. Roberts
Daniel G. Roberts
Posted: June 13, 2014

Daniel G. Roberts, 66, of Coatesville, a nationally known archaeologist, died of prostate cancer Saturday, May 24, at the Neighborhood Hospice in West Chester.

Starting in 2005, Mr. Roberts was president of John Milner Associates of West Chester, a historic preservation and cultural resources management firm.

His specialty was planning projects for culturally important sites - meshing environmental and engineering concerns with history and archaeology - and he did that in a dozen states along the Eastern seaboard.

Mr. Roberts was born in Philadelphia and raised in Glenside.

After receiving his bachelor's degree from Beloit College and his master's degree in anthropology from Idaho State University, he was hired in 1976 by the National Heritage Corp. of West Chester, which became John Milner Associates (JMA).

He was appointed director of JMA's growing cultural resources department, where he developed the firm's reputation for quality work on large-scale archaeological investigations.

He rose to vice president and then president of JMA, retiring at the end of 2010 due to illness.

Mr. Roberts emphasized scholarship and felt a responsibility to produce presentations and publications, and make them public.

He is best known for his work on African American urban cemeteries, including the First African Baptist Church Cemetery at 10th and Vine Streets.

In 1983, his firm was responsible for the recovery and analysis of the remains of 140 people who later were reburied in Delaware County.

The cemetery, dating to the first half of the 1800s, was uncovered during construction of the Center City Commuter Rail Tunnel.

Some of the deceased had ceramic plates over their stomachs and a coin placed near the head. Leather shoes were atop the coffin lid for their journey - old African customs pointing to the belief that material objects would be used in the afterlife."I remember how respectfully the deceased were handled," said his wife, Bette J. "B.J." Titus.

In 1992, Penn Press published The Buried Past, a book that he coauthored with John L. Cotter and Michael Parrington. Some have called it the bible of the city's archaeology.

In addition to his work at JMA, Mr. Roberts was active in associations, including the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), the Society for American Archaeology, and the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council.

In 2011, the SHA created an annual award to honor his contribution to excellence in public historical archaeology.

Mr. Roberts was an avid golfer and longtime member of Radley Run Country Club. At one time, he owned 50,000 first-edition vintage paperbacks, all in sleeves and displayed on shelves in his home. "It looked like a library," his wife said.

Surviving, beside his wife of 19 years, are stepson Matthew S. Titus and his first wife, Marie W. Roberts, from whom he was divorced.

A memorial service is being planned for October.

Contributions may be made to the Society for Historical Archaeology, 13017 Wisteria Dr., No. 395, Germantown, Md., 20874, in care of the Daniel G. Roberts Award for Excellence in Public Historical Archaeology, or the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, via www.michaeljfox.org/.


bcook@phillynews.com

610-313-8102

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