Arthur Houghton attended Harvard College (BA 1963), the American University of Beirut (MA in Near Eastern studies, 1966), and Harvard University (MA in Fine Arts, 1982). He entered the US Department of State in 1966 and held positions in the American embassies in Beirut, Amman and Cairo; and with the White House National Security Council staff. He was Associate Curator and acting Curator-in-Charge of the Department of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum from 1982 to 1986.

Houghton holds current or previous board memberships with the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Corning Museum of Glass; the American Numismatic Society (where he served as president from 1985-89); American Near East Refugee Aid; the American School of Classical Studies at Athens; the Cyprus-American Archaeological Research Institute; the Middle East Institute; the American Council for Cultural Property; the Cultural Policy Research Institute, and the Council on Cultural Policy. His public service includes membership on the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee (1984-87) and an advisory committee of the U.S. Mint (2007-2012).

Houghton's publications include, among others, more than sixty articles and four books dealing with archaeology, ancient history and art. He was awarded the American Numismatic Society's 2015 Archer M. Huntington medal for his career contributions to numismatic scholarship. He continues to be engaged with U.S. collecting museums and the issues of cultural property ownership and protection. Dark Athena, which draws on his experience in US government service and as former curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum, is his first novel.

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