Our Story

The Archaeological Institute of America is North America’s oldest and largest organization devoted to the world of archaeology. The AIA is a nonprofit organization founded in 1879 and chartered by the United States Congress on May 26, 1906. Today, the AIA’s members are organized into over 100 Local Societies in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The AIA is unique because it counts professional archaeologists, students, and interested individuals from all walks of life among its members. This diverse group is united by a shared passion for archaeology and its role in furthering human knowledge. To this end, the AIA promotes archaeological inquiry and public understanding of the material record of the human past worldwide.

The AIA’s professional members have conducted archaeological fieldwork in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and North and South America. The AIA has further promoted archaeological studies by founding research centers and schools in seven countries and maintains close relations with these institutions, including the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, the School of Classical Studies at the American Academy in Rome, and the American Schools of Oriental Research.  Members are dedicated to the greater understanding of archaeology, the protection of the world’s archaeological resources, and to the encouragement and support of archaeological research and publication.

The AIA’s tax identification number is 13-5669180.

Highlights in the AIA’s History

1879: Harvard University Professor Charles Eliot Norton of Harvard University invites his colleagues and friends to form a society “for furthering and directing archaeological and artistic investigation and research”. 108 people gather in Boston, Massachusetts to form the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). Norton becomes the AIA’s first president.

1880: The AIA provides support for its first archaeological excavation when it assists Adolph Bandelier with his research at prehistoric sites in Mexico and the southwestern United States.

1881: The AIA establishes the American School of Classical Studies at Athens [Greece].

1884: The first Local Society of the AIA is founded in Boston, MA. Today, there are over 100 Local Societies across the United States, Canada, and Europe.

1885: The American Journal of Archaeology debuts. All issues of the AJA are available digitally on the AJA Online Archive.

1895: The AIA establishes the American School of Classical Studies in Rome [Italy], now known as the American Academy in Rome. The national Lecture Program is created to provide lecturers and archaeological presentations to AIA Local Societies.

1898: The first Annual Meeting of the AIA is held in New Haven, CT. An Annual Meeting has taken place every year since, except in 1942, when the Meeting was suspended for the duration of WWII.

1899: The AIA establishes the American School of Oriental Study and Research in Palestine. This later becomes the American Schools of Oriental Research.

1906: The AIA is instrumental in passing the American Antiquities Act of 1906, the first significant U.S. law to protect American antiquities. President Theodore Roosevelt signs the AIA’s Congressional Charter, which is later renewed under the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The first joint Annual Meeting is held with the American Philological Association, now known as the Society for Classical Studies.

1907: The AIA establishes the School of American Archaeology in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This later becomes the School of American Research, and then the School for Advanced Research.

1911: The AIA moves its headquarters to Washington, D.C., where it shares The Octagon with the American Institute of Architects.

1921: The AIA and the American Anthropological Association establish the American School of Prehistoric Research.

1944: The American Council of Learned Societies transfers publication of the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum to the AIA.

1948: ARCHAEOLOGY magazine debuts.

1951: The AIA establishes the American Research Center in Egypt.

1961: The Fellowship Program begins when the AIA receives the Olivia James Trust, which would become the Olivia James Traveling Fellowship, from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

1965: The Award Program begins when Leon and Harriet Pomerance provide support for the AIA’s first Gold Medal Award, which is given to Carl W. Blegen in recognition of his significant contributions to the profession of archaeology.

1967: Margaret Thompson becomes the first female President of the AIA. The Tour Program, now known as AIA Tours, begins with several trips to archaeological sites in Africa.

1983: The AIA relocates its headquarters to the campus of Boston University.  Governor Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts proclaims October 6th, 1983 “Archaeological Institute of America Day” in the Commonwealth.

1989: The AIA, American Schools of Oriental Research, and the Society for Historical Archaeology hold the first Joint Archaeological Congress.

2007: The Jane C. Waldbaum Archaeological Field School Scholarship is established for students attending their first field school. Waldbaum served as President of the AIA from 2003-2006. Since its inception, the Scholarship has supported nearly 200 students around the world.

2008: The Site Preservation Program begins and awards its inaugural grant to a project aimed at restoring the Temple of Athena at Assos, Turkey.

2011: The U.S. Congress declares the first “AIA National Archaeology Day” in October. The third Saturday in October is now officially designated “International Archaeology Day”. The event attracts nearly 200,000 participants each year.

2015: The AIA, in partnership with the American Schools of Oriental Research, holds its first Summit on Protecting the Cultural Heritage of Syria in Washington, D.C. The AIA receives the largest gift in its history to establish the Richard C. MacDonald Iliad Endowment for Archaeological Research.

2017: The AIA moves its headquarters within Boston, MA to share the Third Harrison Gray Otis House with the American Meteorological Society.

2018: AIA celebrates the 20th anniversary of Troy being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site by publishing Uncovering Troy. The publication was supported by a gift from Richard C. MacDonald.

Printable Timeline

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The AIA is North America's largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to archaeology. The Institute advances awareness, education, fieldwork, preservation, publication, and research of archaeological sites and cultural heritage throughout the world. Your contribution makes a difference.