AIA News

March 12, 2015

AIA Awards 2015 Cotsen Excavation Grants to Projects in Ethiopia and Greece

The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) is delighted to announce the winners of the 2015 Cotsen Excavation Grants—Michael Harrower, Assistant Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University and Tristan Carter, Associate Professor at McMaster University.

Harrower was awarded the grant for mid-career project directors to support his work at the ancient Ethiopian town of Baita Semati. With its deep stratigraphy, monumental architecture and impressive range of ceramic, metal, glass, plant and animal remains, Baita Semati is one the more important recently discovered archaeological sites in Africa. Through his research at the site, Harrower is attempting to unravel the complex political and religious dynamics of the region from the 2nd through 7th centuries AD. The work at Baita Semati will help us to understand how local and global influences combined to propel political and religious change from South Arabian inspired polytheism to Christianity and Islam across Ethiopia. It will also allow archaeologists to examine the influence and role of the Empire of Aksum on the region. How was the Empire of Aksum’s conversion to Christianity in the 4th century expressed in the daily lives of its citizens? How did the dramatic 7th century rise of Islam across Arabia influence Aksum? Did reduced involvements in maritime trade during the early Islamic era really precipitate Aksum’s demise?

The grant for first time project directors was awarded to Carter for the Stélida Naxos Archaeological Project (SNAP) in Greece. SNAP plans to excavate a prehistoric chert quarry and stone tool workshop in the Greek islands in an effort to engage with major social science debates concerning the dates and routes of early human dispersals into and out of Europe, whether these population movements involved seagoing, and the quarrying and tool-making relationships of early hominins, Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. The project is also working on ways of effectively presenting prehistory to the public. Carter believes that through this research SNAP will be able engage a broad range of social scientists, share information with a wide audience through multi-media knowledge dissemination, and draw much needed attention to the region’s prehistory.

The grants are made possible through the generous support of Lloyd E. Cotsen, former AIA Board Member and Chairman of the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING and the Cotsen Foundation for Academic Research. Cotsen is the former president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board of Neutrogena Corporation. His personal interests include the study of ancient architecture—a passion that led him to volunteer on archaeological excavations in Greece for more than 20 seasons, often serving as the dig’s architectural specialist.

Through the Cotsen Excavation Grants, the AIA offers significant excavation support for professional members of the AIA.  Two grants of $25,000 each are available annually, with one grant designated to provide seed money to an archaeologist organizing his or her first excavation, and the other grant providing assistance to a mid-career archaeologist working to move forward with an excavation in progress. The next deadline is November 1, 2015. To read more about the Cotsen Excavation Grant and other AIA grants and fellowships, please visit

support Us

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.