Cotsen Excavation Grants

Archaeological Institute of America

November 1, 2016

Amount: up to $25,000


The Cotsen Excavation Grant Program provides two grants per year of up to $25,000 each.

  • One will be for a first time director launching a new project
  • One will be open to all professionals working in the field

Applicants must be AIA members in good standing and must have a Ph.D. in archaeology or related field.

Applicants must be the primary permit holder for the excavation. Permits must be obtained before funds are dispersed.

The AIA will not fund overhead costs. Please note that funds may not be used for survey expenses and equipment, publication, or for salaries for principal investigators, or to purchase land. Potential applicants are invited to review these documents before submitting their narratives and budgets.

To be successful, applications must clearly demonstrate the impact of the project and the critical need for AIA funding. Although combining AIA with other sources of support is allowed, a Cotsen grant should be central to the success of the project.

Grant winners are expected to provide a 200-500 word update for the AIA website either from the field or immediately upon completing the funded field season. A final report with a reconciled budget is due within 6 months of the completion of the field season. Grant winners agree to submit a poster or field report abstract for presentation at the AIA Annual Meeting following receipt of the grant. Winners are also encouraged to become an “Interactive Dig” on the AIA website.

Contact Name: 
Ben Thomas

Cotsen Grant Winners 2015

Michael Harrower
Assistant Professor, Archaeology
Department of Near Eastern Studies
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

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?

Tristan Carter
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario

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.

Cotsen Grant Winners 2014

William Parkinson
Associate Curator of Eurasian Anthropology
Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois

Parkinson was awarded the Cotsen Grant for “mid-career” project directors to support the final season of a multi-year project at the Neolithic settlement of Ksagounaki Promontory in Diros Bay on the Mani Peninsula of the southern Greek mainland. Parkinson and his colleagues Anastasia Papathanasiou (Ephoreia of Paleoanthropology and Speleology for Southern Greece), Mike Galaty (Mississippi State University), and Giorgos Papathanassopoulos (Greek Ministry of Culture, Retired) aim to understand how early agricultural villages like Ksagounaki grew and expanded in the Mediterranean during the Neoltihic period and to examine the relationship between Ksagounaki and Alepotrypa Cave that together formed the largest agricultural settlement in the region at the end of the Neolithic period. (The open-air settlement of Ksagounaki is located immediately outside the entrance of the cave.) Expanded research will also allow project members to analyze the relationship between Ksagounaki and Alepotrypa and other Neolithic sites in the Greek Peloponnese. Understanding the dynamics of village organization in southern Greece will better enable archaeologists to understand the cultural background of the important political and economic transformations that occurred during the subsequent Bronze Age, and which eventually paved the way for the emergence of the Mycenaean states.

Darian Marie Totten
Assistant Professor, Department of Classics
Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina

Darian Marie Totten

The grant for “first-time” project directors was awarded to Totten for the Salapia Exploration Project. Totten and her colleagues Roberto Goffredo and Giovanni de Venuto of Università di Foggia will examine the complex, long-term environmental and human history of the coastal lagoon of the Lago di Salpi, located on the Adriatic coast of Italy. During the Roman, Late Antique and Medieval periods, the precarious and changeable coastal landscape posed challenges to habitation when the sea encroached, but offered benefits as well, with its natural harbor and productive salt pans. 

A three-prong research program that includes two excavations—one at San Vito, a coastal villa on the southeastern side of the lagoon and the other at the ancient urban center and port of Salapia, located on the southern edge of the lagoon—and a rigorous geomorphological study of the lagoon environment will address how these settlements negotiated with and responded to environmental changes and their role in the wider economic and social development of the region. Excavations at the Roman port of Salapia will offer insights into the inner workings of a Mediterranean trading center, a site of artisanal and possibly salt production, and an urban center that was once home to many. The villa of San Vito will offer a rural counterpoint to Salapia allowing archaeologists to explore the agricultural quarter and its potential for production.

Cotsen Grant Winners 2013

Thomas Strasser
Department of Art and Art History
Providence College

Thomas Strasser

Strasser was awarded the Cotsen Grant for “mid-career” project directors for his work at the Mesolithic site of Damnoni on Crete. Damnoni, the earliest excavated archaeological site on the island, was also the first Mesolithic site to be excavated on Crete. Strasser’s research reveals the nature and extent of Mesolithic activity in the area and presents the first Cretan archaeological assemblage from that time period. The discovery and excavation of Damnoni deepens the early prehistory of Crete and also adds to the growing evidence for hunter-gatherers inhabiting Mediterranean islands—an idea that contradicts the conventional wisdom that pre-agriculturalists did not live on the islands.  

Read the latest report from Strasser

Justin Leidwanger
Department of Art
University of Toronto

Justin Leidwanger

Leidwanger was awarded the Cotsen Grant for “first-time” project directors for the Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project in Sicily. The Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project is a collaborative excavation, survey, and heritage management initiative that focuses on the maritime landscape and seaborne communication off the coast of southeast Sicily. The project will investigate sites located at the intersection of the eastern and western Mediterranean in order to understand regional and interregional maritime exchange from the early Roman era through Late Antiquity. Leidwanger will lead excavations of the Marzamemi II wreck, which sank while carrying prefabricated architectural elements for the assembly of a Byzantine church alongside other cargo from the northern Aegean during the 6th century. Equally important to this research, the project situates excavation within a broader dialog on natural and cultural heritage practices utilizing community archaeology and public outreach to implement site management alongside local initiatives for environmentally sustainable tourism and economic development

Read the latest report from Leidwanger