Archeological horizons expand at Cal State L.A.
$200K Cotsen gift to support new research opportunities
A five-year $200,000 grant to the archaeology program at California State University, Los Angeles has greatly expanded the horizon for students looking to dig into the past.
The funds come from Lloyd Cotsen, a philanthropist and arts collector who, for many years, has worked on archaeological projects around the world.
The grant will provide extensive opportunities for international fieldwork and travel to national conferences for five to ten Cal State L.A. students each year. It also formalizes a collaboration between Cal State L.A. and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA.
In a letter to Cal State L.A. President James M. Rosser, Cotsen said the relationship will "focus specifically on supporting students from Cal State L.A. to participate in archaeological research and training." The arrangement, he said, will "enhance further quality and status of archaeology in Southern California" through the "continued strengthening of academic and fieldwork on both campuses."
According to Rosser, "By combining complementary expertise and offering unprecedented first-rate opportunities for our students and faculty, this linkage between two strong archaeology programs also serves as a model for other potential mutually beneficial interactions between our two campuses and our two systems."
Cal State L.A. Trustee Professor Barry Munitz, a former Chancellor of the California State University system who shepherded the discussions that led to the grant, credited Cotsen's "insightful generosity."
According to Cal State L.A. professor Dr. James Brady, scholarly success in archaeology takes root in fieldwork, whether in Southern California or northern Honduras. With the insights and experiences gained by exploring archaeological sites with mentors, students, he said, develop research papers worthy of publication or presentation at national meetings; and such achievement and exposure are key to pursuing a doctorate in the discipline.
"This funding gives us the freedom to select the best projects, the ones that address the big questions," said Brady, a member of Cal State L.A.'s faculty since 1999. "It's going to revolutionize what we can do as a campus in archaeology."
Previous Cal State L.A. archaeological projects by Brady and others have been showcased widely in the news media, including research on Mayan caves profiled in a Science News cover story. A field project researching the ancient and nearly extinct Mesoamerican game of ulama-in which participants hit a 9-pound ball with their hips-was featured in Archaeology Magazine, The Economist and Smithsonian.
Cal State L.A. anthropology students have also presented research on the use of fluorescence photography to analyze pictographs and on the cultural resources of California's Channel Islands. Two served as instructors for a workshop in skeletal excavation for coroner's officer personnel. At least four are now pursuing doctoral degrees.
Originally established in 1973, the Institute of Archaeology at UCLA was renamed in 1999 to honor Cotsen's longtime commitment. Its laboratories support fieldwork, analysis of archaeological materials and teaching. With more than 35 UCLA faculty members from 11 disciplines, the institute sponsors visiting scholars, public lectures, seminars, publications and field research.
Brady, who earned a master's degree at Cal State L.A. and a doctorate in archaeology at UCLA, is particularly excited about enhanced prospects for continuing work in Mexico and Central America with Cal State L.A. students who have native fluency in Spanish. Such familiarity with the language, he said, is a "very valuable tool for front-line research."
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