Category Archives: news

Archaeology Undergraduate Pizza Dinner

Archaeology LunchInterested in studying archaeology, ancient languages, or ancient cultures? Come to a free pizza dinner!


Join students and faculty from Archaeology, Anthropology, and Classics to eat, get acquainted, and learn more about opportunities, courses, and events at Cornell!

Monday, September 19
5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
G24 Goldwin Smith Hall

Prof. Caitlin Barrett, Archaeology DUS (
Prof. Courtney Roby, Classics DUS (
Prof. Paul Nadasdy, Anthropology DUS (

CIAMS faculty members receive DCAPS Digitization Grant

A small section of the plans to be digitized under the grant

A small section of the plans to be digitized under the grant

CIAMS faculty members Jeff Zorn (Near Eastern Studies) and Lauren Monroe (Near Eastern Studies) recently received funding from the Grants Program for Digital Collections in Arts and Sciences at Cornell University in order to digitize the architectural plans for the site of Tell en-Naṣbeh, located 12 km north of Jerusalem in the West Bank. Approximately two thirds of this three hectare, primarily Iron Age, site was excavated by a team from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA, between 1926–1935 under the direction of W. F. Badé. Tell en-Naṣbeh is one of the most broadly excavated sites in the southern Levant, making it of great importance for those interested in studying house construction, settlement planning and social organization. The full set of plans has, until now, only been available to those able to travel to Berkeley. This digitization project will at last make these important plans available to students and scholars at Cornell and around the world.

Gabby Borenstein wins Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fellowship

Gabby BorensteinCIAMS PhD student Gabby Borenstein recently received a Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fellowship for her archaeological research in Armenia.  The Cornell Graduate School website featured Gabby in a Student Spotlight, which may be found here. During her interview, Gabby had the following to say about her experience as a part of the CIAMS community:

The Cornell Institute for Archaeology and Material Studies (CIAMS) is both an institute and a community. I feel truly lucky to be a part of a scholarly group that transcends classrooms and lecture halls. It is rare to be surrounded by peers who are also teachers, and advisors who are also colleagues and unparalleled support systems. The university promotes a rich, culturally informed approach to archaeology that I knew would train me to be both the type of academic and individual I aspired to become.

Congratulations to Gabby on her outstanding achievement!

Bill Mastandrea wins the CIAMS MA Thesis Prize

WJMCongratulations to Bill Mastandrea for winning the 2015/2016 CIAMS MA Thesis Prize! Bill’s thesis is entitled Cupellation at Kea: Investigating Potential Applications of the Minoan Conical Cup. Two of his advisors–Sturt Manning and Lori Khatchadourian–comment that Bill wrote a well-researched, well-written, and provocatively original thesis.

Bill was announced as the CIAMS MA Thesis Prize winner at the CIAMS graduation reception in May. The prize comes with a $250 cash award.

Bill plans to apply to Ph.D. programs in the upcoming year, and he is currently working to have his thesis published.  A synopsis of Bill’s prize-winning thesis may be found below:

Minoan Conical Cup - Boston MFA“An understanding of the coarseware Minoan conical or handleless cup, has long eluded Aegean archaeologists, despite the longevity of their production, use, and prevalence. This small, undecorated, coarseware vessel appears in great numbers at nearly all Minoan and Minoanizing sites throughout the Aegean, first appearing early in the Early Minoan Period (EM; 3100-2100/2050 BCE) on the island of Crete. By the early Late Minoan Period (LM; 1700/1675-1075/1050 BCE) the handleless cup had spread across the Aegean to Kea, Kythera, Melos, Thera, Mainland Greece, and portions of Western Anatolia in staggering numbers (Gillis 1990b, 1). This paper addresses how patterns in the distribution of handleless cups – within House A at Ayia Irini, Kea – and their association with other finds therein can inform the intended uses of and the social practices for which these ceramics were reserved and the degree to which these daily routines conformed to, or deviated from, social practices known from contemporary sites elsewhere in the Aegean. In pursuing the answer(s) to these questions I propose that, in addition to other possible of uses, the handleless cup at Ayia Irini was a vessel well-suited to use in the process of silver cupellation. This claim is supported by artifact distribution and density maps of the Period VI structure that reveal the spatial relationships between objects and features.”

Congratulations to all CIAMS graduates!

CIAMS would like to honor all CIAMS-affiliated students who graduated this May.

Asa Cameron completed his M.A. in Archaeology. His thesis is entitled “A Stable Isotopic (Carbon and Nitrogen) Evaluation of Regional Differences in Herded Animal Diet and Pastoral Risk Management Practices During the Xiongnu Period of Mongolia.”

Our undergraduate majors who graduated are Amanda Gaggioli, Astra Hwang, Angela Link, and Anjum Malik. We had one Archaeology minor, Melissa Bravo, graduate as well.

Also completing their degrees earlier in the 2015-2016 academic year include Bill Mastandrea (Archaeology M.A.), Elizabeth Hardy (Anthropology M.A.), and Sarah Morales and Andrew Reker (undergraduate Archaeology majors).

Congratulations on a job well done! CIAMS wishes you the best of luck in your bright futures!

Thank you and farewell to Uthara Suvrathan

UtharaWith her tenure as Hirsch postdoctoral associate coming to a close, we at CIAMS would like to thank Uthara Suvrathan for her service to the department and wish her best of luck in her future endeavors.

Uthara came to Cornell in 2014 from the University of Michigan where she earned her PhD in Anthropology.  Her research draws on both archaeological and textual material to examine the organization of polities and places on the margins of large socio-political systems and empires in South Asia.

While at CIAMS, Uthara has been an active member of our community, attending talks, teaching, and presenting her work in a number of fora. Her courses at Cornell–which include “Beyond Kings, Palaces, and Temples: Introduction to the Archaeology of South Asia,” “Fantastic Frauds and Myths in Archaeology,” and “Archaeology and Text”–have emphasized participatory activities for her students. Recently, her class re-created the Nazca lines on the Arts Quad to investigate how ancient peoples constructed them using basic tools and geometry.


Uthara Suvrathan and her students re-create Nazca lines on the Arts Quad.

An engaged member of the local archaeological community, Uthara has presented her research at a CIAMS workshop as well as at at a meeting of the Finger Lakes Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association (NYSAA).

Uthara was named a Bard Graduate Center visiting fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year. At the Bard Graduate Center, Uthara will be completing her book manuscript Persistent Peripheries: Archaeological and historical landscapes of an early city in South India, 3rd c. BCE–18th c. CE. Congratulations, Uthara, and best wishes for your bright future!

Book Release – Heaven, Hell, and Everything in Between

cohen suarez bookCIAMS professor Ananda Cohen Suarez (History of Art) recently published a new monograph, Heaven, Hell, and Everything in Between: Murals of the Colonial Andes. The book is part of the Recovering Languages and Literacies of the Americas series published by University of Texas Press.

Book Description:

Examining the vivid, often apocalyptic church murals of Peru from the early colonial period through the nineteenth century, Heaven, Hell, and Everything in Between explores the sociopolitical situation represented by the artists who generated these murals for rural parishes. Arguing that the murals were embedded in complex networks of trade, commerce, and the exchange of ideas between the Andes and Europe, Ananda Cohen Suarez also considers the ways in which artists and viewers worked through difficult questions of envisioning sacredness.

This study brings to light the fact that, unlike the murals of New Spain, the murals of the Andes possess few direct visual connections to a pre-Columbian painting tradition; the Incas’ preference for abstracted motifs created a problem for visually translating Catholic doctrine to indigenous congregations, as the Spaniards were unable to read Inca visual culture. Nevertheless, as Cohen Suarez demonstrates, colonial murals of the Andes can be seen as a reformulation of a long-standing artistic practice of adorning architectural spaces with images that command power and contemplation. Drawing on extensive secondary and archival sources, including account books from the churches, as well as on colonial Spanish texts, Cohen Suarez urges us to see the murals not merely as decoration or as tools of missionaries but as visual archives of the complex negotiations among empire, communities, and individuals.

Heaven, Hell, and Everything in Between is now available for purchase on Amazon, though as of the time of writing, only one copy was left in stock! Congratulations to Prof. Cohen Suarez on her achievement!

Experimental Archaeology: CIAMS students re-create the Nazca lines

The Nazca Lines are ancient, gigantic (several are over 300m long) geoglyphs drawn on a desert in Peru. In Fantastic Frauds and Myths in Archaeology–an undergraduate archaeology course taught by Uthara Suvrathan–students have been talking about the archaeological debates about the nature and construction of the Nazca lines.


Cornell undergraduate students re-create Nazca lines on the Arts Quad.

There are two main opposing views. First are those who argue that these designs could not have been constructed by prehistoric peoples due to their use of simple technologies, and therefore the designs were the work of alien visitors to Earth who brought sophisticated technologies with them. Moreover, since the figures are so large, they were meant to be seen from the air, and in a time before airplanes, alien spacecraft were required to truly appreciate the designs.

In the second view, archaeologists argue that these designs draw upon local cultural traditions and could easily be made using simple tools and human knowledge of geography, astronomy, and mathematics.

In class, the students have been discussing these opposing views. As an experimental archaeology project, they reconstructed two of the Nazca designs, albeit at a smaller scale than the original figures. Using simple tools (ropes, the position of the sun/ buildings, sticks/rulers, an understanding of basic geometry and scale) they laid out multicolored flagging tape on the Arts Quad lawns, anchoring them in position with small gardening flags.  The students worked in two groups and recreated two of the Nazca designs–the frog and the monkey–using a grid system and measuring off an x/y axis respectively.

The purpose of this activity was to prove that these and similar ancient designs do not require the intervention of alien technologies but merely the ingenuity of human brains. Moreover, the class was able to climb to the fourth floors of McGraw and Morrill Halls and see the designs in their entirety, thereby proving that one can appreciate the designs without being on spacecraft but could, as in the case of the Peruvian creators of the Nazca lines, climb up on neighboring hill-sides to view the designs.

RadioCIAMS – Fotini Kondyli

Image courtesy of Fotini Kondyli.

Image courtesy of Fotini Kondyli.

On April 22, 2016 Fotini Kondyli (University of Virginia) met a panel of CIAMS students (Sam Barber, Kathleen Garland, Jessica Plant, and Jess Ro. Pfundstein) and faculty (Ben Anderson) to discuss community in the rural landscapes of Byzantine Greece.

The full discussion of about 55 minutes opens below.