Director's Message

In this centennial year of UCLA, we also celebrate the academic year 2019–2020 as the 50th anniversary of the Interdepartmental Degree Program in Archaeology at the Cotsen Institute. In the fall of 1969, the first archaeology student enrolled in this program. The next quarter, winter 1970, Marija Gimbutas, teaching European archaeology, accepted into her program a student who went on to become the heart and soul of our institute. Fifty years later, Ernestine Elster is still going strong. Her latest publication, The Archaeology of Grotta Scaloria: Ritual in Neolithic Southeast Italy, came out in 2016. She is a champion of publishing lingering archaeological data and forgotten excavations, of which there are, unfortunately, too many.

We will celebrate our semi-centennial in the winter and spring of 2020, and it may be clear that the archaeology program and the Cotsen Institute are very much alive, as is our second graduate program: the UCLA/Getty Interdepartmental Degree Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials. This academic year we are seeing renewed energy and activities. Our new crop of students includes an academically strong and enthusiastic group of archaeology PhD and conservation MA students, as well as the first cohort of conservation PhD students. Our two programs are starting off under new leadership: Gregson Schachner of the Department of Anthropology has taken over as chair of the archaeology program, and Glenn Wharton of the Department of Art History recently started at UCLA as chair of the conservation program. I want to thank John Papadopoulos of the Department of Classics for his many years of successfully finding ways to support our students, both by commenting on the content of their work and by securing additional funding. I also want to thank William Roy of the Department of Sociology, who stepped in as interim chair of the conservation program after the retirement of David Scott.

The cover of the 2019 issue of Backdirt shows our latest arrival. I am not referring to the babe in arms, however delighted and fascinated she seems to be by a Roman portrait bust, but to Sarah Beckmann, who has started a position in the Department of Classics.

Attention to equity, diversity, and inclusion continues to be an absolute priority for UCLA and for our institute. The hashtag for our disciplines could be #archaeology_and_conservation_so_white, and that needs to change. I am therefore especially thankful for the work of two of our faculty members. Jason De León of the Department of Anthropology has joined the core faculty of the Cotsen Institute and brings the very important and exciting Undocumented Migration Project into our institute. This involves the long-term study of undocumented border crossings, combining ethnographic, archaeological, visual, and forensic approaches. Secondly, Ellen Pearlstein of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies has obtained a grant from the Mellon Foundation with the title Opportunity for Diversity in Conservation. In addition, our graduate students participate in archaeological outreach programs with children from historically underrepresented groups to show the fun of archaeology, the importance of science, and the cultural diversity that has existed through time and space. By conveying our love of archaeology, we remember to celebrate it, and celebrate we will!

Willeke Wendrich
Director, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology