Lyssa Stapleton

Director of the Waystation Initiative

Fowler A331


Lyssa C. Stapleton received her MA and PhD in archaeology from UCLA. She has a BA in anthropology, with a minor in museum studies, from Cal State East Bay. Her research examines the link between archaeological site looting and the art market and the impact that increasing awareness of the trade in illegal antiquities has on the market. She is interested in the evolution of collections stewardship in the 21st century, with a particular focus on unprovenanced cultural objects in museums and private collections and the challenges of repatriation and voluntary returns. Trained as an archaeologist and a curator, Stapleton has conducted fieldwork in Armenia, Albania, Hungary, and the United States where her research looked at the relationship between material culture in funerary contexts and social roles, and particularly at ancient woven artifacts. As a curator she specialized in the stewardship of archaeological textiles, the decolonization movement, and the ethics of collecting. Lyssa joined the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology as the Director of the Waystation Initiative in January of 2023. As part of her role as director of the Waystation, she teaches courses in the graduate certificate program in Cultural Heritage Research, Stewardship, and Restitution. 


2022    Stapleton, Lyssa C. “The Ethical Restitution of Cultural Heritage: Approaches and Challenges”. Backdirt, Spring 2022. 

2019    Stapleton, Lyssa C. “All That Glitters” Hali Magazine, Issue 200.  

2017    Stapleton, Lyssa. “Elegant Construction; The Pattern of a Collection”. Hali Magazine, Issue 194, 2017 (1). 

2016    Stapleton, Lyssa. “Working Inside the Box”. In The Box Project: Works from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection. Cotsen Occasional Press: Los Angeles, Pp. 12-22. 

2014    Stapleton, Lyssa. “The Prehistoric Burial Customs” (Chapter 8). In The Excavation of the Prehistoric Burial Tumulus at Lofkënd, Albania. Pp. 193-226. Los Angeles: UCLA CIoA Press. 

2014    Stapleton, Lyssa et al. “Weaving the Ancient Past: Chalcolithic Basketry and Textile Technology at the Areni-1 Cave, Armenia”. In The Stone Age of Armenia: A Guidebook to the Stone Age Archaeology in Armenia. Pp. 219-232. Monograph of the JSPS-Bilateral Joint Research Project, Center for Cultural Resource Studies, Kanazawa Japan. 

2011    Stapleton, Lyssa C.  “Lloyd Cotsen’s Gift to the People of China”. Backdirt. Winter

2011    Areshian, Gregory, Boris Gasparyan, Kristine Matrosyan-Olshansky, Lyssa Stapleton, Diana Zardaryan. “Wine and Death: The 2010 Excavations Season at the Areni-1 Cave Complex, Armenia.” Backdirt. Winter 2011. 



2024    Conference Roundtable, Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting, Chicago. “Developing Standards for the Voluntary Return of Cultural Objects”

2023    Conference Presentation, Collections Committee of the International Council of Museums, Annual Meeting, Taipei, Taiwan. “The Waystation Initiative: New Approaches to the Voluntary Return of Cultural Objects”

2021    Invited Speaker, The History Group of Los Angeles. Presentation Title: “Looting and the Encyclopedic Museum: A History” 

2020    Conference presentation, The Textile Society of America, Bi-Annual Symposium

            Presentation title: “Subversive Stitches: An Embroidered Cushion Portraying Charles I in the Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection”

2020    Invited speaker, Textile Museum Associated of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. “Lloyd Cotsen and His Textiles: A Lifetime of Collecting and Connoisseurship”

2019    Colloquium presentation, New Threads: Recent Research on Egyptian Textiles, The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C. “An Introduction to Textiles from Early Medieval Egypt from the Cotsen Textile Traces Collection”

2018    Symposium presentation, Gendenkschrift in Honor of Lloyd Cotsen, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. Presentation Title: “A Peruvian Needleknitted Object in the Cotsen Collection (T-0134).