Rust Family Foundation

Archaeology Funding Program


Projects funded 2015-2016



Seeking Collaboration: A Summit for Projects Collecting Cultural Heritage Data in Syria and Iraq (International). [RFF-2015-1]
Ann Benbow, Archaeological Institute of America/American Schools of Oriental Research.
December 10-11, 2015
    Funding to help underwrite costs of a two-day invitational summit in Washington, DC focused on the preservation of the cultural heritages of Syria and Iraq.  Representatives from primary organizations that collect archaeological data on the cultural heritage of this region planned ways to cooperate, share databases, and reduce duplication of effort across projects. Data and ongoing activities will be shared at a project website.


Archaeological Testing of the Aurignacian Site of Sous le Roc (France). [RFF-2016-3]
Randall White, Center for the Study of Human Origins, New York University.
Summer, 2016
    Funding to support a one-month diagnostic excavation of the site of Sous-le-Roc in the Vézère Valley of SW France. This is one of the few intact Aurignacian (41-28 ky) sites remaining in the Vézère Valley, which could thus potentially reveal large surface areas amenable to spatial analysis. The research focus is to improve understanding of the context of art, ornamentation, bone implements and weapons, lithic industries and zooarchaeological remains in this crucial period of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition.  In this period, modern Homo sapiens replaced the longstanding and successful populations of Neandertals across a vast area extending from the Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia in the East, to the area of France and the Iberian Peninsula in theWest.



Preparation of the Final Publication of Excavations at the Roman Auxiliary Fort at al-Humayma (Jordan). [RFF-2015-2]
John Peter Oleson, Department of Greek and Roman Studies, University of Victoria.
May 2016 - May 2017
    Funding to support the preparation of the third volume in series of publications on the excavation at the site of Humayma in Southern Jordan, which flourished from the first century BC to the eighth century AD.  This will be the final publication on the Roman Auxiliary Fort, the best preserved early Imperial period fort in the Near East which was excavated by Dr. Oleson from 1986 to 2005.

Risqeh Archaeological Project (Jordan). 
Max Price and Richard H. Meadow, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University.
July - August 2017
    Funding to support the initial season of excavations of the site of Khirbet Risqeh, located in the Wadi Rum Protected Area in Jordan. Risqeh is a small mound that is hypothesized to be a non-habitational cultic site dating to the Chalcolithic period (5th millennium BC).  Testing will focus on definition of activity areas related to sculptures known from the site; presence or absence of ceramics usually related to habitation; and recovery of faunal and other materials helping determine site fun
ction. The project must begin before the site is lost to further looting activity, which has already taken a toll on the site.

Atalla Archaeological Investigation Project: Exploring the role of long-distance exchange networks in the emergence of complex society during the Early Horizon period at Atalla, Huancavelica (Peru).  
Michelle Young, Department of Anthropology, Yale University.
May 15 – September 15, 2016
    Funding supports research at the site of Atalla, focusing on the exploration of the role of interregional interaction on the development of more complex social arrangements during the Early Horizon period (c. 900-200 BC) The project will employ chemical and geological sourcing of raw materials including cinnabar, as well as formal and technical comparisons of architectural and ceramic styles to examine the consumption of foreign styles and practices, with particular emphasis on economic exchange of non-local goods.

Reconstructing the Peopling of Pre-Contact Puerto Rico through Ancient DNA Analysis (Puerto Rico).
Maria Nieves-Colón and Anne C. Stone, School of Human Evolution & Social Change, Arizona State University. 
June 2016 – June 2017
    Funding to support genetic research examining the role of local and regional migration and genetic admixture in the population history of pre-contact Puerto Rico. Ancient mitochondrial DNA will be obtained from a sample of 150 skeletal remains, dated between AD 500–1300, from three Puerto Rican archaeological sites: Tibes, Paso del Indio and Punta Candelero. The ancient data will be compared with published sequence data from modern and ancient indigenous populations of the Americas.


El Tintal Archaeological Project (ETAP) (Guatemala).
Mary Jane Acuña, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington at St. Louis/ Maya Archaeology Initiative.
April, 2016
    Funding to support expanded excavations at the Maya site of El Tintal in Petén, Guatemala, focusing on investigations of Structure Selepan, the palace-style building located in the Central Acropolis. ETAP’s long-term goal is to study El Tintal from its origins in the early Late Preclassic Period (ca. 400 BC) through its abandonment the Late Classic Period (AD 600-800/900), thus making valuable contributions to our understanding of the growth of social complexity at ancient Maya centers in the Petén.

Mapping and Groundtruthing at Angkor (Cambodia).
Sarah Klassen and Damian Evans, School of Human Evolution & Social Change, Arizona State University. 
Summer, 2016
    Funding  to map and ground-truth archaeological features at Angkor, Cambodia.  Angkor is a world heritage site famed its many temples, including Angkor Wat, and is one of the largest low-density urban complexes in the preindustrial world.  Widespread interest in the temples of Angkor, however,  and the associated rapid development of the regional tourism is placing elements of the archaeological site in immediate danger of destruction. In collaboration with several other research programs based in Siem Reap, Cambodia, this project will develop a comprehensive map and inventory of all known archaeological features around Angkor that must be protected from development.

Archaeological Investigation of an Ottoman Fortress at Nadin-Gradina (Croatia). 
Gregory Zaro, Anthropology Department /Climate Change Institute, University of Maine. 
May-June 2016
    Funding to support test excavations and analysis of Ottoman-era (16-17th C AD) artifacts and architectural remains at Nadin-Gradina, a hillfort site dating back to Roman times located on the Ottoman-Venetian frontier near the ancient coastal city of Zadar, Croatia.  Test excavations will determine depth of deposits and architectural integrity and help characterize the local material assemblage.  Surface architecture will also be mapped using digital aerial photography to create a high-resolution three-dimensional model of the site. 

The Asphendou Cave Petroglyphs: A Stylistic and Photogrammetric Analysis (Crete, Greece).
Thomas Strasser, Providence College
Summer, 2016
    Funding to support analysis of petroglyphs at Asphendou Cave in the White Mountains of west Crete.  The petroglyphs appear to be in two groupings of different dates, as some are superimposed on others.  The earlier engravings, proposed to be from the early Holocene, form a scene of quadrupeds, while the later ones, proposed to be Final Neolithic in date, are primarily abstract patterns.  This project analyses will include: 1) detailed drawings to reconstruct the precise sequence of glyphs; and 2) photogrammetry to discover other glyphs not easily recognizable to the naked eye and to clarify stratigraphic relationships among the glyphs on the cave wall. 

Integration or Evasion: The Response of Hinterland Populations to the Royal Collapse of Piedras Negras
Whittaker Schroder, Departmentof Anthropology,  University of Pennsylvania.
Summer, 2016.
       Funding to support archaeological surveys and excavations along the Usumacinta River at the site of El Infiernito near Piedras Negras, and laboratory analysis of materials and artifacts recovered.  Primary goals are to document sites within 10 km of the urban core to interpret regional settlement patterns; map architectural clusters to help establish a site typology for the Piedras Negras kingdom;  test patio groups and analyze recovered ceramics to understand settlement chronology; and conduct horizontal excavations in select architecture to identify activity areas.   El Infiernito appears to have been occupied discontinuously during the Late Preclassic (300 BC –AD 200) and Late Terminal Classic (AD 750-850) periods. Analysis will address why the site was reoccupied at such a late date, and whether this action reflected a defensive strategy on the part of Piedras Negras or a local response to avoid the crises associated with the collapse of the regional state.


Exploring Mortuary Landscapes and Social Complexity among Pre-Columbian
Chachapoya of the Eastern Andean Mountains of Peru.
 J. Marla Toyne, University of Central Florida
July 2nd, 2016- August 6th, 2016.
    Funding will support the mapping and excavation of the mortuary complex at La Petaca of the of the ancient Chachapoya (~AD 800-1535) in the northeastern mountains of Peru.  Since these tombs—originally containing human mummies—were built into steep cliff faces, the team must ascend using rope systems and other technically challenging techniques in order to document the structures and their remains. Goals are to address questions of history and social complexity that have not heretofore been answered: How were the tombs constructed? How long they were used for?  And who was being buried inside?

Early Monumentality of Northern Mongolia.
Jargalan Burentogtokh, Department of Anthropology, Yale University.
July 15-December 15, 2016
    Funding to gather evidence on socio-political and economic foundations underlying the construction of Khirigsuurs, the most prominent and widespread monuments of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1400-750 BC) in the Mongolian steppe. Khirigsuurs are generally defined by a central stone mound (usually 5-20 m in diameter), surrounded by a rectangular or circular stone enclosure. Some also have secondary stone features with remains of animal offerings, particularly horse heads. Only in some regions have khirigsuurs shown clear evidence of human interment, suggesting a multi-functional use as ritual and/or burial contexts.  Focusing on monuments in the Teshig Valley of Northern Mongolia, the project will include surface survey; test excavations; isotopic analysis on horse teeth to determine diet and grazing locations; and digital scanning of horse skulls to find traces of horse bridling and use of horse bits.

Maya Agricultural Exchange: La Florida and the Classic Maya Economy
Richard M. Leventhal and Joanne Baron, Penn Cultural Heritage Center, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology.
October-December, 2016
   Funding will be used for an initial season of excavations and laboratory analysis at the Maya site of La Florida, Guatemala. A main focus of the project is to find concrete evidence of long-distance exchange of agricultural products from the Tabasco region to La Florida, representing a large urban center during the Classic Maya period (AD 250-900). These preliminary excavations will also help ensure the long-term preservation of the site, which is currently threatened by looting and urban development.


The Temple Mount Sifting Project
Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira, Bar-Ilan University.
[ongoing since 2004]
    Funding for a graphic artist to illustrate finds found during the Temple Mount Sifting Project for study and publication.  The Project has been conducted since 2004 to sift the earth debris that has been removed from the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the most sacred site for Judaism, as it was the site of the First and Second Temples, and is also sacred for Christianity and is the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest mosque in Islam, and also the site of the shrine of the Dome of the Rock. Even though the Temple Mount has played a major role in the history of Jerusalem, no systematic archaeological excavation has ever taken place there because of its political sensitivity. However, on various occasions during the last century construction and renovations without any archaeological supervision or control were conducted at the site, causing severe damage to ancient remains. The peak of these construction projects occurred during the years 1999-2000, when the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel conducted large scale earthworks using heavy machinery to create an entrance to Solomon’s Stables (an ancient subterranean structure) which had been converted into a new mosque (the al-Marwani mosque). About 400 truckloads of soil saturated with archaeological artifacts from all periods in the history of Jerusalem, were removed and dumped in various locations, mainly in the nearby Kidron Valley.  Subsequently, The Temple Mount Sifting Project was established with the purpose of sifting all the debris removed from the Temple Mount and to try to retrieve as many artifacts as possible, using the wet-sifting technique. Most of the finds can be identified and dated by matching them to parallel finds found in a clear context elsewhere.

MIT-Brown Expedition to Cyprus, 2016: The Prastio Village Cemetery Project.  
Dr. Tate S. Paulette (Brown University) and Dr. Kathryn M. Grossman (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
July 24–August 24, 2016
    Funding to support a geophysical survey within the possible Middle Cypriot (2000–1650 BC) cemetery of Prastio Village in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains within the Dhiarizos River Valley of Cyprus.  This will be conducted along with a surface survey, and test excavations at the site. Goals of this pilot project are to determine the feasibility of longer-term work on the Prastio Village Cemetery, and to provide a backstory for the process of urbanization in Bronze Age Cyprus, by focusing on evidence for emerging social stratification and incipient institutions during the immediately pre-urban phase.

Contexts for Exchange: Amazonian and Andean Interregional Interaction in Amazonas Province, Peru.
Brian McCray, Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University.
June-October, 2016
     Funding for archaeological test excavations at Wimba, a site in the montaña, the forested eastern slopes of the Andes and adjacent upper Amazon. A primary goal is to determine whether Wimba was a venue for communal gatherings that would have brought together inhabitants and their neighbors from both highland and lowland regions. The project combines mapping, excavation, and artifact analysis to lay the foundation for a long-term research program designed to illuminate the connections and boundaries between the prehistoric Andes and Amazon.


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