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Millsaps Professor Receives National Science Foundation Grant

Dr. Michael Galaty digs at the site of a destroyed
burial mound in northern Albania in May 2012.

Dr. Michael Galaty, professor of anthropology at Millsaps College, and an academic trustee of the Archaeological Institute of America, is the recipient of a senior research grant from the National Science Foundation for the College's ongoing archaeological project in Shkodër, Albania.

The grant provides support for Millsaps undergraduate students to conduct fieldwork under the direction of faculty members, including Drs. James Harris and Stanley Galicki, professors of geology. The grant is in collaboration with Dr. Lorenc Bejko, professor of archaeology at the University of Tirana, Albania. Millsaps and the Albanian university have a long-standing relationship, including a tuition waiver agreement, dating to 2010.

The grant awards Galaty and his colleagues more than $162,000 to support the Projekti Arkeologjikë i Shkodrës (PASH), which aims to advance scientific understanding of the origins of social inequality and urban societies. The project will also use the unique resources of Millsaps' W.M. Keck Center for Instrumental and Biochemical Comparative Archaeology, directed by Dr. Timothy Ward, professor of chemistry and dean of sciences. During the coming year Millsaps students will analyze clay, prehistoric pottery, and human teeth, looking for evidence of trade and migration.

At the local level, Galaty seeks to understand the causes and expressions of proto-urbanism in the Shkodër region.

"I want to understand where social inequality comes from, both in Albania and generally," Galaty said. "Why do humans the world over build cities, which requires systems of social hierarchy? This was a major transformation in human behavior and can only be studied through the careful application of archaeological methods."

Dr. Keith Dunn, senior vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, said the project is an example of the kind of highly collaborative, interdisciplinary work that makes the Millsaps experience special.

"Our students and professors are actively involved in acquiring new knowledge and understanding, not just learning about different academic disciplines in the classroom," he said. "They're changing the ways scholars think about these ancient cultures, and our students are involved in every aspect of the project -- from digging and collecting artifacts, to analyzing samples in the laboratory, to providing the theoretical framework to understanding the workings of the society."

Galaty, Galicki, and Harris, and seven current and former Millsaps students just returned from the 2012 expedition to northern Albania. Joined by Bejko and seven University of Tirana students, they continued surveying the plain and hills near the northern Albanian city of Shkodër, which sits alongside Lake Shkodra, the largest freshwater lake in the Balkans.In three seasons of fieldwork they have documented the existence of hundreds of prehistoric burial mounds and numerous hill forts in the region.

Thanks to generous support from the National Science Foundation, Galaty and PASH will operate for two more seasons, during which they will excavate tombs and a fort. For more information about archaeology at Millsaps, visit http://www.archaeology.millsaps.edu/.