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Fall 2000 The Big Dig
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The Cotsen Institute is one of the few university archaeology programs in the United States that brings together, for both research and educational purposes, faculty from all over campus who are studying ancient cultures. Archaeologists approach the field from a variety of angles, reflected in the disparate departments that house Cotsen Institute faculty members: anthropology, history, art history, Near Eastern languages and cultures and classics, to name a few. "Within our departments, we're all minorities," says James Sackett, professor emeritus of anthropology and a UCLA archaeologist since 1962. "But when we all come together, it creates a synergy that leads to an excellent learning environment."

UCLA is also one of only a handful of campuses with a Ph.D. program in archaeology - most U.S.-educated archaeologists hail from anthropology or other departments. Conducting field research throughout the world, with particular emphasis on Mesoamerica, South America, California, China, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Europe, Cotsen Institute archaeologists have uncovered artifacts that vary from tombs with gold, silver and intact bodies in Peru to paleolithic stone tools in France dating back to the Stone Age. Likewise, there is wide variability in the cultures under study - from the rise and collapse of the large, complex society of the ancient Mayas in Belize to the early development of sedentary Native-American culture on the Channel Islands, and much between.

But digging constitutes only a fraction of the work. "Most of us are, as they say in Hollywood, in post-production a lot of the time," says Sarah Morris, professor of classics. At the Cotsen Institute, post-production efforts take place in analytical and regional-speciality labs.

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