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ISU anthropology professor Peterson receives $20,000 NEH fellowship to investigate links between prehistoric metallurgy and development of societies

Posted May 14, 2009

A $20,000 fellowship and access to Idaho State University’s Center for Archaeology, Materials and Applied Spectroscopy will allow ISU Assistant Anthropology Professor David Peterson to study the relationship between mining and the development of civilization in Eurasia on the Armenian Plateau, which has been called the “epicenter of the Iron Age.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities selected Peterson to receive a research fellowship in Eurasian and east European research titled  “Collaborative Investigations of Early Mining and Metal Production on the Armenia Plateau, ca. 7,000-800 B.C.” with his colleagues in the Institute of Geological Sciences and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia.

David Peterson“For a long time archaeology has focused on metal production as an important part of the evolution of civilizations,” Peterson said. “I will be systematically collecting samples from copper deposits, sourcing artifacts to find out which deposits were exploited during a particular period of prehistory, and investigating how mining and metal technology influenced the development of societies, and vice versa – how the development of societies influenced mining and metallurgical activities.”

The NEH fellowship was not easy to get.

“Competition for the NEH program was extremely competitive this year: we received many applications from a wide range of highly qualified candidates,” said Janette Owen, senior program manager, Russian and Eurasian Outbound Programs, in a letter to Peterson. “Of those, only four applicants received funding. Your inclusion among this small number of fellows is a remarkable accomplishment.”

Peterson said he could not have landed the fellowship, nor could he pursue his research specialties at Idaho State University, were not for the ISU Center for Archaeology, Materials, and Applied Spectroscopy (CAMAS).

“CAMAS is a fantastic facility and has a lot of equipment available for use in archaeology,” Peterson said. “I will be using its induced-coupled mass spectrometer and scanning electron microscope to analyze the composition and structure of materials we collect in Armenia. This will tell us which ore deposits drawn from in making certain artifacts, the kinds of techniques used to make them, and how technologies for making and using copper and bronze evolved from 7,000 to 800 B.C. Our facilities are world class and are accessible for archeological studies. ISU is a great place to be for research and education in archaeological science.”

The ISU researcher will be testing about 600 ore samples and 1,400 samples from artifacts during the two-year study. He will head to the Armenian Plateau in early July and will spend two months there each of the next two summers. The Armenian Plateau includes Turkey's Eastern Anatolia Region, northwestern Iran, all of Armenia, southern Georgia and western Azerbaijan.

“The Armenia Plateau is a lot like the high desert steppe of Idaho,” Peterson said. “They’re both high elevation volcanic plateaus that are hot in the summer and cold and windy in the winter. There is a great potential for ISU researchers to collaborate with colleagues there in wide range of archeological, geological and environmental research.”

For more information on Peterson’s research visit http://www.isu.edu/~petedavi/; for more information on ISU’s CAMAS facility visit www.isu.edu/camas/about.shtml.

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