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Conserving our global heritage, one dig at a time.
UCLA alumna Erika Brant never digs up any Chilean mummies without first asking permission with an offering, usually soda or some form of libation. This ritual of giving back to the earth before you take something from it is one of the local customs the anthropology graduate learned on a summer dig sponsored by UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.
“The experiences there are nothing like what you get in the classroom,” Brant recalls. She spent the summers of ’06 and ’07 mapping old dwellings and rappelling down cliffs with “delicate brushes” to excavate mummies in the Tarapaca Valley, one of Chile’s archaeologically richest areas.
Brant was one of the first students to experience the education-oriented immersion that Cotsen has since expanded to more than a dozen field programs in places such as Albania, Peru, Egypt and even San Bernardino, California.
Other impressive excavations Cotsen has seen include Urkesh, a 300-acre fourth to second millennium B.C.E. city in northeast Syria; the first complete, large-scale gravesite from the Illyrian culture; a cave in Armenia that housed the world’s oldest wine production facility; and the gold-encrusted Moche tombs at Sipan in Peru, perhaps the most lavish archaeological tomb ever excavated in the Americas.
The institute is involved in more than just excavations. Voted No. 1 in 2010 by the prestigious National Research Council for graduate programs in archaeology, the Cotsen Institute’s faculty, student and research associates also participate in the development of local archaeological site museums, international student exchanges, training of national scholars and partnerships with local communities across the globe.
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