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Dissertation Award

Current Committee Charge: The committee solicits nominations and selects recipients for the Dissertation Award.  The committee annually selects a single dissertation (completed within the last three years in the field of archaeology) that exemplifies exceptional research to receive special recognition as the most outstanding, original contribution to the field at this level.

Committee Composition: Committee composition is one chair and at least four (preferably five) members.

Term Length: Term length is three years.

Award Cycle: Not applicable.

Committee Chair and End of Term: Katina Lillios [2014]

Committee Chair Contact Information: Katina Lillios, Department of Anthropology, 114 Macbride Hall, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1322, tel: 319-335-3023, e-mail: katina-lillios@uiowa.edu

Committee Members and Ends of Terms: Kevin Fisher [2014], Judith Habicht Mauche [2014], Marcus Hamilton [2015], Monica Smith [2014], Steve Wernke [2014], Cameron Wesson [2014]

Board Liaison: Suzanne K. Fish

Award Description: Members (other than student members) of SAA may nominate a recent graduate whose dissertation they consider to be original, well written, and outstanding.

Who Is Eligible to Submit Nominations or Apply for Award: Nominations must be made by non-student SAA members (although the nominee need not be a SAA member) and must be in the form of a nomination letter that makes a case for the dissertation. Self-nominations will not be accepted.

Nomination/Submission Materials Required: Nomination letters should include a description of the special contributions of the dissertation and the nominee’s current address. Nominees must have defended their dissertations and received their Ph.D. degree within three years prior to September 1, 2013. Nominees are informed at the time of nomination by the nominator and are asked to submit ONE COPY of the dissertation IN PDF FORMAT ON CD-ROM by October 15, 2013 (to be mailed to the committee chair, Katina Lillios). IF THIS FORMAT IS NOT POSSIBLE, PLEASE CONTACT THE CHAIR.

Nomination/Submission Deadline: October 15, 2013

Other Special Requirements: None.

Selection or Evaluation Criteria: Submitted dissertations are evaluated and ranked by committee members on factors including originality of research and strengths and weaknesses of the dissertation.

Committee Deliberation Process (e.g. dates, venue): The committee evaluates submitted dissertations through a series of electronic meetings.

Nature of Award (e.g. monetary, medal, symposium): A three-year membership in the SAA is given to the recipient. In addition, the awardee is recognized by the SAA through a plaque presented during the business meeting held at the Annual Meeting, a citation in The SAA Archaeological Record, and acknowledgment on the awards page of the SAA Website.


2013    Amanda Logan (University of Michigan)

Dr. Amanda Logan is the 2013 recipient of the Dissertation Award. Her clearly written dissertation incorporates archaeological, ethnobotanical, ethnographic, and historical evidence to address change in foodways over the past 1,000 years in Banda, west-central Ghana. Countering the frequent claim that African societies are in a permanent condition of food deficit, Logan illustrates how the culinary process is indicative of agentive investment at each stage of activity, from farming to cooking to consumption. The “Colombian exchange” brought many new foods to West Africa in particular, some of which appear to have been quite quickly adopted (e.g., tobacco) and others that only became widely used staples under conditions of post-slavery economic stress and British colonial practices of labor management and taxation (e.g., maize). Emphasizing the many stages of decision making in food use, Logan writes eloquently about food and foodways while incorporating theory from a variety of disciplines to discuss the role of memory, gender dynamics, and migrations in creating new culture complexes.

2012    Christopher Morehart (Northwestern University)

Christopher Morehart’s dissertation, The Archaeology of Farmscapes: Production, Place, and the Materiality of Landscape at Xaltocan, Mexico (Northwestern University, 2010) details the evolution of a Postclassic Period agricultural landscape in the area of Xaltocan in the Basin of Mexico. Synthesizing remote sensing, survey, soil chemistry, archaeobotanical, and excavation data, the author meticulously reconstructs how farmers dealt with shifting material, social, political and ideological factors in developing and experiencing the chinampa farmscape. The work connects daily agricultural practices with larger political processes, including Aztec conquest, by revealing how political relations, communal relations, and systems of property, were manifested in the fields and their use. Guided by innovative conceptualizations of “choreogeography” and materiality, the author shows how chinampa system dynamics can be understood only through synthesizing ecological with practice-oriented, phenomenological perspectives. In its multifacted and multiscalar approach, the research illustrates the potential of agriculture landscapes for re-envisioning the dynamics of prehistory.   

2011    Scott G. Ortman (Arizona State University)

Scott Ortman’s dissertation, Genes, Language, and Culture in Tewa Ethnogenesis, A.D. 1150-1400 (Arizona State University, 2010), is a multistranded study of the depopulation of the Mesa Verde region, and the origins of the Tewa People. Through meticulous study of archaeological material, skeletal remains, ethnography, and linguistic data, the author establishes that Tewa origins lay in a massive migration from the Mesa Verde region. This exodus likely stemmed from the rise of a religious movement against the increasing social hierarchy at Mesa Verde. To reconstruct Tewa ethnogenesis, the author traces Tewa biological, linguistic, and cultural inheritance, weaving diverse bodies of contemporary theory in multiple disciplines with original approaches, including a pioneering method for discerning conceptual metaphors in material culture. The dissertation exemplifies how a study focused on a particular question in prehistory can be a basis for a signal theoretical contribution to the anthropology of social change.

2010     Sarah Clayton (Arizona State University)

2009     Timothy Messner (Temple University)

2008     Kevin Fisher (Univeristy of Toronto)

2007     Matthew Liebmann (University of Pennsylvania)

2006     Elisabeth Hildebrand (Washington University in St. Louis)

2005     Severin Fowles (University of Michigan)

2004     Ian G. Robertson (Arizona State University)

2003     Wesley Bernardini (Arizona State University)

2002     Silvia R. Kembel (Stanford University)

2001     Andrew I.L. Duff (Arizona State University)

2000     Alex Barker (University of Michigan)

1999     Karen G. Harry (University of Arizona)

1998     Mark D. Varien (Arizona State University)

1997     Alvaro Higueras-Hare (University of Pittsburgh)

1996     Daniel R. Finamore (Boston University)

1995     David R. Abbott (Arizona State University)

1994     Mary Van Buren (University of Arizona)

1993     Cathy Lebo (Indiana University)

1992     Lynette C. Norr (University of Illinois)

1991     David Anderson (University of Michigan)

1990     David J. Bernstein (State University of New York at Stony Brook)

1988     Judith A. Habicht Mauche (Harvard University)