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Archaeology department co-founder named to newly endowed professorship

Michelle Romano, January 24, 2007

After co-founding Boston University's archaeology department more than 25 years ago, professor James Wiseman was recently appointed a newly endowed professorship, the Founder's Chair of Archaeology, in the only independent archaeology department in the country.

Funded by the Joukowsky Family Foundation, a private charity foundation in New York, the endowment will help establish income for future department investments. Wiseman was granted the honor at a reception Nov. 1 in the School of Management, and a Dec. 7 Joukowsky Foundation press release officially titled Wiseman with the professorship.

"There are archaeology programs [at other universities] . . . but interdepartmental programs are usually a kind of step toward a department," Wiseman said. "Unfortunately, in most universities, that's not the case in archaeology. It's fragmented [and] in the control of the faculty who have their budget lines in other departments."

Wiseman, who began his career at BU in 1973 as a classics professor, co-founded the Center for Archaeological Studies in 1980, the nation's only independent archaeology department to date, with the late Creighton Gabel, a BU anthropology professor.

"An endowed Chair is an honor given to an individual distinguished member of the faculty, and carries no specific duties but much prestige," said archaeology chairman Norman Hammond in an email. "[Wiseman] continues to teach, direct the Center and Context and play a full part in our activities, and long may he do so."

Wiseman is also a founding editor to several publications, including the Journal of Field Archaeology, a scholarly journal that publishes articles on archaeological research worldwide, and Context, a biannual publication run through the Center.

According to the archaeology department, the Center today has field schools in Menorca, Spain and Belize, as well as faculty and students conducting research on five continents.

"We'd like to continue to grow," Wiseman said. "It would help if more professorships were endowed and if there were more fellowships [in the department]."

In addition to tackling archaeological research across the globe, some students feel the department's uniqueness attracts many students.

"I came to BU because it is the only independent archaeology department in the nation," said College of Arts and Sciences senior Matthew Piscitelli in an email. "All other schools have archaeology professors that teach within an anthropology department."

Before 1974, the College of Liberal Arts, now CAS, offered interdepartmental courses in archaeology. After five years and a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the university established a degree-awarding interdepartmental Archaeological Studies Program. After gaining Board of Trustees approval in 1982, the Center's faculty succeeded in creating a separate archaeology department.

Since the Center's initiation, the department has worked with several federal agencies and private corporations in archaeological research, including investigations led by the Center's former Office of Public Archaeology. The department has also extended its interests to other fields of study within the university. In 1985, BU created the Center for Remote Sensing, joining the archaeology department with the earth sciences and geography departments to "provide facilities for interdisciplinary research," according to the archaeology website.

Hammond said the department encourages open-mindedness among staff members so they can learn from each other and appeal to students' different interests.

"It is a very collegial department, with faculty who take an interest even in areas of research that they themselves do not work in and teach broad courses that enlarge their and the students' knowledge of archaeology worldwide," he said.

Piscitelli said professors' field experience helps encourage student interest in archaeology.

"[The] professors are great - some are just like Indiana Jones, [and] others are virtual encyclopedias of knowledge," he said.

While Hammond said BU's archaeology department has had overall success, he hopes other universities will follow BU's initiative and develop goals for the future of their archaeology programs as well.

"I would like to see [our program] expand, with more faculty teaching in areas of the world that we currently cannot cover," he said. "I would like to see more departments of archaeology established that will follow our trailblazing example, set by Jim Wiseman."

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