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February 1 , 2006
DH 06 RH05
Contact: Russ Hudson,
Media Relations Coordinator
(310) 243-2455/2001

CSUDH gets $191,000 NSF Grant to Study Prehistory in Peru

Undergraduates to be in on the binational archaeological research effort

Carson, CA— After five years of trying, Jerry Moore, professor and chair, Anthropology Department at California State University, Dominguez Hills, has received a $191,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Archaeology Program for research in northern Peru.

When asked what worked in acquiring the grant this time, he laughs. “Sheer persistence. It’s not at all uncommon for an NSF proposal to have to be revised at least once. Over the last five years, the competition for these funds has become absolutely fierce. In this last round, 67 proposals were submitted. Ten will be funded. We are,” he adds, “very pleased.”

Moore’s NSF investigation, “Architecture and Power in Far Northern Peru: Archaeological Investigations in Tumbes, Peru,” will involve a binational team of American and Peruvian archaeologists; graduate students from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; UC Riverside; and undergraduate students from CSUDH and the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo of Peru.  During eight months of fieldwork scheduled for the summers of 2006 and 2007, Moore and his team will engage in the first comprehensive archaeological study in the state—there it is called a department—of Tumbes, Peru

“Virtually no one has worked in the area at all, in part because there are bigger sites elsewhere, with bigger mounds and flashier temples that are easier to find,” he says. “I’m always interested in frontiers: biogeographical, cultural, environmental, and intellectual.

"We have no idea what has happened in this region over thousands of years. The Inca were in this area, in around 1470 A.D. Tumbes is the first place where [Spanish explorer] Francisco Pizzarro encountered a representative of the Incan empire.”

Moore began working in Tumbes in 1996 with the support of the H. John Heinz III Charitable Foundation, beginning with an archaeological reconnaissance that recorded 36 sites. In 2003, he directed a small excavation project with funding from the Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Program and a grant from the Curtis T. and Mary Brennan Foundation. This project was the first excavation in the Tumbes region in four decades.

“That work convinced me that far from being a backwater, Tumbes sat in the midst of a vast and complex network of cultural exchanges, trade, and political forces,” Moore says.  “I want to understand those prehistoric dynamics.”

Tumbes’ location on the borders of Peru and Ecuador have limited scholarly access to the area, according to Moore, who emphasizes the difficulty of obtaining permits to explore the region from both governments and his hopes to open lines of communication between their academic communities.

“Folks who have worked in Peru do not work in Ecuador and vice versa because of the red tape,” he notes. “By the time you work through System A, you’re loathe to go to System B and start over. Because the two countries have fought each other over these territories as recently as 1995, Ecuadorian archaeologists and Peruvian archaeologists have not been speaking to one another. Now that Ecuador and Peru have settled those land claims and demilitarized the area, it's an opportune time to open up the channels of scientific communication across the border as well.

“One of the things that we’re hoping to develop in addition to the NSF research is to get funding to support a two-week workshop with Ecuadorean archaeologists and Peruvian archaeologists, and maybe some folks from France and the United States,” he says. “We would spend about a week in Ecuador looking at sites and collections and talking archaeology, then take a break of about four days and meet again on the other side of the border and do the same thing. My bet is that in three weeks, we will completely transform the way in which this region is thought about.”

Along with the archaeological exploration , Moore hopes that the experience will help CSUDH undergraduates explore career possibilities. He credits the success in obtaining the grant with the documentation of his previous work in Baja, California, Mexico, in which approximately 90 CSUDH students have participated since 1992. His work there resulted in a book, The Prehistory of Baja California (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2006), which he co-edited with archaeologist Don Laylander. It is in its second edition.

“The NSF has a variety of activities that focus on research experiences for undergraduates,” he says. “We not only bring undergraduates into the field, but 89 percent of them are women and other groups that are historically excluded from the sciences, 20 percent of whom go on to graduate studies in anthropology.”

With the help of the CSUDH Office of Research and Funded Programs, Moore is working on obtaining additional funds from NSF through its Research Experience for Undergraduates initiative. He enthuses about the academic and cultural opportunities for students.

“One of the things that excites me about this is that we’re going to take Dominguez Hills students to a completely different cultural experience and into a line of research. At the end of that experience, they’ll know that they can do it, too. These kinds of field experiences are largely reserved for graduate students. Undergraduate experiences in research are relatively few and they’re something to be highly valued, because they are transformative. They take people’s lives and transform them in ways they wouldn’t otherwise know.

“A large number of our students who have the study skills and the intellectual ability have not gotten the experience that tells them, ‘Yes, you can have a Ph.D., also,’” the professor says.

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University Communications
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(310) 243-2455


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Last updated February 1, 2006, 12:59 p.m.,
by Joanie Harmon