Critique of Archaeological Reason
1. Introduction to the website


Giorgio Buccellati – February 2016

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Work on the Critique book and the website has progressed in close interaction with actual fieldwork. It has also resulted in a collaborative network that includes especially young researchers and students. These two factors combined meant that funding was necessary in order to maintain an adequate operational level.

Obviously, the budget for fieldwork as such is of an altogether different scale. I will not therefore mention here those sources of support, which are instead listed in the Urkesh website. Their support must, however, be acknowledged here at least by implication, especially because the theoretical dimension of the fieldwork was always mentioned as a prominent component of the field work itself, and therefore, however indirectly, of its costs. While there was, for the excavation projects, no specific budgetary allocation for the effort that resulted in the Critique book and in this website, the final outcome of that effort would not in fact have been possible without the excavations.

Here, I will therefore mention only those funding sources that have been and are more directly involved in the support of specific aspects of this website.

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A sustained effort

I have address the issue of the longue durée in the history section. The longer and the more tortuous our effort, the greater was my need to find, in the various funding agencies, understanding of the larger goals and trust in my ability to achieve them. Results were often muted by the fact that they could only be properly assessed in the light of the overall scope of the project, something which did not immediately transpire from the concrete achievements that affected, each time, only a part of the overall design.

Seeing now the project completed in all its various components, of which the ones addressed below were particularly significant, offers a good opportunity to acknowledge how much the sustained support from these various sources meant not only in operational, but also in pshychological, terms.

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Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA

Besides supporting field work at Mozan, the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology houses the Mesopotamian Lab, where the project official resides. While small in terms of physical space, it provides for all the needs of the project in two principal ways.

(1) We have here the server, which connects us of course to the world wide web in the manner in which you are now visualizing the website. But beyond that, it has come to serve as the intellectual hub where our collaborators from around the world gather in an open ended virtual seminar. – For the server, the Cotsen provides IT support through the UCLA Social Sciences Computing office.

(2) The Mesopotamian lab is the place where we gather for regular meetings with the local staff, and with the many collaborators (and visitors) who come to Los Angeles. The lab also houses not only the archives and collections of the Terqa and Urkesh excavations, but also data more specifically related to the Critique project, in particular the pertinent digital and paper archival material.

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Council on Research of the Academic Senate, UCLA

Over the years, the Council on Research of the Academic Senate at UCLA has been a most effective and enlightened funding source for a variety of research projects, several of which related to the Critique project, from field work at Tell Mozan to both the book (CAR*) and the website. I list them here by the year in which they were awarded:

1996-98 A Grammar of the stratigraphic record
2001-02 A Grammar of the archaeological record
2004-07 Digital publication of various stratigraphic units
2008-09 The Urkesh website as narrative
2009-11 A scholarly website for the Terqa excavations
2012-13 A Critique of Archaeological Reason
2015-16 A Critique of Archaeological Reason – The website

As it clearly appears, their support stretched over a long period of time, covering various moments in the development of the project, and it is particularly gratifying to be able to acknowledge this now that all the individual components of the project have come into place. The complexity of the two interrelated websites, the one about data and this one about theory, justify, I believe, the longue durée of the project overall.

The support was primarily for research assistance, on the part of both graduate and undergraduate students, and occasionally post-docs as well.

Results were often in the form of incremental advances in the construction of the websites, and were reported in various publications.

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Andrew Mellon Foundation

In the years 2008-12 a major grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation was made through UCLA within the program, inaugurated in 2003, aimed at supporting the research of retired scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. The two year project was devoted to “An Archaeological Grammar and a Global Record for the Monumental Urban Complex of Urkesh.”

Besides providing a most welcome opportunity for me to support especially young post-doctoral scholars working on the project, the grant provided an impulse to our effort because of the recognition it gave to our goals, especially through the personal interest on the part of Harriet Zuckerman, Senior Vice-President, and Joseph Meisel, Program Officer for Research Universities and Humanistic Scholarship.

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Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano

The Research Office of the Catholic University in Milan provided a major grant for a research project devoted to The Hermeneutics of Archaeology. The project had originated as a larger ERC grant, submitted through the Catholic University, which received positive reviews but was not funded.

The project enabled me to organize a year long course, through the Philosophy Department, in which a number of colleagues and young scolars took part. It was an interdisciplinary setting at its best, and this contributed immensely to the formulation of the final section of the Critique book and of the pertinent portions of this website.

Chancellor Lorenzo Ornaghi was personally supportive of the project in its earliest stages, and Drs. Mario Gatti, Director of the Milan Campus, and Guido Castelli, Director of the Office for Research and Scientific Projects, were directly involved in making the project a success.

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IIMAS – The International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies

IIMAS is an independent research institute that has been active in raising funds for all the projects that pertain to the Critique book and to this website. Over the years and to this date, its contibution has been essential in making it possible to maintain a sustained pace in our research, supplementing whatever the other grants could not fully cover. These funds were especially devoted to supporting our young scholars’ research, to purchase computer equipment (including the server), to cover the costs of IT support for the server.

Three major current grants support:

  1. the overall final editing of this website;
  2. the rewriting of the programs I had originally written for the UGR, which are essential for the data component of the digital approach to archaeology on which the theoretical part rests;
  3. a final revision of the ceramics corpus and relative digital book, which serves as a model for typological analysis as defined in my theoretical approach.

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