Director's Message

WendrichAn important lesson from the past two years: flexibility is key. A recent example is that the country-wide supply-chain issues have delayed the printed version of Backdirt, our annual report. Nevertheless, a digital version of the 2021 issue of Backdirt is out and you can read and download the many thoughtful articles right here! This overview of 2021 is rather optimistically called “Homecoming” and shows on its cover our first in-person meeting since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic when, in September 2021, we opened the academic year. Masked and a bit uncomfortable we enjoyed personalized snacks and drinks. A printed version of Backdirt will hopefully be available soon.

Both the 2020 and the 2021 editions of Backdirt provide a unique time document. The impact of the pandemic has been highlighted on many different levels. In many cases our students had to cancel their field research, resulting in at least a set-back and at times a complete change in plans of their PhD research. Also on a personal level the isolation, tensions and uncertainties have taken their toll. Our faculty and students had to switch back and forth from in-person, to remote, to hybrid teaching, often on short notice.

The upside is that we have shown that as a community we can be sensitive and supportive, flexible and accommodating. The many meetings on Zoom have also revealed that we can connect in a meaningful way across large distances. The pandemic has given birth to the Archaeological Centers Coalition (ACC), a group of representatives of the main archaeological academic institutions in the country. The ACC works closely with the Indigenous Archaeology Collective, the Society for Black Archaeologists, the Wenner Gren Foundation, and the online journal and podcast producer Sapiens. The ACC organizes webinars and a podcast series under the title Talk Back,” featuring PhD students from the different universities. This runs parallel to the Sapiens podcast series Our Past is Our Future.” The Cotsen Institute of Archaeology sponsors Number 7 in the series, to be released in April 2022.

We have a great number of excellent lectures on archaeology and conservation to look forward to. You can expect announcements for the following lecture series:

Breaking Ground | Ground Breaking

A quarterly public lecture series that focuses on archaeology. The title expresses that archaeology is so much more than excavating. Format: hybrid.

Author Spotlight

A quarterly event that highlights the author of one of our recently published books. Format: hybrid.

Conservation Conversations

A monthly lecture on topics linked to the conservation profession. Format: online

Distinguished Lecture in Conservation

Once per quarter the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program invites a distinguished lecturer. Format: online

 Teen Friends of Archaeology lecture

A program of lectures, once each quarter, envisioned and organized by the Teen Friends of Archaeology.


Apart from these events, which will be advertised through our website and mailing lists, there are also weekly additional hybrid get-togethers for the Cotsen Community and events organized by several of our labs. We are finding our way in this new hybrid landscape, where some of us cannot wait to go back to in-person meetings, while others are living far from campus or feel much safer behind their screen at home. As I said at the beginning: flexibility is key, now more than ever.

Willeke Wendrich
Director, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology

11 February 2022