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NEH awards Wayne State professor $205k grant for anthropology research in Caribbean

August 7, 2014

Krysta Ryzewski and the Wayne State archaeological research team in Montserrat


The National Endowment of Humanities (NEH) awarded Krysta Ryzewski, assistant professor of anthropology at Wayne State University, a collaborative research grant ($205,840) for her proposal, "Caribbean Colonial Interactions and Dynamic Island Communities: A Diachronic Archaeology of Montserrat, 1000-1730 AD".

The proposed research will be undertaken as part of the Survey and Landscape Archaeology on Montserrat project (SLAM), which Ryzewski has co-directed with John F. Cherry, Ph.D. of Brown University since 2010.

Last month the NEH announced $34 million in funding for 177 humanities projects across 12 of the agency's research, educational and training programs. Of the 11 collaborative research grants awarded nationwide, Ryzewski's was the only one granted for Caribbean-based research.

Montserrat is a small (100 sq. km) island and a British Overseas Territory located in the Leeward portion of the Lesser Antillean archipelago. The island is known as the "Emerald Isle of the Caribbean" in reference to its historical association with Irish laborers who were expelled from nearby islands by British colonists in the 17th century. They are credited for influencing many of the island's place names and present-day traditions.

The SLAM research project combines the scholarly traditions of prehistoric and historical archaeology to investigate the island's cultural history and the social dynamics of island life among Montserrat's inhabitants between approximately 1000 and 1730 AD -- a poorly understood period in Caribbean history.

Beginning in 2015, the NEH-funded research will involve students from Wayne State and other universities. Several locally based groups -- including the Montserrat National Trust, Volcano Observatory, Planning Department, local schools and educators -- will also participate in the three-year project.

The research team, comprised of scholars with expertise in archaeology, geophysics, geology, and history, will explore three important archaeological sites using a variety of cross-disciplinary techniques, including archaeological survey and excavation, GIS and LiDAR mapping, and archival research.

In addition to its research focus, the SLAM project will continue to design and participate in several Caribbean educational and preservation initiatives.

Ryzewski is a historical archaeologist whose research focuses on issues of colonialism, urbanization, disaster response and technology transfer in the Caribbean and North America. Along with her work on Montserrat, Ryzewski also conducts research in Detroit.

John F. Cherry, co-director of the SLAM project, is the Joukowsky Family Professor in Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University. He has undertaken fieldwork in Greece, Italy, Great Britain, the United States, Armenia and the Caribbean. His main interests are in archaeological survey, island archaeology and prehistory.

Visit the SLAM Facebook page for more information and photos. 

The National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities supports scholarly research that advances knowledge and understanding of the humanities. Awards are made to scholars working on research projects of significance to specific humanities fields and to the humanities as a whole.