University assistant professor honored with international archaeology award

John L. Cotter Award recognizes outstanding achievements of historical archaeologist

5/1/2013 | By: Megan Akers  |

The world's largest scholarly organization dedicated to the archaeology of the modern world recently awarded a University of Nevada, Reno assistant professor with a notable distinguished honor. The Society for Historical Archaeology presented the prestigious John L. Cotter Award to Sarah Cowie in Leicester, England at the beginning of the year.

The honor is bestowed upon one historical archaeologist each year for outstanding achievement early in the individual's career. The official nomination for the award cited Cowie's "research on power relations in a broad range of historical situations, which has served to expand the cross-over reach and influence of historical archaeology into scholarly as well as the applied archaeological communities."

Cowie, assistant professor of anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts, has done extensive research on power relationships and heritage management. Her recent work is based on researching how tensions between Native American tribes and federal agencies regarding heritage consultation can be lowered. The result of the work will be the development of a model that outlines a strategy for positively improving and humanizing the process of respectful consultation between tribes and the federal government.

"I am very pleased about receiving this award, particularly because it also recognizes the need to address the influence of past power relations and their effects on the well-being of present-day populations," Cowie said.

The nomination also recognized Cowie's book, The Plurality of Power: An Archaeology of Industrial Capitalism, which provides a theoretical model for studying power relations in capitalist societies. The book mainly focuses on an analysis of social power relationships in the United States, and how the influence of historic relationships has shaped the modern dynamics within social networks of diverse members of American society.

During summer 2012, in cooperation with the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, Cowie directed an excavation of one of Nevada's most important early hospitals, St. Mary Louise Hospital in Virginia City, Nev. Cowie led a team of undergraduate students, graduate student field supervisors and volunteers who excavated and studied artifacts looking for insight into the health care, gender roles, ethnicity and religion in the West. Cowie is currently looking forward to directing another field school excavation this summer in Carson City, Nev.


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