A privately funded international research program administered at the University of Maine has awarded $87,000 in grants to researchers studying economic and cultural ties among peoples of the ancient world. The projects will be carried out in Europe, the Canary Islands, Latin America, the Mideast and Pacific islands.
The Scientific Committee of the Foundation for Exploration and Research on Cultural Origins (FERCO) met in Tenerife, the Canary Islands on April 16 to make the awards, according to Daniel Sandweiss, associate professor of anthropology at UMaine and the president of the FERCO committee.
Sandweiss is also a member of UMaine’s Institute for Quaternary Studies which administers FERCO accounts for research and communications programs. FERCO was established in 1992 with headquarters at the Ethnographic Park of the Pyramids of Guimar in the Canary Islands by Norwegian scientist and explorer Thor Heyerdahl and Norwegian businessman Fred Olsen. Heyerdahl also holds a position as distinguished research associate with the Institute for Quaternary Studies.
The proposals funded by FERCO include, among others, a study of altars in the Canary Islands; excavations in a prehistoric site in Turkey and at an early temple site in Peru; mapping an ancient farming site in southern Arabia; explorations for new archaeological sites on the island of Tobago (Caribbean), in the Peruvian mountains, and on the Korinthian coast of Greece; and chemical tracking of ancient pottery from Pacific islands.
Sandweiss and Heyerdahl met in Peru in the late 1980s and collaborated on excavations at the large pyramid complex at Túcume. They have continued to cooperate on projects including a major FERCO-sponsored international conference on culture and climate at UMaine in 1998.
"FERCO’s grant program allows us to further Thor Heyerdahl’s vision of archaeology as an interdisciplinary, collaborative science and to support his interest in the possible connections between the different peoples of the world. With FERCO's interest in exploration, we can sometimes support ground-breaking scientific, but potentially risky projects that other funding agencies cannot fund, such as the search for pre-ceramic sites on the shores of Tobago," says Sandweiss.
Other members of the FERCO scientific committee include James B. Richardson, III, professor of anthropology and chief curator of anthropology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, University of Pittsburgh; Donald P. Ryan of Pacific Lutheran University; and Lic. Vicente Valencia, archeological supervisor at the Pyramids of Guimar, Tenerife Island, Spain. Heyerdahl is the committee’s founding president.
Long-distance interactions and ancient use of the world’s oceans for travel and trade are among FERCO’s highest research priorities.
FERCO is supported by Fred.Olsen, S.A., a major Canary Islands corporation which includes the Timex Corporation in Middlebury, Connecticut. Eventually, funds generated by the Ethnographic Park in the Canary Islands will support the foundation’s research programs. FERCO supports research to determine the age and origins of the park’s pyramids which resemble other step pyramids in Mexico, Peru and ancient Mesopotamia.
The Foundation plans to provide archeologists and other scientists with competitive research funding again in 2000.
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