Fostering synthetic research in archaeology

Committed to the importance of synthesis and inspired by the success of ecology’s National center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and other synthesis centers, Jeffrey Altschul and Keith Kintigh organized a workshop at the School for Advanced Research (SAR) focused on the question of how to foster synthetic research in archaeology. The February 2017 workshop was sponsored by the Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change, SAR, the SRI Foundation, and the University of Arizona School of Anthropology.

The workshop developed a strategy for advancing synthesis in archaeology, recognizing that unlike the groundbreaking ecology synthesis center NCEAS or its successor SESYNC, archaeology would not have the possibility of obtaining a multi-million dollar annual budget from NSF. The strategy that emerged from the workshop was to develop a coalition of partner organizations whose capacities could be leveraged to effect synthesis coupled with a university-based center devoted to synthesis in archaeology that could provide research, logistic, and administrative support for the synthesis efforts (Altschul et al. 2017, 2018). We envisioned partner organizations with diverse organizational capabilities: professional organizations, non-profits, cultural heritage firms, academic units, and providers of archaeological informatics. The NCEAS working group model was provisionally adopted as a format for coalition-sponsored synthesis projects.

Following the strategy developed in this workshop, the Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis (CfAS) was formed in late 2017 and the University of Colorado Center for Collaborative Synthesis in Archaeology (CCSA) was established in September 2020.  Bylaws for CfAS were adopted in December 2020.  

The Role of CCSA

The Center for Collaborative Synthesis in Archaeology (CCSA) was established within the University of Colorado, Boulder’s (CU) Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS) in September 2020 (see CU press release). As part of establishing CCSA, CU and the SRI Foundation, which houses CfAS, signed a Memorandum of Agreement that specifies the roles and responsibilities of each party.  The Center’s founding Director, Professor Scott Ortman, laid out his vision of the Center and its relationship to CfAS in the Winter 2020 issue of The Synthetic Report.