Michael Cosmopoulos, archaeologist at UMSL, will continue his Greek summer dig project with a new NSF grant.

University of Missouri–St. Louis archaeologist Michael Cosmopoulos has received a $130,284 National Science Foundation grant to continue his work in Greece.

Each summer Cosmopoulos, the Hellenic Government Karakas Family Endowed Professor of Greek Studies at UMSL, leads a team of students, staff and specialists in an excavation in Iklaina, Greece.

“The grant will allow us to continue work on the origins of states and government in ancient Greece,” Cosmopoulos said. “The NSF funding is a critical part in allowing us to continue these excavations and giving us the opportunity to unearth amazing artifacts from Greek history.”

The grant, which runs from Sept. 1 until Aug. 31, will benefit the summer digs and start the project, “Early State Formation and Expansion: Iklaina, a Secondary Center of the Mycenaean State of Pylos, Greece.”

This is the second federal grant awarded to the project. Cosmopoulos received a 3-year $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which expired this year.

Last summer, Cosmopoulos and his team uncovered the oldest written record in Europe. The find changes what is known about the origins of literacy and bureaucracy in the Western world. The tablet, measured at 2 inches by 3 inches, is thought to date back to between 1450 and 1350 B.C. – 100 to 150 years before the tablets from the Petsas House at Mycenae. The rare artifact was unearthed at the site in Iklaina, which sits in the middle of an olive grove in southwest Greece.

The unearthing of the tablet was reported in the Spring 2011 issue of UMSL Magazine. Cosmopoulos told the magazine he was in shock at his finding.

“This discovery is the biggest surprise in years of excavation. It was found in a burned refuse dump,” Cosmopoulos said. “The tablet is only the latest in a series of discoveries at Iklaina. In the last two years, the excavation has brought to light evidence for the existence of an early Mycenaean palace: elaborate architecture, massive ‘Cyclopean’ terrace walls, colorful murals and a drainage system far ahead of its time.”

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Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton