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EMBARGOED UNTIL: Sunday AM newspapers, October 5, 2003

Media Contact: Barry Jagoda, (858) 534-8567


For his exceptional creativity and originality in research revealing secrets of ancient cities, University of California, San Diego anthropological archaeologist Guillermo Algaze has been named a MacArthur Foundation fellow. The $500,000 “genius” grant was awarded with no strings attached.

Algaze is the 13th UCSD scholar to receive a MacArthur Fellowship and the University’s sixth social scientist to be so honored.

Algaze, 48, chair of the UCSD Department of Anthropology, is widely recognized for developing new approaches to understanding origins and society in early cities. His extensive work in southeastern Turkey and the Mesopotamian area of the Middle East has produced new data about economics, politics, culture and everyday life, including evidence of early urban planning and substantial trading activity from cities that existed nearly 5,000 years ago.

“We could see the importance of trade to these early cities and realized that they thrived in part because of propitious geography and climate,” said Algaze. His ambitious reconstruction of ancient economies has been a catalyst for many new archeological studies and his work has provided models for further exploration of ancient civilizations.

Algaze is the author of The Uruk World System, a highly influential study that details the expansion by trade, and creation of distant settlements, by the 4th millennium leaders of low lying Mesopotamian cities, along the Tigres and Euphrates Rivers in what is now southern Iraq. This expansion, concisely detailed in the book, is described as a successful effort to gain vital natural resources from peripheral areas in the higher altitudes of modern day Turkey, Syria and northern Iraq. Algaze concluded that this expansion created an “informal empire” on the basis of economics rather than political domination.

UCSD Social Sciences Dean, Paul Drake, said, “Guillermo Algaze is representative of the high quality faculty at UCSD and in the Social Sciences and his work illustrates our continuing efforts to more deeply understand society and its evolution.”

Asked for his reaction to the award Algaze said, “I was really surprised and very honored. At a young age I became interested in the origins of civilization and I am so grateful that UCSD has given me the opportunity to do this kind of research. Having the award will not make any fundamental changes, but I may get more time to do some work on a book I have in mind.”

Born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico, Algaze is a 1976 graduate of the University of Puerto Rico and earned the Ph.D at the University of Chicago in 1986. He joined the UCSD faculty in 1990. Algaze and his wife, Susan, a speech language pathologist, have a five-year old daughter, Arielle.

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