Calit2 Archaeologist Named Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

By Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825,

San Diego, CA, May 6, 2008  -- The UC San Diego professor who is spearheading Calit2's efforts in digital archaeology, Tom Levy, is among seven UCSD scholars named to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Tom Levy
Tom Levy with pottery and sherds to be catalogued in a 'pottery informatics' database in CISA3.
[Photos by Pinar Istek for Calit2]

Levy is a professor of anthropology at UC San Diego where he holds the Norma Kershaw Endowed Chair in the Archaeology of Ancient Israel and the Neighboring Lands. He is also associate director for Calit2's Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3).

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences honors the country's leaders in scholarship, business, the arts and public affairs.  New members will be formally welcomed into the Academy at an Induction Ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 11, 2008. Founded in 1780, the Academy annually elects individuals who have made preeminent contributions to their disciplines and to society at large. The 2008 class of 190 new Fellows is made up of scholars, scientists, artists, civic, corporate and philanthropic leaders.

Tom Levy in StarCAVE
Levy (center) with digital recreation of a 3,000-year-old copper production site in biblical Edom, as viewed on Calit2's StarCAVE virtual-reality system; with grad student Kyle Knabb (left) and Calit2 postdoc Jurgen Schulze (right).
Levy has had a distinguished career as a field archaeologist working in Israel and Jordan, focusing primarily on the evolution of complex societies and on the role of technology in the evolution of ancient cultures.  Since joining the faculty in 1992, he has served as the chair of the Department of Anthropology, and currently as director of the Judaic Studies Program and as associate director for archaeology at CISA3.   Levy’s interests include anthropological archaeology, Biblical and Near Eastern archaeology, ethno-archaeology in India and the application of digital methods in archaeology.  In 2007, he served as the guest curator for the San Diego Museum of Man’s exhibition Journey to the Copper Age , carried out in association with the National Geographic Society and with support from the UCSD division of Calit2.

Levy's forthcoming book, Masters of Fire , will be published this summer, and will be the subject of  a CISA3 exhibition at UCSD's Geisel Library from October 2008 through January 2009. The book and exhibit showcased Levy's ethno-archaeological work with hereditary bronze casters in Swamimalai, a small town on the banks of the Kaveri river in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Tom Levy 2
Tom Levy
Within CISA3, Levy is leading an effort to develop a Digital Archaeology Atlas for the Holy Land (DAAHL). It aims to create a virtual atlas of archaeological sites, artifacts and other information dating from pre-Biblical times to the early 20th century, in what are today Israel, Jordan, southern Lebanon, the Sinai Peninsula and Syria. The atlas will be a high-tech research device and online gateway. Using the power of spatial information systems such as GIS, tens of thousands of recorded archaeological sites will be catalogued through maps, photographs and even interactive 3D representations of artifacts. The atlas would be made available over the Internet to the public and to researchers in the field, with digital visualization tools that allow them to explore the region’s history through its archaeological record.

The DAAHL project, with Stephen Savage of Arizona State University, brings together more than 30 archaeologists and experts in information technology from the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, as well as public and private groups able and willing to contribute to the effort.

Ultimately, CISA3 hopes to develop the Holy Land atlas as the fi rst ‘node’ in a network spanning the entire Mediterranean basin. If successful, the DAAHL could also become a prototype for similar efforts to document and study the archaeological record in other parts of the globe, including India, China, Africa and the Americas. In short, this CISA3 project aims
to demonstrate the transformative power of cyberinfrastructure for archaeological and historical studies around the Mediterranean region.

Joining Levy among the UCSD faculty named as Fellows of the Academy in 2008: the UCSD School of Medicine's Larry Goldstein, Harvey Karten, Richard D. Kolodner and Samuel Rapoport; economist Roger Gordon; and David Sandwell from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Related Links