Summer of Exploration and Expeditions for UC San Diego Researchers

Albert Lin in Mongolia
Calit2 research scientist Albert Lin in Mongolia
San Diego, July 7, 2009-- Some of the most exciting projects on the University of California, San Diego's research agenda this summer are going forward thanks, in part, to funding from the National Geographic Society. The Society is funding international research and expeditions led by members of the university's Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3).

Take Albert Lin. The research scientist is spending the summer in Mongolia , with funding from an initiative of National Geographic Society (NGS) and the Waitt Institute for Discovery. The NGS/Waitt Grants provide up to $15,000 for “exploratory fieldwork that holds promise for new breakthroughs in the natural and social sciences.” In Lin’s case, the exploratory fieldwork involves a survey of a region of Mongolia assumed to contain the lost burial site of Genghis Khan.

At the 2009 National Geographic Explorers Symposium in Washington , D.C., Lin talked about his commitment to protecting the region. A brief video clip from Lin’s talk is available at 

Maurizio Seracini
CISA3 director Maurizio Seracini (center) tours the Calit2 Circuits Lab with officials from National Geographic.
The Explorers Symposium celebrated the Society's 2009 “emerging explorers” and gathered pioneers in a host of fields—anthropologists, archaeologists, conservationists, photographers, educators, oceanographers, epidemiologists, paleontologists, geneticists, geographers, linguists, urban planners, and more—from across the globe.

Lin and other NGS grantees draw on the technological capabilities of CISA3, which itself is a partnership of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), Jacobs School of Engineering and UCSD’s Division of Arts & Humanities.

CISA3 Director Maurizio Seracini also attended the annual Explorers Symposium. He is now in his second year as a National Geographic Fellow. Seracini was at the symposium to update fellow explorers on the search for a long-lost mural by Leonardo da Vinci, as well as other projects stemming from a 2008 agreement between NGS and the City of Florence .

Tom Levy
CISA3 associate director Tom Levy with pottery vessel from a site in Israel.
Meanwhile, preparations are underway this summer for a CISA3 expedition to Jordan ’s Faynan region, set to begin in October. With funding from National Geographic, UC San Diego archaeologist and CISA3 associate director Tom Levy aims to shed light on whether discoveries at an ancient copper mine known as Khirbat en-Nahas can be linked to events described in the Bible.  Levy recently received a National Geographic Society Expeditions Council grant of $50,000 for research he will carry out with his Jordanian colleague, Mohammad Najjar, at the ancient site of Khirbat en-Nahas (‘ruins of copper’ in Arabic).

In October 2008, National Geographic News carried a news article about Levy’s paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In that journal, the UC San Diego archaeologist concluded that ongoing excavations at the Jordanian dig site have proved that copper was first produced there almost 300 years earlier than previously thought – dating it to the 10th century B.C.E.

NGS’s Committee for Research and Exploration funded a 1997 expedition, when Levy led an international team of archaeologists, riding on donkeys, across the deserts of Israel and Jordan to reconstruct the region’s trading routes some 6,000 years ago. That expedition became the basis for “Journey to the Copper Age: Archaeology in the Holy Land ,” an exhibition featuring photographs by National Geographic photographer Kenneth Garrett. “Journey to the Copper Age” – which also featured a documentary produced by CISA3 – ended its nine-month run at the San Diego Museum of Man in February 2008.

Kyle Knabb in StarCAVE
Archaeology grad student Kyle Knabb navigates a 360-degree 3D computer model of the Jordanian desert in Calit2's StarCAVE virtual-reality environment.
In connection with Levy’s expedition this fall, his graduate student Kyle Knabb has also received support from the NGS Committee for Research and Exploration. Knabb will spend the summer exploring a relatively unknown seasonal drainage (Arabic = wadi) in the vicinity of the Faynan district.  As many parts of the wadi are inaccessible, Knabb will have to use abseiling and climbing skills to fully explore the area for ancient sites.  As part of his research, Kyle is working with the StarCAVE 3D virtual reality lab to model Jordanian archaeology data collected by the UCSD team.

Media Contacts

Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825,

Related Links

National Geographic
NGS Emerging Explorers 
NGS/Waitt Grants 
PNAS Video 
Journey to the Copper Age 
King Solomon’s (Copper) Mines? 
Albert Lin Video Clip at NGS 
GeoEye MediaRoom