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The College of Arts Sciences

NES grad student receives NSF grant

April 26, 2016

Eilis, Monahan, is a graduate student in the field of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology. She has a BA in Classical and Near Eastern Art and Archaeology from Bryn Mawr College, and received an MA in Archaeology from Cornell University in 2010. Before returning to Cornell she spent a year as a Bilateral Exchange Fellowship student at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität, Heidelberg. She has participated in field work in the U.S., Greece, Hungary, Turkey, and Cyprus, where she continues to work as a staff member on the excavations at Politiko-Troullia. Her methodological interests include geophysical remote sensing, GIS, survey and ceramics, and her research interests encompass socio-political complexity, settlement and community, and ancient colonialism. Her current research focuses on the development of, and resistance against, political complexity on Cyprus during the Bronze Age. She has recently been approved for an NSF Dissertation Improvement grant. The following is the abstract from her grant proposal.

The modern world is characterized by countless differences that cut along economic, social, and political lines. Such structured and hierarchical divisions within human society are neither an essential nor inevitable condition of collective life, but develop under specific historical circumstances. Archaeology is uniquely poised to study how such “complex societies” come about, as it allows researchers to trace changes in social organization over the span of millennia through the material remains of human action. Such understanding helps us to better recognize both the opportunities and tradeoffs that come with different approaches to political life. Ms. Eilis Monahan of Cornell University will undertake research that investigates the early formation of complex societies, through a particular focus on landscapes and the built environment. Specifically, the research seeks to explain the roles played by defensive structures, such as fortifications, in creating the kinds of social and political boundaries that we take for granted today as basic features of modern societies. In many parts of the world, fortifications and other dramatic alterations to the landscape occur during times of transition to increased complexity. This research is therefore of broad social scientific relevance, contributing to wider debates on the relationships among power, society, and defense. Ms. Monahan’s study is undertaken in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus and will foster collegial intellectual and professional relationships between U.S., E.U. and Cypriot students and scholars. This project will also document threatened sites of cultural and historical significance, which will aid in the development of future heritage management planning in the region.

Ms. Monahan will investigate how the construction of fortifications creates a “disciplinary landscape” that alters how people experience and perceive space, and the impacts this has on the development and reinforcement of inequality. This project focuses on a cluster of four Middle Bronze Age fortresses in the Ayios Sozomenos region in central Cyprus. Located near vital copper sources, and situated at crossroads of communication and trade across the island, these massive fortified sites appear during the dramatic transformation of Cyprus from an insular and egalitarian village-based society to a socially-stratified urban society, engaged in diplomatic relations and trade with the great polities of the Eastern Mediterranean. Combining excavation, survey, and museum study, the research will investigate how these fortresses were constructed and used in conjunction with the location and chronology of other sites in the region. By evaluating how fortresses alter the ways that people can move, see, and act, and by analyzing shifting patterns of settlement, this research will reveal how fortifications change the ways in which people interact with each other and how, in turn, this contributes to the transformation of society.

Eilis also did a Q & A with the gradshool, that article can be found, here.