Archaeology PhDs Awarded (inter)National Dissertation Fellowships

Rodrigo Solinis-Casparius is the recipient of the very prestigious Premio Alfonso Caso from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) of México for the best PhD archaeology dissertation undertaken in México for his dissertation entitled, "The Role of Road Systems in Social Definition and Integration."

Rodrigo’s dissertation focuses on the mapping and analysis of a subset of the road network of the city of Angamuco in Michoacán, México (a conservative estimate of the size of the city at about 7 km2). The theoretical aim of his research was to understand the role that roads and trackways played in the creation of an urban social landscape. This study, which obtained additional funding from a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant (2015), required the development of its own survey and field methods which Rodrigo designed in its entirety, and the application of digital methods such as lidar and GIS for mapping and analysis. This dissertation made several important contributions to the field of archaeology, in particular the development of novel field and digital strategies for the study of ancient urban roads, as well as advancing our knowledge on how Angamuco's road network was used to define social identities and reinforce power structures through time. In addition, Rodrigo’s work shed light on various aspects of the Purépecha society, an empire contemporaneous with the Aztecs, but that seems to have lacked much of the symbology of power characteristic of the latter.

Rodrigo came to the University of Washington on a Fulbright Fellowship (2010-14) and a Mexican Council of Science and Technology or CONAYCT (2010- 2015) fellowship. After graduating with his PhD in 2020 he was accepted into a postdoctoral-to-tenure-track-faculty program in the Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago where he is currently collaborating on several projects and will soon lead a new project in Angamuco.

Ian Kretzler is the recipient of the equally prestigious Society for American Archaeology's 2021 Dissertation Award for the outstanding contributions, "An Archaeology of Survivance on the Grand Ronde Reservation: Telling Stories of Enduring Native Presence,” makes to the discipline.

Photo of Ian Kretzler

Ian is the first archaeology graduate recognized for this honor who has conducted community-based research with a Tribal Nation. For a field whose history of relations with Indigenous communities can be best characterized as extractive, Ian’s tribally-led approach to conducting heritage research with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde serves as a model for how our discipline might begin to transcend its colonial legacies by grounding research in the values of mutual respect, generosity, and trust. Ian’s advisor, Professor Sara Gonzales, relayed the following sentiment: “I can say without hesitation that Ian and his work with Grand Ronde embodies these values, and in so doing is helping to transform the discipline and practice of archaeology in the 21st century.” 

The awarding committee had this to say about Ian’s dissertation: “The committee all agreed that Dr. Kretzler’s work was a well-written and inno- vative approach to Indigenous archaeology. We were particularly impressed with how he wove together a complex theoretical perspective and effective methodology into a what one of our committee members called a “how-to guide” for a truly collaborative research project that involved the members of the Grand Ronde Nation from inception to conclusion. We were also very impressed with Dr. Kretzler’s emphasis on “survivance” and its broader implications with other aspects of archaeology and anthropology that include underrepresented communities and who have histories of colonial- ism. Overall, the Indigenous-led approach, the integration of archaeological and historical data with community knowledge, and the excellent presenta- tion of all this into a document that was a pleasure to read created a caliber of work that elevated it over the other nominees and made Dr. Kretzler our awardee (University of Washington).” 

Ian was recruited to the University of Washington with a Graduate School Fellowship for Excellence and Innovation (GSFEI) fellowship (2012-2015). He also received an ACLS Mellon Dissertation Fellowship (2018) to complete the final touches on his dissertation. After graduating with his PhD in 2019 he took on a position as Project Archaeologist at Cultural Resource Consultants, LLC.

News Category: