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Archaeology and Archaeometry

Status: Archived

Archived funding opportunity

This document has been archived. See NSF 23-573 and NSF 23-566 for the latest documents.

Important information for proposers

All proposals must be submitted in accordance with the requirements specified in this funding opportunity and in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) that is in effect for the relevant due date to which the proposal is being submitted. It is the responsibility of the proposer to ensure that the proposal meets these requirements. Submitting a proposal prior to a specified deadline does not negate this requirement.

Supports archaeologically relevant laboratory and field research with the goal of increasing anthropologically focused understanding of the past.


The goal of the Archaeology Program is to fund research which furthers anthropologically relevant archaeological knowledge. In accordance with the National Science Foundation’s mission such research has the potential to provide fundamental scientific insight. While within the broad range of “archaeology” the focus is on projects judged to be significant from an anthropological perspective, the Program sets no priorities based on time period, geographic region or specific research topic. The Program administers four competitions each of which is described below. It also supports projects submitted under NSF-wide competition guidelines. These include CAREER, EAGER, RAPID and Research Experiences for Undergraduates Supplement requests.

Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Awards (DDRI)

For a detailed description of the Archaeology Program DDRI competition, see Solicitation NSF 15-554 which can be accessed via the Archaeology DDRI web site. It contains additional rules not presented in this synopsis. The DDRI competition provides up to $20,000 (+ university indirect/overhead costs) to permit graduate students enrolled in US universities to conduct dissertation research. The student need not be a US citizen or national. While the student writes the proposal and conducts/supervises the research, the dissertation advisor serves as the Principal Investigator and the student is listed as the Co-PI. Salary and normal living expenses are not eligible costs but per diem and most other research expenses are allowable. Both field and non-field projects are funded.  Proposals may be submitted at any time and applicants are normally informally notified of the likely outcome within three months. Applications are sent for evaluation to six individuals (“ad hoc reviewers”) specifically selected for subject matter expertise. Students are allowed to resubmit one time if their original proposal is declined. Unless Program Officer dispensation is obtained, a student, through their advisor, may submit only two proposals (an original submission and a resubmission if necessary).

Senior Archaeological Research

The Archaeology Program holds a twice yearly competition to provide support for senior investigator archaeological research. The target dates, as noted above, are July 1 and December 20. (In contrast to “deadlines”, “target dates” permit leeway as determined by the Program Director.) Each proposal is sent to a set of ad hoc reviewers and is also evaluated together with the other applications submitted in that round by a broadly based panel of anthropological archaeologists. Grants are normally two to three years in duration. In the US Government fiscal year 2018 (FY18), the average award (including both direct and indirect costs) was approximately $172,000 with individual grants ranging from $29,000 to $312,000 in size.

Archaeometry Research Awards

The Archaeology Program administers an annual “archaeometry” competition with a target date of December 1. The goal is to fund projects either to develop/refine anthropologically relevant archaeometric techniques and/or support laboratories which provide relevant services. Examples of the former include the development of methods to identify specific types of organic residues on ceramics or development of field applicable analytic techniques. Service laboratories which, for example provide dating trace element, isotopic and dendrochronological analyses illustrate the latter. Projects which apply standard archaeometic techniques with the goal to answer specific archaeological questions should be submitted to the “senior” archaeology competition.  Data archives, in common with archaeometric laboratories, function to strengthen basic archaeological infrastructure.  Therefore, Principal Investigators may submit proposals through the archaeometry competition to assist in meeting this goal.  Proposals are evaluated by both ad hoc reviewers and a panel composed of individuals who combine both archaeological and archaeometric expertise. Awards (including indirect costs) are normally two to three years in duration and in FY18 ranged from $99,000 to $188,000 in size. The average award was $144,000.

High Risk Research in Biological Anthropology and/or Archaeology (HRRBAA)
(See Solicitation NSF 19-570 which can be accessed via the HRRBAA program web site.)

This competition is designed to permit the submission of high-risk, exploratory proposals that can lead to significant new anthropological knowledge. Because of a highly competitive environment, proposals that have both a high risk of failure and the potential for significant payoffs are less able to compete with standard research proposals. This program is designed to provide a mechanism whereby risky proposals with a great potential for advancement of the discipline can compete for funding. The risk involved in such endeavors must significantly exceed that associated with regular archaeology research projects. “Risk” in this context refers to risk of project failure and not risk of site destruction. The competition is also not intended to provide “start-up” grants. Maximum awards are limited to $35,000 in total cost and proposals may be submitted at any time. They are evaluated by ad hoc reviewers only.  In FY18 the HRRBAA program did not make any high risk awards.

NSF Required Data Management Plan

All proposals must include as a supplementary document a plan for data management and sharing the products of research. The data-management plan to be submitted with a proposal must be no longer than two (2) pages in length.

This supplementary document should describe how the proposal will conform to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results. For more information about this requirement, please see the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Chapter II.C.2.j.   Please note: the SBE Directorate has additional guidance for proposals submitted to SBE programs, please see Data Management for NSF SBE Directorate Proposals and Awards. Questions should be addressed to John Yellen via e-mail (jyellen@nsf.gov).

While the Archaeology Program does not sponsor, endorse or have an official arrangement with any data archive it would note that two organizations provide this service: Open Context (https://opencontext.org) and The Digital Archaeological Record - tDAR (https://www.tdar.org).

One may contact Open Context’s Editor (publish@opentext.org) for further information and info@digitalantiquity.org which maintains and develops tDAR.

In addition to the NSF guidance, you may find the guidance provided by the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) helpful. Additional resources can be found at the SAA site.

When necessary, applicants may request funds to implement a data management plan.

For more information about multi-disciplinary research and training opportunities, please visit the SBE Office of Multidisciplinary Activities (SMA) web site.

Also, for more information on the Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants, please visit the Archaeology Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Awards program web site.

Program contacts

John E. Yellen
Program Director
jyellen@nsf.gov (703) 292-8759 SBE/BCS
Don Rimon
Program Analyst
drimon@nsf.gov (703) 292-2960 SBE/BCS

Awards made through this program

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Map of recent awards made through this program