Generosity Carved in Stone

Anonymous donors have created the Lewis and Clark Fellowships program to support graduate student exploration of paleoanthropology.
July 17, 2012
In 2009, archaeology graduate student Eric Heffter volunteered at a European Upper Paleolithic site in Breitenbach, Germany.
In 2009, archaeology graduate student Eric Heffter volunteered at a European Upper Paleolithic site in Breitenbach, Germany.

When you think of “Lewis and Clark,” you probably think of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the transcontinental expedition to the Pacific Coast by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

However, in establishing the Lewis and Clark Fellowships in Paleoanthropology, anonymous supporters of the University of Arizona have chosen to honor the contributions of scholars Lewis R. Binford and F. Clark Howell to the study of human evolution.

The new fellowship will support three UA graduate students a year for up to three years in the doctoral program in the UA School of Anthropology doctoral program. The awardees, who receive $25,000 a year, must pursue studies in paleolithic archaeology or paleoanthropology.

“As a paleoanthropologist myself, I’m especially cognizant of how important this fellowship is by allowing our school to recruit and retain some of the very best post-baccalaureate students interested in pursuing the story of human evolution from an interdisciplinary perspective,” said John Olsen, acting director of the School of Anthrogpology.

“All of us in the School of Anthropology are immensely grateful to the fellowship’s donors," said Olsen, also a Regents' Professor of Anthropology.

John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, said: "I am very thankful for this fellowship because raising funds for graduate students is one of my top priorities. Graduate funding not only helps the next generation of researchers and teachers, it also helps our departments maintain their top rankings.”

The first fellowship awardee is Eric Heffter, an archaeology student focusing on lithic technology from the European Upper Paleolithic – termed, by some, the Late Stone Age – a period that lasted from about 40,000 years ago to just before the advent of agriculture.

“I study how people made and used stone tools, particularly in Europe,” Heffter explained.

"Stone tools are a technology that helped people better adapt to the environment. Even better, stone tools, and more importantly the debris from making the tools themselves, are ubiquitous on most sites and are usually very well preserved," he said.

Heffter has excavated at several Upper Paleolithic sites, including Vogelherd, Breitenbach and Willendorf II. He also has helped excavate an Icelandic farmstead; participated in the excavation of Hammondville, an abandoned iron mining town in the Adirondacks; and assisted in documenting the stern of Vasa, a 17th-century warship.

“On all the sites I have worked on I held positions as an excavator (except in the case of Vasa), which is just a fancy way of saying that I remove dirt in a scientific manner in order to find artifacts which we will then use to find out how people lived in the past,” Heffter said.

Heffter said the fellowship will allow him to focus on his studies and start research on his thesis, which will involve using experimental data to research the social and technical skills necessary to produce the world’s earliest stone artifacts, known as the Oldowan industry.

“I was absolutely delighted to receive the fellowship,” he said. “I wish to thank the donors for supporting research in paleoanthropology and archaeology, areas where funding is typically hard to come by, especially in these harsh economic times.”