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News Release


Guggenheim Fellowship Boosts Linguistic Expertís Pursuit of Ancient Languages

Contact: Lisa James Goldsberry (518) 437-4989

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 15, 2003) -- University at Albany linguistic anthropologist John S. Justeson has been named a Guggenheim Fellow for 2003. He is one of 184 scholars, scientists and artists cited for the prestigious honor from a North American candidate pool of more than 3,200.

Justeson will use the $35,000 award to research and write a book on the decipherment of epi-Olmec hieroglyphic writing, co-authored with the University of Pittsburghís Terence Kaufman. The epi-Olmecs were an ancient civilization that inhabited the Gulf Coast of southern Mexico from 300 B.C. to A.D. 550. This book is one of a two-volume set; a second book will be authored by Kaufman on the history of languages of the Olmecs. The books cap years of research deciphering epi-Olmec script, which was made possible by the 1986 recovery, by the Museum of Anthropology of the University of Veracruz, of a four-ton rock slab that contained a long text written in the little-known epi-Olmec writing system. The language of this text was subsequently identified by Justeson and Kaufman as an ancestor of several indigenous languages of Mexico.

Justesonís research areas include historical linguistics, language and prehistory, writing systems, and Mesoamerican languages and hieroglyphic writing. He is involved in comparative research on writing systems, case studies on particular languages and scripts, and computational linguistic research using multi-million-word text databases.
Justeson, who has been on the UAlbany faculty since 1990, received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford University in 1978 and a masterís in Computer Science, focusing on computational linguistics, from Stanford in 1988. He has published widely on the languages of ancient cultures.

"John Justeson's Guggenheim Fellowship is a well-deserved recognition of his outstanding research and scholarship," said UAlbany President Karen R. Hitchcock. "He is widely respected by his peers for the exceptional quality and originality of his research. His seminal scholarship has advanced his discipline and has contributed in a major way to the excellent environment for learning and discovery which defines UAlbany."
Guggenheim Fellowships are distributed by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, founded in 1925 by former United States Senator and Mrs. Simon Guggenheim in memory of their son John Simon Guggenheim, who died April 26, 1922. Since 1925, the Foundation has granted some $220 million in Fellowships to more than 15,200 individuals.

Fellows are appointed to six- to twelve-month terms on the basis of distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. The program is intended to help provide Fellows with blocks of time in which they can work with as much creative freedom as possible. Grants are made freely; no special conditions attach to them, and Fellows may spend their grant funds in any manner they deem necessary to their work. The new Fellows include writers, painters, sculptors, photographers, film makers, choreographers, physical and biological scientists, social scientists, and scholars in the humanities. Many of these individuals hold appointments in colleges and universities, with 89 institutions being represented by one or more Fellows. A number of those named have no academic affiliation.

For a full list of 2003 Fellows, visit <>.

Established in 1844 and designated a center of the State University of New York in 1962, the University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in eight degree-granting schools and colleges.

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