About the Program

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Summer 2017: May 15-July 8, 2016

This summer, eight undergraduate students from all over the country will participate in the NSF REU Site offered jointly through the University of Georgia, the University of Northern Colorado, and the Università del Salento.  These students are junior partners of the Bioarchaeology of Mediterranean Colonies Project, a cross-disciplinary, international research program.

After an orientation at the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, Georgia, USA, students travel to Sicily, Italy, for four weeks to learn about Italy’s history and prehistory, visit archaeological sites and museums, and collect bioarchaeological data from human skeletons. The team will then spend four weeks at UGA apprenticed in laboratories collecting and analyzing data. Students will get to tour research labs across campus, learn and practice advanced laboratory techniques related to their projects, participate in professional development seminars, and present posters at a forum at UGA.

Location in Sicily


Map: Location of Himera on Sicily, 37 58′ 0″ N, 13 49′ 0″ E

The Research

During the Archaic period, Greek city-states established colonies throughout the Mediterranean. This period saw much culture contact and interaction between human populations. Historically, colonization has had major impacts on human health and lifestyle. Student research conducted this summer will concentrate on a major research question: What are the biocultural consequences of culture contact between human populations? The biocultural perspective considers humans as both biological and cultural beings, in which cultural influences can affect the biology of the human body in observable ways. Bioarchaeology, the study of human skeletal remains from the past, provides the best way to to explore this question.

Student projects can address this question by utilizing the approximately 12,000 skeletons that have been unearthed at Himera, including those from mass graves associated with the Battle of Himera (480 BC). Students are strongly encouraged to present and publish their research during the subsequent year(s) alongside other program alumni and the program directors.

More on Greek colonization

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Student research projects this year include these exciting methods:

  • Osteology
  • Paleopathology
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Stable isotope biogeochemistry
  • Dental histology
  • Dental microwear analysis
  • Activity pattern analysis
  • Biodistance analysis


Photo: Chiesa Madre Santa Fara, Cinisi Sicily


Stefano Vassal shares photographs of human burials that he and his team have excavated from Himera

 For more information visit:

NSF REU Site: Immersive Research in the Bioarchaeology of Greek Colonization, Sicily, Italy