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The Wenner-Gren Foundation

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2005 Annual Report

Program Highlights for 2005

Viking Fund Medal

George Armelagos, 2005 Viking Fund Medalist

George ArmelagosIn 2005, the Wenner-Gren Board of Trustees awarded the Viking Fund Medal to Professor George Armelagos of Emory University, Georgia along with a $25,000 award. This is the third time the medal has been awarded since it was reinstituted by the Foundation as a way to honor anthropologists who have followed their own disctinctive trajectory within the academic, professional and teaching realms making a significant contribution to the development of anthropology. Previous recent medalists were Dr. Jane Hill (Regents' Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Arizona, Tucson) in 2004 and Professor Marilyn Strathern, (Cambridge University, UK) in 2003.
Dr. Armelagos is a biological anthropologist whose contributions and numerous publications span the broad field of Anthropology. His special interests lie in the interaction of biological and cultural systems within an evolutionary context. Through his research in the 1960s and 1970s with Sudanese Nubia, Dickson Mounds, Illinois, and elsewhere, he revolutionized the study of ancient disease in human populations by promoting an epidemiological approach and highlighting the evolutionary and ecological factors that are instrumental to the disease process. He has also done influential work on the evolution of food choice and the impacts of the agricultural transition on human populations in terms of health and disease. This work has resulted in a general theory of the evolution of human disease and the epidemiological transitions that have taken place throughout the course of human history. Through his work he has also encouraged a new generation of skeletal biologists to think about disease in prehistory in complex theoretical ways and back it up with good, empirical research.One of Dr. Armelagos' main contributions is the central role he has played in the establishment, development and promotion of Bioarchaeology as a field that combines physical anthropology, medical anthropology, forensics, health sciences and archaeology into the influential multi-disciplinary discipline that it is today. Alongside this impressive record, Dr. Armelagos has been active in thinking about race and its utility as a concept for understanding biological variation in human populations, arguing that race as a biological concept is of little value. He has continually endeavored to combine biological and cultural debates around this question and has been influential in disseminating these debates through his teaching and other public speaking and activities. Dr. Armelagos has influenced countless students and colleagues, whom he has encouraged and supported throughout his career and with whom he continues to collaborate.  

The award was presented at a reception and dinner for Professor Armelagos at the Foundation Offices in New York City.

(Professor Armelagos exchanges a Viking helmet with his wife, Lynn Sibley at the Viking Fund Medal reception where he was presented with the Viking Fund Medal and award, October 2005.)

A weekend long conference also took place at the Foundation offices where fifteen recent Wenner-Gren grantees where invited to participate and discuss their research along with Professor Armelagos and three other senior scholars all of whom have been influenced by Professor Armelagos' vision of anthropolgy. The interdisciplinary group of grantees where all invited as their work reflected various strands and themes of Professor Armelagos' research.  The outcome was a lively debate about the importance of interdisciplinary work and perspectives, and the future of anthropology.

Participants at the Grantees Conference in honor of the Viking Fund Medal 2005 were: 

Elizabeth Abrams, California Institute of Technology
Joanna Davidson, Emory University
Jason DeCaro, Emory University
Alexa Dietrich, Emory University
Matthew R. Dudgeon, Emory University
Lorena M. Havill, SouthWest Foundation for Biomedical Research
Linda Anne Larcombe, University of Manitoba
Sarah Lyon, University of Kentucky
Isaya O. Onjala, University of Alberta
Nia Parsons, Rutgers University
Hong Shang, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Kanokwan Tharawan, University of California, Santa Cruz
Melissa Emery Thompson, Harvard University
Tiffiny A. Tung, Vanderbilt University
Josh Snodgrass, University of Oregon.
Senior Scholars:
Professor George Armelagos, Emory University
Professor Alan Goodman, Hampshire College
Professor Alan Swedlund, University of Massachusetts
Professor Brooke Thomas, University of Massachusetts (retired).