Archaeologists affiliated with the Institute accordingly focus on excavations in the Middle East and in the southeastern United States. They are involved in the full range of archaeological work, including basic research, field excavations, laboratory analysis and report preparation, as well as cultural resource management and public archaeology. The Institute works with businesses, municipalities, and state, federal and international agencies to assist them in complying with antiquities regulations and with cultural resource and environmental laws. The Cobb Institute is an independent research and service unit of the College of Arts & Sciences at Mississippi State University. Its Senior Research Staff, including its Director, enjoy formal cross-affiliations with the Religion and Anthropology programs of the Departments of Philosophy and Religion and of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work. Interdisciplinary associations are also maintained with other campus units. In practice these have included the Departments of Art, Foreign Languages, Geosciences and History of the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Architecture and Colleges of Forest Resources and Engineering.
External Advisory Board
From left to right, Dr. Jeffrey Clark, Dr. Jack Bennett, Dr. Lynne Sullivan, Dr. James Wiseman, and Dean Philip Oldham. Not shown, Dr. Bruce Smith and Dr. Melinda Zeder.
The Lois Dowdle Cobb Museum of Archaeology primarily displays exhibits of artifacts from the two major areas of the Institute's research: the ancient Middle East and the southeastern United States. During the academic term the museum is open to the public on week days. Its artifact collections also include materials from other areas of the world. These are displayed in the "Virtual Museum" section on the Institute's web site.
The Institute's library was renamed in 2002 the "E. J. Vardaman Reading Room" in honor of the Institute's first director. It holds a collection of approximately 2000 volumes of books and periodicals.The major part of these relate to Middle Eastern history and archaeology. There is also a modest collection of materials related to North American Indians and archaeology in the southeastern U.S.
In addition to its main building, the Institute also manages a separate 6,000 square-foot curation facility located on Buckner Lane on the university south campus which serves for storage and analysis of archaeological research collections and records. This facility houses all U.S. Corps of Engineers' collections from excavations in Mississippi related to development of the Tombigbee Waterway as well as materials from other state and regional sites. The curation building includes several additional offices and laboratory spaces. Its large storage area has special environmental controls and security systems.
Since 1983, the Institute has been the major sponsor of the Lahav Research Project and its ongoing program of archaeological investigations at Tell Halif, near Kibbutz Lahav in southern Israel. Along with Mississippi State University, a consortium of other American academic institutions supports the Lahav Project. In the most recent field seasons, these institutions included Emory University, Miami University of Ohio, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, California State University at Los Angeles, Gustavus Adolphus College, and Rhodes College. Each of the project's seasons of field work included a Field School program operated by the MSU Department of Philosophy and Religion and the College of Arts & Sciences.
The Lahav Project was organized in 1975 and through 2002 has completed three major phases of excavation effort involving eleven seasons of field research. These efforts revealed fifteen separate occupation phases at the site, including major settlements from the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Periods (3500 to 2300 B.C.) and from the Israelite period of the Iron II Age (900 to 700 B.C.). Significant finds also have been recovered from the Late Bronze Age (1550 to 1200 B.C.) when the site largely was under Egyptian influence, and from the Late Roman/Byzantine era (A.D. 100 to 600) when the region was the scene of Jewish and Christian resettlement after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.
Preliminary reports on the Lahav Project work have appeared regularly in the Israel Exploration Journal, Revue Biblique, and The Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). Researchers have published numerous other articles on special aspects of the research. Detailed excavation reports from each season have been filed with the Israel Antiquities Authority and with ASOR's Committee on Archaeological Policy. Work on the project's series of final excavation report volumes is well under way.
In addition to its direct sponsorship of excavations the Cobb Institute has also supported faculty and student participation in other Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean projects. These include the efforts at Ain Ghazal in Jordan, at Caesarea Maritima in Israel, and at ancient Marion and elsewhere on Cyprus. The Institute has also provided logistical support for the ASOR Joint Project at Tell el-Hesi in Israel, and for the publication efforts of the Expedition to et-Tell/Ai in the Palestinian West Bank. Cobb researchers are also directly engaged in publication efforts related to the Drew / McCormick / Harvard excavations at Tell Balatah / Shechem and to the Hebrew Union College excavations at Tell Gezer.
At present, the Cobb Institute remains engaged in Phase III of Lahav Research Project work and in publication efforts related to earlier Phases I and II materials. Initial field research for Phase III was conducted during two summer seasons in 1992 and 1993 and a follow up effort was mounted in the summer of 1999. This work is focused on investigation of the fortified town system of the Iron Age located in Field IV on the western end of the tell. This research was successful in providing the exposure of a large expanse of public and domestic houses adjacent to the town fortifications and in enabling further articulation of the Iron Age city's overall plan. Ongoing analysis of the information gained is helping to generate a better understanding of the role of Tell Halif in the southern defense perimeter of the ancient Kingdom of Judah, and of the economic and political framework of the southern region between the 9th and the 7th centuries B.C.
Archaeologists from MSU have also been involved in several large-scale excavation projects in connection with subsequent waterway development. These were supported through funding of over $600,000 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service. An example of the research results obtained from these projects comes from the Sanders site in Clay County, which was excavated in 1988. The site, dating from the Late Gulf Formation period (850-400 B.C.), was a small shell midden that contained pieces of over 62 different pots. Many of these were elaborately decorated with incised lines and punctations.
In 1986, with $500,000 in funding provided by the Mobile District Corps of Engineers, the university built the Cobb Institute Curation facility. It currently holds all materials and records deriving from the Mississippi portion of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway archaeological projects along with other major local and regional research collections. This laboratory meets federal curation standards, and can accept additional collections.
Along with its contract work, the Cobb Institute's research program in Mississippi archaeology is also incorporated in archaeological field school programs operated by the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work. These serve to train students in mapping, archaeological survey, and excavation. Most recently Field Schools were held at sites on the Mississippi State campus, in the nearby Tombigbee National Forest in connection with the U.S. Forest Service, at sites around Starkville on private lands and along the right of ways for the new Highways 82 and 25 by-pass system under contracts with the Mississippi Department of Transportation and at Lyons Bluff, a large prehistoric mound and village site located on private land along Line Creek to the east of Starkville.
the Cobb Institute continues to be engaged in a number of major
North American research efforts. Among these is the project at
Lyons Bluff which includes an ongoing schedule of field work along
with a program involving the restudy of materials excavated at
the site in the 1960s. In addition artifact analysis and report
preparation continues on materials from several MDOT project sites
along the by-pass system around Starkville and on materials from
excavations at a 17th/18th century A.D. Chickasaw village at the
North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, MS. Research is also
underway on a environmental archaeology study of land snails from
Native American sites around Starkville with National Science
Foundation support , and on a joint project with the University
of Mississippi involving restudy of National Park Service collections
of Chickasaw artifacts recovered by Moreau Chamber in 1937, and
Jesse Jennings and Albert Spaulding between 1939 and 1941, with
funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Cobb Institute
researchers are also engaged in the analysis of animal and human
osteological material. Current research is focused on osteological
data from Tell Halif in Israel, and from Lyon's Bluff and other
regional sites. The latter research focuses on developing understanding
of economic relationships between Mississippian mound groups and
Affiliated Academic Programs