Greek archaeologist Michael Cosmopoulos was recently elected by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in honor of his accomplishments in his more than 30 years of research and scholarship into ancient Greece.
He was one of 261 new members chosen for the 2022 class. Cosmopoulos will be inducted at a ceremony in 2023.
“It does feel good to be recognized in the sense that your peers and your colleagues see that you have done some significant work in the field,” said Cosmopoulos, who received a message from American Academy of Arts and Sciences President David W. Oxtoby notifying him of his election.
“There is also a practical aspect in that it opens up a lot of possibilities for collaborative projects within the Academy,” he told the University of Missouri–St. Louis Daily.
Founded in 1780, the Αcademy honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and work together, as expressed in its charter, “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people,” according to its website.
The archeologist is renowned for his work on ancient Greece
Cosmopoulos is especially known for his work with the Iklaina Archaeological Project, which he directs.
The little-known site Iklaina on the Peloponnesian peninsula was a major center of Mycenaean culture; findings now indicate that it was the very first city-state in ancient Greece.
At Iklaina, the Greek archaeologist has uncovered evidence of the early development of a two-tiered system of government not unlike what exists in the United States today.
The discoveries made there have transformed what had previously been believed about the origins of states and governments in ancient Greece.
Before Iklaina, Cosmopoulos directed the Oropos Project and the excavation of the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Eleusis.
Cosmopoulos was “surrounded” by the ancient Greek world
Cosmopoulos’ interest in the ancient world was almost unavoidable, as he grew up in Athens.
“You’re surrounded by it,” said Cosmopoulos, who studied archaeology, history, and literature at the University of Athens as an undergraduate student.
“I grew up with a book on Greek myths. So, I always felt enamored with ancient Greece, and I never had any doubts as to what I would like to do with my life. I love history. I love those ruins, the broken stones and the ancient artifacts,” he reveals.
“Then, as I was maturing, I realized that all these are part of a story—the human story. The more I researched ancient Greece, the more I saw the connection to today and the relevance that it has to our lives today,” he told the University of Missouri–St. Louis Daily.
Greek archeologist gets a thrill from discovery
“I cannot begin to describe to you the feeling when you actually excavate something,” Cosmopoulos said.
“You take it out of the ground, and you realize that what you hold in your hands has not seen the light of the sun for 3,000 or 4,000 years. The last time someone actually saw this object was the person who held it so long ago, so it’s like a direct connection to a human being who lived thousands of years ago,” he said.
Cosmopoulos, who earned his master’s and PhD at Washington University in St. Louis and has also studied classical languages at Sorbonne University, has been featured prominently in the national and international press, including on PBS and the National Geographic Channel, and his work has earned him the title of National Geographic Explorer.
The Greek archaeologist has published 16 books and more than 100 studies in scientific journals, scholarly volumes, and conference proceedings that cover topics ranging from prehistoric archaeology and ancient Greek religion to classical art.
Cosmopoulos has previously been elected to the European Academy of Sciences and Arts and the Royal Society of Canada and is a corresponding member of the Academy of Athens.
Cosmopoulos is the first U.S.-based Greek archaeologist to be elected as a regular member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since his mentor, famed Washington University Professor of Archaeology George Mylonas (1898-1988), who was elected in 1961, the University of Missouri–St. Louis Daily notes.