Award Details


Book Award (Scholarly and Popular)

Nomination/Submission Deadline: 15 Nov 2020

Award Description

The Society for American Archaeology annually awards two prizes to honor recently published books. One prize is for a book that has had, or is expected to have, a major impact on the direction and character of archaeological research. The other prize is for a book that is written for the general public and presents the results of archaeological research to a broader audience. The Book Award committee solicits your nominations for these prizes. Books published in 2018 or more recently are eligible.

Who Is Eligible to Submit Nominations or Apply for the Award

The Book Award committee solicits nominations for these prizes from publishers. Books or edited volumes published in 2018 or more recently are eligible. In the Scholarly Book Award category, the first author must be a member of the SAA, and all authors receive the award. It is the publisher's duty to confirm that the first author/editor is an active SAA member. In the Popular Book Award category, author(s) do not need to be active members of the SAA and all authors receive the award.

Nomination/Submission Materials Required

A book will be evaluated in the format for which it was designed.  For a print book, one hard copy and a PDF of the nominated book must be sent to each member of the committee. If the only format for the book is electronic, a link to the digital copy in the format or on the platform for which it was designed and a PDF must be sent to each member. Please contact the chair of the committee for an updated list of committee members. The chair’s email can be found below in the Committee Information section.

Other Special Requirements

Nominators must arrange to have one hard copy and a PDF of the nominated book to each member of the committee for those books that are printed. For electronic-only books, nominators must arrange to send a link to the digital copy and a PDF to each member. For the Scholarly Award, publishers must ensure that the first author/editor is an active SAA member before submitting the nominated book. Please check with your authors to verify their membership.

Prior to any award recommendation being finalized and publicly announced, anyone recommended for an award, scholarship, or grant will be required to certify the following:

(a)  I am not and have not ever been the subject of a discrimination or harassment lawsuit or related administrative complaint that resulted in an adverse finding; and

(b)  I do not have and have not had a current or pending disciplinary action such as suspension or termination of registration, resulting from a Register of Professional Archaeologists’ grievance investigation.

Nature of Award (e.g. monetary, medal, symposium)

The awardee is recognized by the SAA through a plaque presented during the business meeting held at the Annual Meeting, a citation in The SAA Archaeological Record, and acknowledgment on the awards page of the SAA Website.

Current Committee Charge

The committee solicits nominations (popular, and scholarly) and selects recipients for the Book Award. The SAA may award two prizes to honor recently (within the past three years) published books. One prize is for a book that has had, or is expected to have, a major impact on the direction and character of archaeological research. The other prize is for a book that is written for the general public and presents the results of archaeological research to a broader audience.

Committee Composition

Committee composition is one chair and at least six members.

Term Length

Term length is three years. Individuals ending their terms cycle off the committee at the close of the Business Meeting held during the annual SAA Meeting, and new appointees begin their terms at this time.

Award Cycle


Committee Chair and End of Term

Rafael Cobos [2023]

Committee Chair Contact Information

Committee Members and Ends of Terms

Selection or Evaluation Criteria

The following are among the criteria to be used for evaluating books for the SAA book awards:

  • adheres to principles of archaeological ethics upheld by the Society for American Archaeology 
  • excellence in content, writing, organization, and presentation
  • excellence in research
  • originality, as representing a positive example for the discipline
  • clarity of argument
  • expected positive impact on archaeological research
  • clear and engaging writing style
  • presentation, especially visual

Committee Deliberation Process (e.g. dates, venue)

The Book Award Committee adheres to the following deadlines:

  • September 15: Nomination announcement sent to publishers
  • November 15: Deadline for receiving hard copies and PDFs of books. Each nominated book is read and evaluated by at least two committee members during the first round of evaluations
  • December 15: Deadline for committee members to submit a short list of top five selections in each category. The four or five books in each category with the highest combined scores advance to the final round
  • January 15: The top picks are reviewed in detail and the committee votes to select the winners
  • January 27: Committee submits award winners to the SAA Board
2020 Scholarly
Christine A. Hastorf
The Social Archaeology of Food: Thinking about Eating from Prehistory to the Present
  Popular Carl M. Davis Six Hundred Generations: An Archaeological History of Montana
2019 Scholarly Krish Seetah
Connecting Continents: Archaeology and History in the Indian Ocean World
  Popular Lynn Meskell A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace
2018 Scholarly Tom Dillehay Where the Land Meets the Sea
  Popular Peter Bogucki The Barbarians: Lost Civilizations
2017 Scholarly Carolyn E. Boyd The White Shaman Mural: An Enduring Creation Narrative in Rock Art of the Lower Pecos
  Scholarly (Honorable Mention)
Enrique Rodriguez-Alegría The Archaeology and History of Colonial Mexico: Mixing Epistemologies
  Popular Michael E. Smith At Home with the Aztecs: An Archaeologist Uncovers Their Daily Life
2016 Scholarly Robert L. Bettinger Orderly Anarchy: Sociopolitical Evolution in Aboriginal California
  Popular Miranda Aldhouse-Green Bog Bodies Uncovered: Solving Europe's Ancient Mystery
2015 Scholarly Steven A. Wernke Negotiated Settlements: Andean Communities and Landscapes under Inka and Spanish Colonialism
  Popular Dimitra Papagianni and Michael A. Morse The Neanderthals Rediscovered: How Modern Science is Rewriting their Story
2014 Scholarly Michael L. Galaty, Ols Lafe, Wayne E. Lee, and Zamir Tafilica Light and Shadow: Isolation and Interaction in the Shala Valley of Northern Albania
  Popular Jerry D. Moore The Prehistory of Home
2013 Scholarly Elizabeth Arkush Hillforts of the Ancient Andes: Colla Warfare, Society and Landscape
  Popular Patrick Kirch A Shark Going Inland is My Chief. The Island Civilization of Ancient Hawai’i
2012 Scholarly Matthew R. Des Lauriers sland of Fogs: Archaeological and Ethnohistorical investigations of Isla Cedros, Baja California
  Popular Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo Statues that Walked
2011   Vernon James Knight, Jr. Mound Excavations at Moundville: Architecture, Elites, and Social Order
    Steven R. Simms Traces of Fremont: Society and Rock Art in Ancient Utah
David W. Anthony The Horse, the Wheel and Language
    Rebecca Yamin Digging in the City of Brotherly Love
2009   Lothar von Falkenhausen Chinese Society in the Age of Confucius (1000-250 BC): The Archaeological Evidence
    Jack Brink Imagining Head-Smashed-In
2008   Tom D. Dillehay Monuments, Empires and Resistance
    James W. Bradley Before Albany
2007   Kristian Kristiansen & Thomas B. Larsson Transformations
    Bradley T. Lepper Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures
2006   Peter Bellwood First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies
    James E. Bruseth and Toni S. Turner From a Watery Grave: The Discovery and Excavation of
La Salle's Shipwreck, La Belle
2005   Kelley Hays-Gilpin Ambiguous Images: Gender and Rock Art
    Susan Toby Evans Ancient Mexico and Central America: Archaeology and Culture History
2004   Brian Fagan Before California: An Archaeologist Looks at Our Earliest Inhabitant
    T.J. (Tony) Wilkinson Archaeological Landscapes of the Near East
2003   Kathleen Deagan and José María Cruxent Archaeology at La Isabela: America's First European Town and Columbus's Outpost among the Tainos
    Thomas F. King, Randall S. Jacobson, Karen Ramey Burns, and Kenton Spading Amelia Earhart's Shoes: Is the Mystery Solved?
2002   Lewis R. Binford Constructing Frames of Reference: An Analytical Method for Archaeological Theory Building Using Ethnographic and Environmental Data Sets
    Ann-Marie Cantwell and Diana Dizerega Wall Unearthing Gotham: The Archaeology of New York City
2001   William W. Fitzhugh and Elisabeth I. Ward
Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga
2000   Clive Gamble The Paleolithic Societies of Europe
1999   Jon Muller Mississippian Political Economy
    Mark Lehner The Complete Pyramids
1998   Tom D. Dillehay Monte Verde, A Pleistocene Settlement in Chile
    Stephen Plog Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest
1997   Bruce D. Smith The Emergence of Agriculture
    Carmel Schrire Digging Through Darkness: Chronicles of an Archaeologist
1996   Mary C. Stiner Honor among Thieves: A Zooarchaeological Study of Neandertal Ecology