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Science Reporter Wins Archaeology Writing Award for "Sailing Sinbad's Seas"

Science correspondent Andrew Lawler has won the 2015 Society for American Archaeology's annual Gene S. Stuart Award for his story on the ancient Indian Ocean trade routes that rivaled the famed Silk Road.

"Sailing Sinbad's Seas," published in the 27 June 2014 issue of the journal, describes how these immensely important but overlooked trade routes are being retraced in archaeological sites ranging from East Africa to Sri Lanka to Cambodia. The markers of these routes lie in newly uncovered shipwrecks, glass beads, walled cities, and even the genes of the Indian Ocean's present day populations. The evidence suggests that an intercontinental, networked world isn't just a modern invention, Lawler writes.


Lawler's story covered archaeological discoveries along many coastal areas of the Indian Ocean. | Science/ AAAS

"The breadth of history in the Indian Ocean is astonishing," Lawler said, "and the links between Africa and Asia are critical to understanding the emergence of the first seafaring trade and how ideas, technology, and people spread around this vast region."

Lawler , who joined Science in 1994, has reported on archaeology in the Middle East, Central Asia, and China since 2000. After covering the analysis of a 2nd century B.C.E. Sri Lankan shipwreck for the journal, Lawler said he was curious to know more about the southern trade routes. The Indian Ocean, he noted, "gets far less attention from archaeologists than, say, the Mediterranean, though it is a much larger area and arguably the most important maritime region in the ancient world-and again one of the busiest today."

"Andrew's ability to spot this story and pull it together from many different sources is a credit to his deep background in archaeology, which few other reporters can match," said Science News Editor Tim Appenzeller.


Andrew Lawler

Given annually, the Gene S. Stuart Award recognizes the author of the most interesting and outstanding original newspaper or magazine story published in the past year that enhances the public understanding of archaeology. Lawler received $2,000 and a plaque at an awards ceremony at the Society for American Archaeology's annual meeting, held 15-19 April in San Francisco, California.

Lawler also won the 2009 Stuart Award for his collection of News Focus articles on the Indus civilization, which were published in the 6 June 2008 of Science. He is currently touring for his new book, Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?, published last year by Atria Books.

[Credit for associated teaser image: Samir Luther/ CC BY-SA 2.0]