An interdisciplinary team of Indigenous and western scientists from around the globe recently received the 2024 Newcomb Cleveland Prize from the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for their research on the evolution of domestic horses and their dispersal in North America and eventually to Eurasia. The award is given annually by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to an outstanding publication in Science.

Emily Lena Jones
Emily Lena Jones

The diverse authorship team of Early Dispersal of Domestic Horses in the Great Plains and Northern Rockies published their research in the journal in the spring of 2023. The team included four researchers affiliated with The University of New Mexico.

Lead author is UNM Anthropology graduate Will Taylor who is currently assistant professor and curator of Archaeology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. UNM Professor Emily Jones was one of the senior coauthors on the paper. UNM graduates Caroline Gabe, currently assistant professor of Anthropology at Adams State University in Colorado, and Victoria Monagle, who is now in the UNM Archaeology Ph.D. program, were also among the authors.

The award of $25,000, given at the annual AAAS meeting, is the oldest and most prestigious award given by the organization. It is offered annually to an outstanding publication in Science. 

The paper, which combined archaeozoological study of ancient horses from archaeological sites and museum collections across the continent with cutting-edge genomics, and traditional Indigenous scientific knowledge, helped rewrite the story of people and horses in North America – showing that horses had deeper antiquity in Native societies across the region than could be gleaned from European or American historical records. Most importantly, the research demonstrated the enhanced research experience and scientific power that comes from thoughtful cross-cultural partnerships based on equal footing. 

The funds from the award will be donated to create a new endowment at the University of Colorado, named in memoriam for late study co-author and elder, Knowledge Keeper and cultural educator for the Sicangu Lakota People, Sam High Crane. The endowment will help support research and training for Indigenous perspectives and young professionals in archaeology, archaeogenetics, and the museum world. This donation is the first step in a larger partnership between leaders from the Global Institute for Traditional Sciences (GIFTS), the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Paul Sabatier University of Toulouse, and the University of Colorado.

Related article