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Sanjyot Mehendale, Chair

Sanjyot Mehendale teaches on Central Asia in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. An archaeologist specializing in cross-cultural connections of early Common Era Eurasia, she received her Doctorandus degree in Indo-Iranian art and archaeology from the Rijksuniversity of Leiden, The Netherlands. In 1997, she received her PhD. degree at the University of California at Berkeley, her work focusing on the archaeology of Eurasian trading networks. Soon thereafter, she began teaching on various aspects of the Silk Roads and Central Asia in Berkeley’s Department of Near Eastern Studies. In 1999, she developed and became the co-director of a joint project with the Uzbek Institute of Archaeology in Samarkand to survey and excavate sites in southern Sogdiana. The Uzbek-Berkeley Archaeological Mission’s work (2000–2004) was supported by grants from the Stahl Fund and the Mellon Foundation. She was also the Executive Director of the Caucasus and Central Asia Program at the Institute of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (2002–2006) and taught on Central Asia as Visiting Faculty at Mills College (2009).

For many years Dr. Mehendale has worked to develop Silk Road studies at Berkeley, starting with a Townsend Center for the Humanities-sponsored “Silk Road Working Group” (with Dr. Bruce Williams) and, more recently, the “Silk Road Initiative” housed at the university’s Center for Buddhist Studies. Her work on institutional collaborations includes outreach and academic programs developed with Cal Performances in conjunction with residencies by the Silk Road Ensemble (founded by cellist Yo Yo Ma) and, as a member of the Society for Asian Art’s Advisory Board, at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.

Recent research and writing projects have been supported by various grants including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a publicly accessible database of the ivory and bone carvings uncovered at the early Common Era Kushan site at Bagram (Afghanistan). In 2007, she became a consultant to the National Geographic Society and the San Francisco Asian Art Museum to help structure the Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul exhibition as well as to contribute to the accompanying catalogue. Since 1996, she has conducted archaeological research in Sri Lanka, looking into first Millennium CE maritime connections across the Indian Ocean, including the joint excavation of a 2,000 year-old shipwreck off the southern coast of the island, sponsored by a National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research Grant (Co-Principal Investigator, Deborah Carlson, President, Institute of Nautical Archaeology, Texas A&M).

As the inaugural Chair of the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, she looks forward to broadening and deepening the university's efforts as a hub for Silk Road and Central Asia studies.