Above: Excavations at Nor Geghi 1, a Lower Palaeolithic archaeological site in Armenia
I am an anthropological archaeologist who uses geochemical and geophysical characterization techniques in order to understand how human groups interacted with the landscape and made decisions involving resources and land use, especially during times of marked environmental, technological, or biological change. I currently co-direct and collaborate on several research projects in Armenia, the central theme of which is better understanding the lifeways of Neanderthals and other early humans in the Caucasus. To do this, I analyze their stone tools, crafted from obsidian found throughout the region, and use the data as a means to examine the causes of behavioral variability, including climate shifts and different environmental contexts, throughout the Palaeolithic world. In parallel with my Armenian projects, I am investigating similar themes in Kenya, studying Stone Age populations who lived near Lake Victoria and the East African Rift Valley.
I am dedicated to a multi-field approach to our discipline, and my teaching incorporates the sociocultural and biological subfields whenever possible. As a lecturer at the University of Minnesota, I taught Anthropology of the Middle East and Geoarchaeology, and I served as an advisor to Laboratory Techniques in Archaeology. Later, at the University of Sheffield, I developed and taught short courses that incorporated classroom and experiential learning through authentic research experiences. For example, I organized a field-based short course in Cyprus that taught students how to conduct geochemical surveys to investigate how the inhabitants of a given site spatially organized craft production. I have also contributed to the University of Connecticut’s Field School in Armenian Prehistory and to a field school in New Mexico.
More generally, I am interested in issues involving natural resource access, provisioning, exchange, and use at varied scales (from supra-regional to intra-site) as well as the development and maintenance of social networks, mobility and provisioning strategies, settlement patterns, organization of space, spatial and social contexts of production, the development of culture, early human expansions, technological choice and change, lithic analysis, and human-environment interactions.
Below: Just a few of 20,000 obsidian artifacts excavated from Middle Palaeolithic Lusakert Cave 1 in Armenia