Ellery Frahm
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Departments of Anthropology & Earth Sciences
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities


Nor Geghi 1 exacavations

Above: Excavations at Nor Geghi 1, a Lower Palaeolithic archaeological site in Armenia

I am currently a postdoctoral research associate in the Departments of Anthropology and Earth Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Previously, I was a Marie Curie Experienced Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield in England.

My research uses cutting-edge geochemical and geophysical characterization techniques 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. In my dissertation, I applied obsidian artifact sourcing as a means to reconstruct mobility and exchange networks throughout Northern Mesopotamia. Since then, I have co-directed and collaborated 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 interpret the data within a context of behavioral ecology as a means to examine factors in behavioral variability and cognition throughout the Palaeolithic world.

As an anthropological archaeologist, I am dedicated to a four-field approach to our discipline, and my teaching has incorporated the sociocultural and biological subfields whenever possible. As a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, I taught Anthropology of the Middle East and Geoarchaeology, and I also served as an advisor to Laboratory Techniques in Archaeology. Later, at the University of Sheffield, I developed and taught week-long 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 from throughout the EU how to conduct geochemical surveys to investigate how the inhabitants of a given site organized craft production. I have also contributed to the University of Connecticut’s Field School in Armenian Prehistory and to field schools in Syria and 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, experimental archaeology, lithic analysis, and human-environment interactions. My research has primarily occurred in Northern Mesopotamia (Syria and southeastern Turkey), the Eastern Mediterranean (Cyprus and Greece), and the South Caucasus (Armenia).

Below: Just a few of 20,000 obsidian artifacts excavated from Middle Palaeolithic Lusakert Cave 1 in Armenia

Armenian obsidian artifacts

Updated: 2/2015