ABOUT MY RESEARCH
I am an anthropological archaeologist studying the origins of complex societies in the South Caucasus. I co-direct an international collaborative expedition called Project ArAGATS, together with scholars and co-directors from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Republic of Armenia, Cornell University, NYU/Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
My interests also extend to the use of remote sensing, GIS, and photogrammetric techniques and a critical engagement with how these new digital data collections methods are impacting archaeological practice, particularly in post-colonial contexts. Many of the data sets and methods we employ provide excellent opportunities for student participation in the field and laboratory.
Over the past two decades, Project ArAGATS' research has focused on understanding the origins and shifting texture of political complexity in the highlands of the South Caucasus--present data Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia--during the Bronze and Iron Age periods (roughly 3200-400 BC). Our survey and excavations since 1998 have centered on fortified landscapes in the Tsaghkahovit Plain and Kasakh River valley of northern Armenia. My particular interests focus on the role of local communities in the creation of new sociopolitical institutions during the mid-2nd millennium BC and the shifting role of militarism in political subjectivity, social cohesion/fragmentation, and settlement systems with the appearance of fortresses during the Late Bronze Age (1500-1100 BC). Our goal is a holistic understating of the range factors that affected the rise of complex polities in the South Caucasus, including internal political dynamics, environmental change, and historical transformations reverberating from Mesopotamia and the greater Near Eastern world.
Our research programs employ a broad suite of traditional and innovative archaeological methods including archaeozoology, paleobotany, paleoclimate data, bioarchaeology, geomorphology, and photogrammetry as means of advancing our research and increasing in-country research capacities through training and educational programming.
In addition to my field research, I am a past president of the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC), an independent not-for-profit organization that supports collaborative research on Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, both in the South Caucasus and in the US. Through fellowships, conferences, teaching resources and other forms of cooperation, ARISC works to facilitate and enhance the study of this important region.
Orientation to Project ArAGATS' study area in the Mt. Aragats region of Armenia
The following links lead to detailed information about my field-based research projects on Armenia's Late Bronze Age. Different phases of this research have been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Fulbright, the Social Science Research Council, and Purdue University.
This NSF-funded settlement survey of the Kasakh River valley in northern Armenia represents the newest phase of Project ArAGATS into long-term shifts in ancient fortress settlement systems, warfare, and political transformation in the South Caucasus.
Click on the link above to learn more about the aims of the survey and some of our initial findings.
Our investigations into the origins of political complexity in the South Caucasus has led to excavations at several Late Bronze Age “cyclopean” hillforts in Armenia, including the site of Tsaghkahovit. My interest in local households and communities drives my research at a LBA settlement at the base of the fort, to gain perspective on life in the shadow of these monumental redoubts.
Studying the flows of artifacts and goods among sites in our study area provides important insights into economic and political relationships between fortresses and the social position of their occupants. Analyzing the geochemical composition of artifacts and raw material sources can tell us how far artifacts were transported from their points of origin, and interpret the social contexts through which the circulation of goods occurred.
My research in the Caucasus over the past two decades has taken place as a member and co-director of Project ArAGATS, an international research program of American and Armenian scholars and the longest running archaeological research collaboration in the region. Founded in 1998, ArAGATS is dedicated to the exploration of southern Caucasia’s past from the earliest times through the modern era, and invested in training a new generation of scholars, through a wide array of field and laboratory methods. Click the link above to learn more about the full scope of Project ArAGATS’ investigations and explore our searchable database.
Overview of some of the data collection techniques I use in studying Bronze Age landscapes in Armenia
Ever since consumer-level unmanned aerial vehicles, or "drones", came on the market in 2012, they have become an essential addition to the field archaeologist's toolkit for photo-documenting excavations to generating orthophotos, digital surface models, and topo maps of archaeological landscapes.
Click here to learn more about our use of drones and photogrammetry on Project ArAGATS.
Geophysical survey techniques, including magnetometry, are efficient, non-invasive means of identifying buried archaeological features under certain conditions. Since 2008 we've employed magnetometry to map the extent of ancient settlements at the sites of Tsaghkahovit and Gegharot.
Learn more about our geophysical prospection program here.
Archaeologists have long relied on GIS technology to manage and analyze the large quantities of spatial data derived from archaeological landscapes. Recent hardware and software improvements allow for "mobile GIS" techniques to record sites on smart phones and tablets, and instantly transmit the data to our project database halfway around the world via cellular connection.
Learn more about how we use GIS on the KVAS settlement survey.
Abstracts and PDFs of select publications
MANNING, S., SMITH, A.T., KHATCHADOURIAN, L., BADALYAN, R., LINDSAY, I., GREENE, A.F., & MARSHALL, M. (2018). A NEW CHRONOLOGICAL MODEL FOR THE BRONZE AND IRON AGE SOUTH CAUCASUS: RADIOCARBON RESULTS FROM PROJECT ARAGATS, ARMENIA. ANTIQUITY, 92(366), 1530–1551.
The South Caucasus occupies the divide between ancient Mesopotamia and prehistoric Europe, and was thus crucial in the development of Old World societies. Chronologies for the region, however, have lacked the definition achieved in surrounding areas. Concentrating on the Tsaghkahovit Plain of north-western Armenia, Project ArAGATS’s multi-site radiocarbon dataset has now produced Bayesian modelling, which provides tight chronometric support for tracing the transmission of technology, population movement and social developments that shaped the Eurasian Bronze and Iron Ages.
Descriptions and syllabi for courses I teach in the Department of Anthropology.
Department of Anthropology Excellence in Teaching Award (2013-14 & 2016-17)
College of Liberal Arts Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award (2016-17)
Kenneth Kofmehl Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award (2016-17)
ANTH 201: INTRODUCTION TO ARCHAEOLOGY AND WORLD PREHISTORY
Fulfills the following requirements: University Core Curriculum (Behavior/Social Sciences category) and Cornerstone Certificate curriculum (Science & Technology theme)
Introduction to the ideas and practices of archaeology that are used in the contemporary study of human prehistory. Emphasis is placed on the social and technological changes that accompanied major turning points in the human past, including the earliest stone tools, the development of farming, through the advent of writing and monumental architecture among ancient states.