My overarching research program is geared towards tracking the interactions of Paleolithic (stone tool-using) human cultures with their environments. I approach this within an evolutionary framework generally, and a behavioral ecological perspective (i.e., how behavior contributes to reproductive success) specifically. My methodological specialty is the identification and analysis of animal bones (zooarchaeology), which can inform human paleoecology through the reconstruction of both diet and subsistence behavior and ancient environments. Much of my research is also grounded in and informed by: (1) taphonomy, or how sites transition from the biosphere to the lithosphere and (2) actualism, or the observation of contemporary processes and their effects, in both tightly controlled experimental and more naturalistic contexts, to give meaning to the prehistoric record. I am also a committed teacher and regularly involve students in my research: I strive to engage students with material in such a way as to encourage life-long learning.
I am involved in two major projects. The first is the Lori Depression Paleoanthropological Project (LDPP), which I co-direct with my colleague Boris Gasparian of the Armenian Academy of Sciences. Our goal is to document the Paleolithic settlement of northern Armenia and, since 2009, we have discovered 23 open-air sites and are in the process of excavating several of them. The second involves excavations at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, which, in addition to being the world’s most well-known paleoanthropological site, is part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since 2012, I have directed excavations in the DK area of the gorge. Dated at nearly 1.9 million years ago, DK is one of the gorge’s oldest archaeological localities. This research is conducted in concert with The Olduvai Paleoanthropology and Paleoecology Project (TOPPP), an international, collaborative, and trans-disciplinary endeavor focused on tracking environmental changes and early hominin behavior between about 2 and 1 million years ago.