University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Kyle Olson

Kyle Olson
Department of Anthropology
Elected: 2016

Kyle is currently a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology, focusing on Near Eastern and Central Asian Archaeology. His research is guided by a number of interests including: ceramics, settlement patterns, and social organization; landscape archaeology and geospatial analysis; longue durée processes of interaction at various scales; the archaeology of the Silk Road; the Great Game and its implications for modern geopolitics; the history of US-Iranian diplomatic relations; Russophone Orientalism; materiality, semiotics, and the archaeology of the contemporary past.

Prior to arriving at Penn, he graduated summa cum laude from The Ohio State University with Honors in the Arts and Sciences and with Honors Research Distinction in Anthropology in 2012, receiving a B.A. in Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. At Ohio State, he was awarded the Social and Behavioral Sciences Undergraduate Research Scholarship, the Undergraduate Research Office’s Summer Research Fellowship, and a number of smaller travel grants to present at conferences and participate in fieldwork. As an undergraduate, he participated in three seasons of survey and excavation at the Neolithic-Chalcolithic transition site of Szeghalom-Kovacshalom in Bekes County, Hungary, participated in a field school at Cahokia, and excavated at the site of Halqout in Dhofar, Oman. He wrote his undergraduate thesis on the Penn Museum’s famous collection of figurines from Tureng Tepe, the results of which are in the process of being submitted to the journals Signs and Society and Iranica Antiqua.

Kyle’s research has been supported by a number of grants and awards, including the Kolb Fellowship, two Critical Language Scholarships (Russia, 2012 and Tajikistan, 2015), the Department of Anthropology’s Summer Field Fund, and the Penn Museum’s Summer Research Grant, as well as the President Gutmann Leadership Award. His dissertation research explores the formation and transformation of regional interaction spheres and trade networks on the northern periphery of the Ancient Near East as a way to better understand the factors shaping the larger trade circuits that connected Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean, Central Asia, and the Indus together during pre- and proto-history.

While at Penn, he has participated in excavations and surveys at Oğlanqala, Azerbaijan under the direction of Dr. Lauren Ristvet (Penn Anthropology), at Bat in Oman, and at Smith Creek in southwestern Mississippi under the direction of Dr. Meg Kassabaum (also of Penn Anthropology). Over the course of his time at Penn, Kyle has presented papers at the Center for Ancient Studies Graduate Conference, the TemPennTon Graduate Anthropology Forum, the annual SAA meetings, the Semiotic Anthropology Conference, and twice at the International Congress of Young Archaeologists, held biennially in Tehran, Iran.


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