My research uses the methods of archaeology and ethnography to study the relations between people, politics, and the material world of objects, landscapes, and built environments. I pursue this concern with the materiality of political life across temporal boundaries -- ancient and modern -- with a particular focus on Armenia and the South Caucasus. My research revolves around problems of empire, modernity, Soviet socialism and its afterlife. I am also interested in the use of satellite technologies to bear witness to cultural erasure, and am currently involved in a long-term project to monitor and document the destruction of cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh.
My first book, Imperial Matter: Ancient Persia and the Archaeology of Empires (UC Press, 2016), develops an archaeological framework for understanding the endurance of imperial formations that centers on how the material world contributes to the making of political life under empire. The ancient Persian Empire and its northern province of Armenia provide the empirical terrain for detailing that relationship. Underlying the research is a long-term project to bring the archaeology of Iran, the Caucasus, and wider Eurasia into the broad conversation on imperialism that has long linked the humanities and social sciences.
My new research extends this preoccupation with ‘imperial matter’ into the contemporary past and present, with an investigation into the materiality of Soviet and post-Soviet life in the South Caucasus. Contributing to the archaeology of the recent past, I currently conduct archaeological and ethnographic research in Armenia that focuses on the afterlife of socialist modernity, with a particular interest in the forces shaping ruination and the livelihood practices underway in the debris of the Soviet project.
I am co-director of a long-term collaborative field project in Armenia called the Project for the Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies (Project ArAGATS), co-director of Cornell's Landscapes and Objects Laboratory, and co-founder and co-director of the Aragats Foundation and the Caucasus Heritage Watch.
- Archaeology of Empires
- Archaeology of the Everyday
- Archaeology of Orientalism
- Ceramic Analysis for Archaeology
- Archaeology of the Ancient Near East
- New Directions in Near Eastern Archaeology
- Global Heritage
- The Caucasus: Captives, Cultures, Conflicts
- Life in Ruins
- Ruins of Modernity
- 2022 (May, in press) Life Extempore: Trials of Ruination in the Twilight Zone of Soviet Industry. Cultural Anthropology.
- 2020 Education Beyond Preservation: An Archaeological Camp for Girls in Armenia. Near Eastern Archaeology 83(4):248-255.
- 2020 False Dilemmas? Or What Coronavirus Can Teach Us About Material Theory, Responsibility and 'Hard Power'. Antiquity 94(378):1649-1652.
- 2020 Project ArAGATS 1998-2018: Twenty Years of Archaeological Investigations into the Bronze and Iron Ages of Armenia. Aramazd: Armenian Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 2016: 1-2, pp. 61-81. (fourth author with Ruben Badalyan, Alan Greene, Armine Harutyunyan, Ian Lindsay, Maureen Marshall and Adam T. Smith)
- 2020 “From Copy to Proxy: The Politics of Matter and Mimesis in Achaemenid Armenia.” The Art of Empire in Achaemenid Persia: Festschrift in Honor of Margaret Cool Root, eds. M. Garrison and E. Dusinberre. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, pp. 601-633.
- 2018 “Pottery Typology and Craft Learning in the Northern Near East.” Iranica Antiqua, LIII:179-265.
- 2018 “A New Chronological Model for the Bronze and Iron Age Caucasus.” Antiquity, 92(366):1530-1551. (third author with Sturt Manning, Adam T. Smith, and Ruben Badalyan, Ian Lindsay, Alan Greene, Maureen Marshall).
- 2017 Fitful Histories and Unruly Publics: The Archaeology of Eurasia (third author, with Kathryn Weber, Emma Hite, and Adam T. Smith). Brill.
- 2016 Imperial Matter: Ancient Persia and the Archaeology of Empires. University of California Press.
- 2015 "Objects in Crisis: Curation, Repair, and the Historicity of Things in the South Caucasus (1500-300 BC)." Social Theory in Archaeology and Ancient History: The Present and Future of Counternarratives, ed. Geoff Emberling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 231-258 (with Adam T. Smith).
- 2014. "Empire in the Everyday: A Preliminary Report on the 2008-2011 Excavations at Tsaghkahovit, Armenia." American Journal of Archaeology, 118(1):137-169.
- 2013 “An Archaeology of Hegemony: The Achaemenid Empire and the Remaking of the Fortress in the Armenian Highlands.” In Empires and Complexity: On the Crossroads of Archaeology, History, and Anthropology, ed. G. Areshian. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, 108-145.
- 2012 “The Achaemenid Provinces in Archaeological Perspective.” In A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World), ed. D.T. Potts. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 963-983.
- 2011 “The Iron Age in Eastern Anatolia.” In The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Anatolia, ed. S. Steadman and G. McMahon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- 2010 “Project ArAGATS: 10 Years of Investigation of Bronze and Iron Age Sites in the Tsaghkahovit Plain.” TŰBA AR: Turkish Academy of Sciences Journal of Archaeology (co-authored with R. Badalyan and A.T. Smith).
- 2008 “Village, Fortress, and Town in Bronze Age and Iron Age Southern Caucasia: A Preliminary Report on the 2003-2006 Investigations of Project ArAGATS on the Tsaghkahovit Plain, Republic of Armenia.” Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan (co-authored with R. Badalyan, A.T. Smith, I. Lindsay, and P. Avetisyan).
- 2008 “The 2005-2006 Excavations of the Iron III Settlement at Tsaghkahovit.” Aramazd: Armenian Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 91-100.
- 2008 “Making Nations from the Ground Up: Traditions of Classical Archaeology in the South Caucasus.” American Journal of Archaeology, 112.2, p. 247-78.
- 2007 “Unforgettable Landscapes: Attachments to the Past in Hellenistic Armenia.” In Negotiating the Past in the Past: Identity, Memory, and Landscape in Archaeological Research, ed. N. Yoffee. University of Arizona Press, p. 43-75.
- 2005 “Seals and Sealings: Archaeological Perspectives.” In This Fertile Land: Signs and Symbols in the Early Arts of Iran and Iraq, ed. M.C. Root, p. 19-34. Kelsey Museum Catalogue.
- 2005 “An Overview of Place and Space.” In This Fertile Land: Signs and Symbols in the Early Arts of Iran and Iraq, ed. M.C. Root, p. 15-17 (with M.C. Root). Kelsey Museum Catalogue.
In the news
- Excavation uncovers 2K more artifacts at St. James church site
- Report shows near-total erasure of Armenian heritage sites
- World court decision sets ‘new precedent’ for cultural heritage protection
- A 'freedom church' unearths its Underground Railroad history
- Attacks upon cultural heritage are 'attacks upon a people'
- Excavation to explore church’s role in Underground Railroad
- Satellite monitoring documents cultural heritage at risk
- Armenian-Azerbaijan ceasefire puts ‘treasures of human history’ at risk
- Faculty research group addressing monuments, heritage
- Armenian girls uncover the past in archaeology camp
- Awards honor Cornell advisers, social scientists, humanists