Professor of Anthropology
Christian Tryon received his BA (1996), MA (2000), and Ph.D. (2003) from the University of Connecticut, and he returns this year as a professor in the Department of Anthropology. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow with the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) in Sophia-Antipolis, France, and at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. He also served on the faculty at George Washington University, New York University, and Harvard University.
As an archaeologist with a deep interest in ancient environments and the evolution of human behavior, Tryon has done fieldwork in the northeastern U.S., France, Turkey, Tanzania, and especially Kenya. He lives with his spouse and daughter in Storrs.
Q&A with Christian Tryon
What are your research interests?
I specialize in the archaeology of human evolution, and I am particularly interested in reconstructing those ancient social and natural environmental contexts in which behavioral change occurred. As an archaeologist, my interests have always spanned multiple fields, particularly anthropology, geology, history, and ecology. I am a specialist in the analysis of stone tools and volcanic ashes—which in some parts of the world such as the Rift Valley of East Africa, are widespread, bury archaeological sites, and provide a means to date them. I have lately become particularly interested in the use of forgotten archives and understudied museum collections as renewable resources useful for understanding the past. Most of my work has focused on the origin and dispersal of modern humans (Homo sapiens), with a particular focus on eastern Africa and the Mediterranean basin.
How did you become interested in this type of work?
I’ve always loved history, and for me, archaeology and geology are an extension of that interest, but one with a shift towards tangible things (like artifacts and rocks) rather than texts. But it was the actual fieldwork—the surveys for new sites and the excavations of discovered ones—that really decided it. Plus, the ability to make a direct connection to the past by studying the things our ancient ancestors made is really a special kind of thrill!
What courses will you be teaching this year?
I will be teaching a course on Human Evolution. In the near future, I hope to teach classes on a variety of topics, including how the archaeological record formed, methods of “seeing” the past in the landscapes around us, the anthropology of technology, and African archaeology, among others.
What drew you to UConn?
Several things. First, having excellent colleagues. In my opinion, the Department of Anthropology here, particularly for those interested in archaeology, is one of the best in the country, and the new Department of Geosciences is really taking off in exciting ways. This leads to the potential for new and exciting collaborations. For me, the best, most interesting, and most fun kind of research is always collaborative. Second, Storrs is home, and is a great place to research and to raise a family.