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Dr Karen Wright
  • Senior Lecturer
  • Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
  • Institute of Archaeology
  • Faculty of S&HS

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana.  BA Near Eastern Languages and Literature (1979), magna cum laude with distinction in the major, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA; major subject Near Eastern history, languages, and literature (Sumerian-Akkadian/ancient Mesopotamia; Arabic).  MA  & M.Phil. Anthropology (1984), Yale University; training in archaeological method and theory; Near Eastern archaeology; social and cultural anthropology; physical  anthropology. PhD Anthropology (1992), Yale University; major subject: Near Eastern archaeology; dissertation title: Ground Stone Assemblage Variation and Subsistence Strategies in the Levant, 22,000-5500 bp.

After receiving BA degree, received first archaeological training at University of Arizona Archaeological Field School, Grasshopper Pueblo, White River Apache Reservation, northern Arizona, later serving as an assistant supervisor/teacher there.  Between 1979-1981, worked as contract archaeologist for the Arizona State Museum of the University of Arizona (Tucson), participating in survey and excavation of diverse site types: Archaic lithic scatters;  Hohokam pithouse villages; Mogollon and Anasazi pueblos; and historical sites of the American West.  As an undergraduate and postgraduate student at Yale University, participated in archaeological projects in Israel and Syria.  From 1986-1987,  worked as an Associate Intern (salaried) in International Corporate Finance at Kidder, Peabody investment firm (Wall Street, New York City).  

Received a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation fellowship for PhD research in Jordan (1987-1989).   In 1990-91, taught an option course in Near Eastern archaeology at the University  of Sheffield and became an Honorary Research Assistant at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL.  From 1990-1994, taught extra-mural courses in archaeology at Birkbeck College in London.  Appointed in 1994 as Lecturer in Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, becoming Senior Lecturer in 2008.  Since the 1980, participation in diverse archaeology field research projects in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, including Palaeolithic caves and open sites; Neolithic villages;  Bronze and Iron Age cities; regional surveys.

Personal interests/hobbies:  squash, tennis, hiking, bicycling, geology, natural history, United States history (especially 19th-20th centuries), films, cooking.

Research Summary

Research Interests:
(for PhD students, see below, under 'Teaching')

  • Interdisciplinary approaches to archaeology (anthropology, history, materials science)
  • Archaeology of households, villages, cities, states, social inequality, craft specialization
    Origins of villages
    Origins of social inequality
    Origins of craft specialization
  • Evolution and social significance of food preparation and consumption
  • Role of food preparation, diet, nutrition in the evolution of agriculture
  • Technological change and origins of craft specialization
  • Personal ornamentation, social identity, gender
  • Ground stone technologies (milling tools, stone vessels, beads, figurines)
  • Origins of stone bead technologies
  • Near Eastern archaeology; the Levant, Anatolia, Mesopotamia
  • Archaeology of  Jordan, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Iran
  • Comparisons of Old World and New World cultures
  • Research Projects
    Origins of social inequality in Neolithic villages of the Near East
    Commensality, Cooking, Dining and the Politics of Gastronomy in the Near East
    The Emergence of Craft Specialisation in the Near East
    Gender and the Emergence of Villages, Cities and States in the Ancient Near East
    The Ancient Levant
    Neanderthals and Modern Humans in the Palaeolithic of Europe and Western Asia
    Personal Ornaments in the Ancient Near East
    Azraq Project, Jordan
    Qadisha Valley Project, Lebanon
    Shahrizor, Iraq
  • Collaborations
    -Çatalhöyük Project (Director, Ian Hodder): University of Cambridge, Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, Istanbul University, UCL, British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara
    -Qadisha Valley Project (Directors Andrew Garrard, UCL and Corine Yazbeck, Museum of Prehistory, St Joseph University Beirut)
    -Shahrizor Project, Iraq


Teaching Summary

Current courses: Main or Sole Teacher: ARCL 3072 Archaeology of the Levant; ARCL 2033 Archaeology of the Middle East, Prehistory to 2000 BC; ARCL G 269 Material Cultures of the Near East, Part I: Neolithic to Early Bronze Age; ARCL G 194 Themes, Thought and Theory in World Archaeology: Current Topics. Contributor: ARCL1003 World Archaeology; ARCL G 181 Evolution of Palaeolithic and Neolithic Societies in the Near East; ARCL G 113 Lithic Analysis; ARCL G 120 Approaches to Artefact Studies


  • Primary Supervisor: Tatjana Beuthe (current) Administration in early Egypt and Mesopotamia: a study of cylinder seals; Alessandra Salvin (current) House and household in third millennium Mesopotamia; Duygu Camurcuoglu current) The wall paintings of  Çatalhöyük (Turkey): materials, technologies,  artists (Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council); Roseleen Bains (completed  2012)  The social significance of Neolithic stone bead technologies at Çatalhöyük; Jack Green (completed 2006) Ritual and social structure in the Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age in the southern Levant: evidence from mortuary contexts at Tell es-Sai’idiyeh, Jordan (Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council); Carol Bell (completed  2005) The influence of economic factors on settlement continuity across the Late Bronze Age/Iron Age transition on the northern Levant littoral;  Elizabeth Bettles (completed  2001)  Phoenician amphora production and distribution in the southern Levant.  

  • Secondary Supervisor: Andrea Squitieri (current) Stone vessels in the Iron Age and Persian Near East; Emmy Bocaege (current)  Enamel defects as indicators of childhood stress in the Neolithic Near East; Beliz Tecirli (current)  Recent changes in Turkish regulations and archaeological site management; Paolo Guarino (completed 2013) Aspects of complexity at Arslantepe; Robert Homsher (completed 2013) Constructing urbanism: architecture and urbanization in the Middle Bronze Age southern Levant; Philippa Ryan  (completed 2009) Seasonal and environmental patterns of Neolithic landscape use: phytolith perspectives from Çatalhöyük; Claudia Glatz  (completed 2007)  Contact, interaction, control:  the archaeology of inter-regional relations in Late Bronze Age Anatolia



    • Academic Background
      1992 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Anthropology Yale University
      1984 MA Master of Arts – Anthropology Yale University
      1979 BA Bachelor of Arts Yale University
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