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Anthropology Department
New York University
25 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10003

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Christian Tryon

Dr. Tryon in the National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi


Assistant Professor of Anthropology


B.A. 1996, University of Connecticut
M.A. 2000, University of Connecticut
Ph.D. 2003, University of Connecticut





Research Sites:

Kapthurin Formation, Kenya
Kapedo Tuffs, Kenya
Olorgesailie Formation, Kenya
Wasiriya Beds, Kenya
Kaletepe Deresi 3, Turkey

Dr. Tryon at Olorgesailie, Kenya

Courses Taught:

Undergraduate—Archaeology: Early Societies and Culture; Paleolithic Archaeology; African Archaeology
Graduate—The Archaeology of Modern Human Origins; Lithic Technology; Paleoanthropology II; Geoarchaeology

Research Focus:

I employ archaeological and geological methods to explore the behavioral evolution of Middle and Later Pleistocene hominins and the origin of Homo sapiens. As a Paleolithic archaeologist, I am a specialist in the analysis of stone tools. I am particularly interested in the origins and diversification of Levallois technology, associated with early populations of Homo sapiens in Africa and with Neanderthals in Eurasia. Interpreting the behavior of extinct hominin populations often requires a geological perspective. I focus on reconstructing site formation processes, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, stone raw material source attribution by petrographic or geochemical means, and using volcanic ashes as stratigraphic markers on the basis of their geochemical ‘fingerprint.’ This compositional signature is determined by micro-scale quantitative analyses of volcanic ash (composed of fragments of rapidly quenched magma, or glass) using an electron microprobe.

My field research has focused on the survey and excavation of a number of ~700,000 to 30,000 year old sites in the Rift Valley of Kenya, and I am currently co-directing a major project investigating the diversity of hominin behaviors and the Pleistocene environment in the Lake Victoria region, funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and the Leakey Foundation. In particular, the Wasiriya Beds of Rusinga island contain small projectile points, volcanic ash deposits, and numerous fossils (some with cut marks) that indicate a grassy, open, arid environment quite different from the present. I am also a collaborator working in the Central Anatolian Volcanic Province of Turkey studying Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites, and maintain research interests in the African Holocene archaeological record and the late prehistory and history of New England.

Comparative Collections:

I maintain comparative collections of petrographic thin sections of volcanic ash deposits from Kenya and Turkey, as well as recently replicated stone tools and their manufacturing debris. These are available to other researchers upon request.

Recent and Selected Publications:

  • In press. Tryon, C.A. & Potts, R. Approaches for understanding flake production in the African Acheulean. PaleoAnthropology.
  • In press. Tryon, C.A.; Kuhn, S.L.; Slimak, L.; Logan, M.A.V. Scale in tephrostratigraphic correlation: An example from Turkish Pleistocene archaeological sites. Quaternary International doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.05.039.
  • In press. Tryon, C.A.; Peppe, D.J.; Faith, J.T.; Van Plantinga, A.; Nightingale, S.; Ogondo, J.A.; Fox, D.L. Middle Stone Age artifacts and associated fauna from Rusinga and Mfangano islands, Lake Victoria, Kenya. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa.
  • Faith, J.T.; Choiniere, J.N.; Tryon, C.A.; Peppe, D.J.; Fox, D.L. Taxonomic status and paleoecology of Rusingoryx atopocranion (Mammalia, Artiodactyla), an extinct Pleistocene bovid from Rusinga Island, Kenya. Quaternary Research 75: 697-707.
  • Tryon, C.A.; Faith,J.T.; Peppe, D.J.; Fox, D.L.; Holt, K.; Dunsworth, H.; Harcourt-Smith, W. The Pleistocene Archaeology and Environments of the Wasiriya Beds, Rusinga Island, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution 59: 657-671.
  • Tryon, C.A.; Pobiner, B.; Kauffman, R. (2010) Archaeology and Human Evolution. Evolution: Education and Outreach 3: 377-386.
  • Tryon, C.A. (2010) Alternative explanations for early hominin non-utilitarian behavior at Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa. Journal of Taphonomy 8:235-242.
  • Tryon, C.A. (2010) How the geological record affects our reconstructions of Middle Stone Age settlement patterns: The case of alluvial fans in Baringo, Kenya. In (N. Conard & A. Delagnes, eds.) Settlement Dynamics of the Middle Paleolithic & Middle Stone Age, Volume III. Tübingen: Kerns Verlag, pp. 39-66.
  • Tryon, C.A.; Logan, M.A.V.; Mouralis, D.; Kuhn, S.L.; Slimak, L.; Balkan-Atli, N. (2009) Building a tephrostratigraphic framework for the Paleolithic of Central Anatolia, Turkey. Journal of Archaeological Science 36: 637-652.
  • Tryon, C.A.; Roach, N.T.; Logan, M.A.V. (2008) The Middle Stone Age of the northern Kenyan Rift: Age and context of new archaeological sites from the Kapedo Tuffs. Journal of Human Evolution 55: 652-664.
  • Tryon, C.A. (2006) ‘Early’ Middle Stone Age lithic technology of the Kapthurin Formation (Kenya). Current Anthropology 47: 367-375.
  • Tryon, C.A. & McBrearty, S. (2006) Tephrostratigraphy of the Bedded Tuff Member (Kapthurin Formation, Kenya) and the nature of archaeological change in the later Middle Pleistocene. Quaternary Research 65:492-507.
  • Tryon, C.A. (2006) Investigating the destructive potential of earthworms for the archaeobotanical record. Journal of Field Archaeology 31:199-202.
  • McBrearty, S. & Tryon, C.A. (2006) From Acheulian to Middle Stone Age in the Kapthurin Formation, Kenya. In (E. Hovers & S. Kuhn, eds) Transitions before the Transition. New York: Springer, pp. 257-277.
  • Tryon, C.A., McBrearty, S. & Texier, P.-J. (2005) Levallois lithic technology from the KapthurinFormation, Kenya: Acheulian origin and Middle Stone Age diversity. African Archaeological Review 22:199-229.
  • Tryon, C.A. (2005) Le concept Levallois en Afrique. Annales Fyssen 20:132-145.
  • Thorson, R.M. & Tryon, C.A.(2003) Bluff-top sand sheets in northeastern archaeology: A physical transport model and application to the Neville Site, Amoskeag Falls, New Hampshire. In (D.L. Cremeens & J. Hart, eds) Geoarchaeology of Landscapes in the Glaciated Northeast. Albany:NY State Museum Bulletin 497, pp.61-73.
  • Tryon, C.A. & McBrearty, S. (2002) Tephrostratigraphy and the Acheulian to Middle Stone Age transition in the Kapthurin Formation, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution 42:211-235.