John W. Olsen

Regents’ Professor Emeritus

John W. Olsen is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Executive Director of the Je Tsongkhapa Endowment for Central and Inner Asian Archaeology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, USA. 

He attended Florida State University and received Bachelor of Arts degrees with Highest Distinction and Honors in Anthropology and Oriental Studies from the University of Arizona (1976).  Olsen holds Master of Arts (1977) and Doctor of Philosophy (1980) degrees in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley. 

His research focuses on the Pleistocene prehistory of arid lands and high elevations in Central and Inner Asia, especially that transnational and multiethnic region formerly glossed as “Haute-Asie” that encompasses ethnic Mongolia and ethnic Tibet.  Dr. Olsen has conducted collaborative archaeological fieldwork as director or co-director of twenty-one expeditions in the now independent Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union, and in Russia, China, ethnic Tibet, and ethnic Mongolia. 

He is currently Co-Director of the Joint Mongolian-Russian-American Archaeological Expeditions (JMRAAE) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Zhoukoudian International Paleoanthropological Research Center in Beijing (中国科学院周口店国际古人类研究中心联席主任).  Since 2016, Olsen has been a Lead Scientific Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Siberian Branch, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography (Ведущий научный сотрудник, Институт археологии и этнографии CO PAH) and Guest Research Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (中国科学院古脊椎动物与古人类研究所客座研究员).  In 2021, Olsen was named a Distinguished Researcher by the Nihewan Research Center in Hebei Province, China (泥河湾研究中心特聘研究员).  He is a Foreign Expert affiliated with the Yak Museum in Lhasa, Tibet (西藏牦牛博物馆国外专家).

Olsen was awarded the honorary title Академич (Academician) by the Mongolian Academy of Humanitarian Sciences in 1998.  He holds two honorary doctoral degrees; one from the Mongolian Academy of Sciences (Археологийн шинжлэх ухааны хүндэт доктор, 2003) and one from the Russian Academy of Sciences (Почетный доктор археологических наук, 2020).

Olsen co-founded the Joint Mongolian-Russian-American Archaeological Expeditions (JMRAAE) in 1995 with Academicians A. P. Derevianko and D. Tseveendorj, which initially focused its research activities on Tsagaan Agui Cave, Chikhen Agui Rockshelter and, later, the Chikhen-2, Tolbor-4, Tolbor-15, and Kharganyn Gol-5 sites.

Read more about Olsen here


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