Sandra Olsen

Interim Director and Professor of Museum Studies
Senior Curator of Archaeology, Biodiversity Institute
Primary office:
Spooner Hall, room 6E
University of Kansas
1340 Jayhawk Blvd
Lawrence, KS 66045


Professor Olsen is an Old World Prehistorian, specializing in zooarchaeology, the study of animal remains from ancient sites, and Arabian rock art. She was formerly the director of the Center for World Cultures at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.


Ph.D.ArchaeologyUniversity of London, Institute of Archaeology

M.A.AnthropologyUniversity of Arizona

B.A.AnthropologyWichita State University


I alternate teaching Human Osteology and Zooarchaeology and also teach Museum Anthropology. All are primarily Anthropology courses, but are cross-listed in Museum Studies. Both undergraduate and graduate Anthropology credit, and graduate Museum Studies credit are possible with all three courses. I will begin teaching Natural Sciences Curation and Collections Management, Museum Studies 710, in the fall of 2018. It is cross-listed in Biology.

Teaching Interests

  • Human skeleton, Zooarchaeology, Museum Anthropology, Natural Sciences Curation and Collection Management


Most of my career I have focused on the horse-human relationship through time, from Pleistocene paleolithic hunters to Copper Age horse domestication to the horse in Arabian rock art and the emergence of the Arabian horse breed. I am also interested in developing techniques for recording rock art using advanced imaging, and how climate change is reflected in Arabian rock art. In the past, I did considerable research, including my PHD dissertation, on bone artifact manufacture and use. I have adapted scanning electron microscopy to archaeological materials, and use a variety of imaging techniques, including 3D laser scanning, Gigapan robotic panoramic photography, and reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) in the study of rock art.

Research Interests

  • Zooarchaeology, bone artifacts, Old World Prehistory, Eurasian steppe, Arabian rock art, petroglyphs, American Southwestern archaeology, museum studies, horse domestication


In 2014-15, I have served on the Executive Council for Graduate Studies, the Summer Research Fellowship Review Committee, and the Argersinger Dissertation Award Review Committee. In 2015-16, I have served on the Board for Global and International Centers and the Senate Library committee. In 2016-18, I continue to serve on the Senate Library committee.

Selected Publications

Schrader, S. A., Smith, S. T., Olsen, S. L., & Buzon, M. (in press). The Significance of the Kushite Horse During Sociopolitical Transition and State Development: The Burial of a Third Intermediate Period Chariot Horse at Tombos. Antiquity.

Olsen, S. L. (2017). Weighing the Evidence for Ancient Afro-Arabian Cultural Connections through Neolithic Rock Art. In D. A. Agius, E. Khalil, & E. Scerri (Eds.), Human Interaction with the Environment in the
Red Sea. Selected Papers of Red Sea VI Proceedings

(pp. 89-129). E.J. Brill.

Olsen, S. L. (2017). Insight on the ancient Arabian Horse from North Arabian Petroglyphs. Arabian Humanities. International Journal of Archaeology and Social Sciences in the Arabian Peninsula 8.

Olsen, S. L. (2016). The Roles of Humans in Horse Distribution through Time. In J. L. Ransom & P. Kaczensky (Eds.), Wild Equids: Ecology, Management, and Conservation (pp. 105-120). Baltimore, MD, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Olsen, S. L. (2015). Anthrozoos, 475-476.

Olsen, S. L. (2013). Stories in the Rocks: Exploring Saudi Arabian Rock Art, Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Museum of Natural History. 236.

Olsen, S. L. (2012). Comments on 'Multi-regional Emergence of Mobile Pastoralism and Uniform Institutional Complexity across Eurasia' by Michael D. Frachetti. Current Anthropology, 2.

Linduff, K. M., & Olsen, S. L. (2010). Saddles Discovered In Western China Zaghunluq (Φ╜ºΘ▓ü)(761 + 61 BCE) and Subeshi (ΦïÅΦ┤¥) (480 + 85 ΓÇô 230 + 85 BCE) Xinjiang. Chinese Journal of Eurasian Studies, 15.

Olsen, S. L., & Culbertson, C. (2010). A Gift from the Desert: The Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse., 231. Lexington, KY: International Museum of the Horse.

Outram, A. Stear, N. Bendrey, R. Olsen, S. Kasparov, A. Chivall, D. Zaibert, V. Thorpe, N. & Evershed, R. (2009). Earliest Horse Harnessing and Milking in the Eneolithic of Prehistoric Eurasia. Science323(1332-1335).

Ingham, S. Olsen, S. Fu, F. & Moreland, M. (2009). The Death of an Egyptian Boy. Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Journal20, 97.

Olsen, S. L., & Harding, D. (2008). WomenΓÇÖs Attire and Possible Sacred Role in 4th Millennium Northern Kazakhstan. In K. Linduff & K. Rubinson (Eds.), Are All Warriors Male? (pp. 67-92). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, Lexington Books, Madison Books.

Olsen, S. L. (2008). Hoofprints. Natural History117(4), 26-32.

Olsen, S. L. (2008). The Inception of Horse Pastoralism. General Anthropology, Bulletin of the General Anthropology Division, American Anthropological Association15(1), 1, 5-6.

Olsen, S. L. (2007). Conclusions: Bone Artifacts and their Importance to Archaeology. In C. Gates St. Pierre & R. B. Walker (Eds.), Recent Developments in Bone Tool Studies (pp. 175-182). Oxford.

Allard, F. Erdenebaatar, D. Olsen, S. Cavalla, A. & Maggiore, E. (2007). Ritual and horses in Bronze Age and present-day Mongolia: Some preliminary observations from Khanuy Valley. In Social Orders and Social Landscapes: Proceedings of the 2005 University of Chicago Conference on Eurasian Archaeology (pp. 151-167). Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Olsen, S. L. (2006). Early horse domestication on the Eurasian steppe. In M. A. Zeder, D. G. Bradley, E. Emshwiller, & B. D. Smith (Eds.), Documenting Domestication: New Genetic and Archaeological Paradigms (pp. 245-269). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Olsen, S. L. (2006). Early horse domestication: Weighing the evidence. In S. L. Olsen, S. Grant, A. A. Choyke, & L. Bartosiewicz (Eds.), Horses and Humans: The Evolution of Human-Equine Relationships (pp. 81-113). Oxford.

Olsen, S. L., Grant, S., Choyke, A., & Bartosiewicz, L. (Eds.). (2006). BAR, International Series 1560Horses and Humans: The Evolution of the Human-Equine Relationship (S. L. Olsen, S. Grant, A. Choyke, & L. Bartosiewicz, Eds.). Oxford. 375.

Olsen, S. L. (2006). BAR International Series 1560. In S. L. Olsen, S. Grant, A. M. Choyke, & L. Bartosiewicz (Eds.) Horses and Humans: The Evolution of Human-Equine Relationships (pp. 1-10). Oxford.

Olsen, S. L., Bradley, B. Maki, D. & Outram, A. (2006). Community organisation among Copper Age sedentary horse pastoralists of Kazakhstan. In D. Peterson, L. M. Popova, & A. T. Smith (Eds.), Colloquia Pontica 13Beyond the Steppe and Sown: Proceedings of the 2002 University of Chicago Conference on Eurasian Archaeology (pp. 89-111). Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers.

Olsen, S. L., & Glover, I. (2004). The bone industries of Ulu Leang 1 and Leang Burung 1 rockshelters, Sulawesi, Indonesia. In S. Keates & J. Pasveer (Eds.), Quaternary Research in Southeast Asia (pp. 273-300). Rotterdam: Balkema.

Olsen, S. L. (2003). The bone and antler artefacts: Their manufacture and use. In N. Field & M. Parker Pearson (Eds.), Fiskerton: An Iron Age Timber Causeway with Iron Age and Roman Votive Offerings (pp. 92-111). Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Olsen, S. L. (2003). The exploitation of horses at Botai, Kazakhstan. In M. Levine, C. Renfrew, & K. Boyle (Eds.), Prehistoric Steppe Adaptation and the Horse (pp. 83-104). Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute Monographs.

Olsen, S. L. (2002). Comments on 'Archaeology and language: the Bronze Age Indo-Iranians' by C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky. Current Anthropology43(1), 80-81.

Moloney, N. Olsen, S. L., & Voloshin, V. (2001). Lower and Middle Palaeolithic occupation in Central Kazakhstan: The Batpak valley and environs. In S. Milliken & J. Cook (Eds.), A Very Remote Period Indeed (pp. 138-143). Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Olsen, S. L. (2001). The importance of thong-smoothers at Botai, Kazakhstan. In A. Choyke & L. Bartosiewicz (Eds.), Crafting Bone: Skeletal Technologies through Time and Space (pp. 197-206). Oxford.

Olsen, S. L. (2000). The bone artifacts. In A. Moore, G. Hillman, & A. Legge (Eds.), Village on the Euphrates: From Foraging to Farming at Abu Hureyra (pp. 154-163). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Olsen, S. L. (2000). The sacred and secular roles of dogs at Botai, Kazakhstan. In S. Crockford (Ed.), Dogs Through Time: The Archaeological Evidence (pp. 71-92). Oxford.

Olsen, S. L. (2000). Reflections of ritual behavior at Botai, Kazakhstan. In K. Jones-Bley, M. Huld, & A. Della Volpe (Eds.), Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph Series No. 35Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference (pp. 183-207). Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of Man.

Olsen, S. L. (2000). The Upper Paleolithic bone industry of Klithi Rock Shelter, northwest Greece. Annals of Carnegie Museum69(4), 209-226.

Olsen, S. L. (1999). Investigation of the Phanourios bones for evidence of cultural modification, Chapter 9, Specialized Analysis, Section 5. In A. H. Simmons (Ed.), Faunal Extinction in an Island Society: Pygmy Hippopotamus Hunters of Cyprus (pp. 230-237). New York, NY: Plenum Press.

Olsen, S. L. (1998). Animals in Native American life, Chapter 6. In M. Bol (Ed.), Stars Above, Earth Below: Essays on Native Americans and Nature (pp. 95-118). Niwot, CO: Roberts Rinehart.

Olsen, S. L. (1997). Horse hunting strategies in the Paleolithic. In XIII International Congress of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences, Forl├¼, Italy, 1996: The Proceedings. Forli, Italy: A.B.A.C.O.

Olsen, S. L., & Olsen, J. W. (1996). An Analysis of Faunal Remains from Wind Mountain, Appendix 8. In A. I. Woolsey & A. J. McIntyre (Eds.), Mimbres Mogollon Archaeology: Charles C. Di PesoΓÇÖs Excavations at Wind Mountain (pp. 389-406). Dragoon, AZ: Amerind Foundation, Albuquerque, NM: The University of New Mexico Press.

Shnirelman, V. A., Olsen, S. L., & Rice, P. (1996). Hooves across the steppes: The Kazak life-style. In S. Olsen (Ed.), Horses Through Time (pp. 129-154). Boulder, CO: Roberts Rinehart.

Olsen, S. L. (1996). Horse hunters of the Ice Age. In S. Olsen (Ed.), Horses Through Time (pp. 35-56). Boulder, CO: Roberts Rinehart.

Olsen, S. L. (1996). In the winner's circle: the history of equestrian sports. In S. Olsen (Ed.), Horses Through Time (pp. 103-128). Boulder, CO: Roberts Rinehart.

Olsen, S. L. (Ed.). (1996). Horses Through Time (S. L. Olsen, Ed.). Boulder, CO: Roberts Rinehart. 222.

Olsen, S. L. (1996). In S. Olsen (Ed.) Horses Through Time (pp. 1-10). Boulder, CO: Roberts Rinehart.

Olsen, S. L. (1996). Prehistoric adaptation to the Kazak steppes. In The Colloquia of the XIII International Congress of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences, Vol. 16: The Prehistory of Asia and Oceania (pp. 49-60). Forli, Italy: A.B.A.C.O. Edizioni.

Olsen, S. L. (1995). Pleistocene horse-hunting at Solutr├⌐: Why bison jump analogies fail. In E. Johnson (Ed.), Ancient Peoples and Landscapes (pp. 65-75). Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press.

Olsen, S. L., & Shipman, P. (1994). Cutmarks and perimortem treatment of skeletal remains on the Northern Plains. In D. Owsley & R. Jantz (Eds.), Skeletal Biology in the Great Plains: A Multidisciplinary View (pp. 377-387). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Olsen, S. L. (1994). Exploitation of mammals at the Early Bronze Age site of West Row Fen (Mildenhall 165), Suffolk, England. Annals of the Carnegie Museum63(2), 115-153.

Olsen, S. L. (1992). Taphonomy. In . (Ed.), 1992 McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science and Technology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Olsen, S. L. (1991). [Review of Thoughtful Foragers: A Study of Prehistoric Decision Making, Stephen Mithen]. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 86(1)

Olsen, S. L. (1989). On distinguishing natural from cultural damage on archaeological antler. Journal of Archaeological Science16, 125-135.

Olsen, S. L. (1989). Solutr├⌐: A theoretical approach to the reconstruction of Upper Palaeolithic hunting strategies. Journal of Human Evolution18, 295-327.

Olsen, S. L. (1989). The 1988 research at Solutr├⌐, France. AnthroQuest40, 6-18.

Olsen, S. L. (1988). The identification of stone and metal tool marks on bone artifacts. In S. L. Olsen (Ed.), Scanning Electron Microscopy in Archaeology (pp. 337-360). Oxford.

Olsen, S. L. (Ed.). (1988). BAR International Series 452Scanning Electron Microscopy in Archaeology (S. L. Olsen, Ed.). Oxford. 408.

Olsen, S. L. (1988). BAR International Series 452. Introduction: applications of scanning electron microscopy to archaeology. In S. L. Olsen (Ed.), Scanning Electron Microscopy in Archaeology (pp. 3-7). Oxford.

Olsen, S. L. (1988). Applications of scanning electron microscopy in archaeology. Advances in Electronics and Electron Physics71, 357-380.

Olsen, S. L., & Shipman, P. (1988). Surface modification on bone: trampling vs. butchery. Journal of Archaeological Science15(5), 535-553.

Olsen, S. L. (1987). Magdalenian reindeer exploitation at the Grotte des Eyzies, southwest France. Archaeozoologia1, 171-182.

Arndt (Olsen), S. L., & Newcomer, M. H. (1986). Breakage patterns on prehistoric bone points: an experimental study. In . (Ed.), Studies in the Upper Palaeolithic of Britain and Northwest Europe (pp. 165-173). Oxford.

Olsen, S. L. (1985). Quaternary Research47, 48-49.

Sales, K. D., Oduwole, A. D., Robins, G. V., & Olsen, S. L. (1985). The radiation and thermal dependence of ESR signals in ancient and modern bones. Nuclear Tracks10(4-6), 845-851.

Olsen, S. L. (1983). Zooarchaeological study of archaeological sites in the Farmington area. In . (Ed.), Human adaptation and cultural change: the archaeology of Block III, N.I.I.O. (pp. 1797-1844).

Olsen, S. L. (1982). AZ V:9:105 faunal remains from excavation. In J. J. Reid (Ed.), Cholla Project Archaeology 4: The Tonto-Roosevelt Region (pp. 160).

Olsen, S. L. (1982). Faunal analysis. In T. J. Ferguson & B. J. Mills (Eds.), Archaeological Investigations at Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, 1977-1980 (pp. 390-428).

Olsen, S. L. (1981). Bone artifacts from Las Colinas, Appendix D. In L. C. Hammack & A. P. Sullivan (Eds.), Mound 8, Las Colinas Group, Phoenix, Arizona (pp. 291-295).

Olsen, S. L., & Olsen, J. W. (1981). A comment on nomenclature in faunal analysis. American Antiquity46(1), 192-194.

Olsen, S. L. (1980). Bone artifacts from Kinishba Ruin: their manufacture and use. Kiva45(4), 39-67.

Olsen, S. L. (1979). A study of bone artifacts from Grasshopper Pueblo, AZ P:14:1. Kiva44(4), 341-373.

Olsen, S. L. (1977). Faunal analysis of four sites, Appendix E. In D. E. Doyle (Ed.), Excavations in the Middle Santa Cruz River Valley, Southwestern Arizona (pp. 178-186).

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