Bryan K. Hanks

  • Associate Professor, Department Chair

Bryan Hanks received his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2003. He is an archaeologist whose interests focus on the examination of Old World complex societies with a particular emphasis on Europe and the Eurasian steppe region. Research interests include: mortuary archaeology, bone chemistry and diet, Zooarchaeology, craft specialization and early metallurgy, mobile pastoralism and geophysical/geochemical survey.


Research Description

Geophysical and Geochemical Surveys in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho

Research Focus: This program focuses on the study of prehistoric pit house villages occupied over the last 3-4000 years situated along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho. The villages are located within the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, which is the largest designated wilderness in the lower 48 states encompassing over two million acres.  Collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service is focusing on the use of geophysical and geochemical surveys to examine the spatial extent of these sites and to explore near surface and subsurface cultural deposits. This research will contribute to the long-term management and protection of these important resources. 

Region: Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho

Project Partners: Dr. Tim Canaday (United States Forest Service, Idaho); Dr. John Rose (United States Forest Service, Idaho); Dr. Roger Doonan (University of Sheffield, UK)

Funding: University of Pittsburgh; United States Forest Service 

Household Craft Specialization and Emergence of Metallurgy in the Neolithic Vinca Culture of Southeastern Europe

Research Focus: This program focuses on the emergence of craft specialization, including early stages of metallurgy, among early Neolithic agrarian communities (Vinca culture) within southeast Europe. This region has produced some of the earliest evidence of copper mining and metallurgy in Europe to date. Research is being carried out at two Vinca period settlements with the objective of integrating geophysical and geochemical surveys, surface collection, and targeted excavation to identify the spatial distribution of copper working within the settlements.

Region: The Central Region of the Republic of Serbia

Project Partners: Dr. Dusan Boric (Cardiff University, UK); Dr. Roger Doonan (University of Sheffield, UK); Dr. Dusko Slijivar (National Museum of Belgrade, Serbia)

Funding: Wenner-Gren Foundation (ICR-115); Cardiff University; University of Sheffield; University of Pittsburgh

Metallurgical Practice, Technology and Social Organization during the Middle to Late Bronze Age in the Southern Urals, Russia

Research Focus: This program of research further investigates the nature of copper metallurgy and socio-economic organization as practiced by Bronze Age communities who inhabited the Southern Russian steppe from the Middle to Late Bronze Age phases (2100 to 1500 BC). Field research focuses on micro-regional study of the Bronze Age Sintashta culture settlements of Stepnoye and Ust’ye and employs: 1) geophysical and geochemical survey, 2) targeted small-scale excavation, 3) additional site catchment study and 4) analysis of archaeometallurgical materials and associated features.

Region: Southeastern Ural Mountains of the Russian Federation

Collaborative Partners: Dr. Roger Doonan (University of Sheffield, UK); Dr. Dimitri Zdanovich (Chelyabinsk State University, Russia); Dr. Elena Kupriyanova (Chelyabinsk State University, Russia); Dr. Nikolai Vinogradov (Chelyabinsk State Pedagogical University).

Funding: National Science Foundation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (#1024674 - AHRC-NSF-MOU); University of Pittsburgh.

Early Metal Production and Community Organization in the Southern Urals Middle Bronze Age

Research Focus: This project focuses on significant questions surrounding early copper mining, bronze metal production, and the emergence of a complex socio-economic formation in the north central Eurasian steppe region during the first half of the second millennium BC (2035 to 1735 cal. BC). These developments are connected with the Middle Bronze Age Sintashta pattern of enclosed settlements and associated cemeteries.

Region: Southeastern Ural Mountains of the Russian Federation

Project Partners: Dimitri Zdanovich (Chelyabinsk State University, Russia); Elena Kupriyanova (Chelyabinsk State University, Russia); Andrei Epimakhov (Southern Ural State University, Russia); Ludmila Koryakova (Ural State University, Russia).

Funding: National Science Foundation (#0726279); University of Pittsburgh.

A Bioarchaeological and Geophysical Investigation of Middle Bronze Age Cemetery Patterning and Social Organization in the Southern Urals 

Research Focus: This program of study examined community organization, social status and task differentiation among early bronze metal producing communities during the Middle Bronze Age. Research focused on a geophysical survey of the Kamennyi Ambar 5 cemetery, Russian Federation, and the detailed chemical and physical analysis of human bone and tooth remains previously excavated at this site by project partner Andrei Epimakhov.

Region: Southeastern Ural Mountains of the Russian Federation

Project Partners: Dr. Margaret Judd (University of Pittsburgh); Dr. Andrei Epimakhov (Southern Ural State University, Russia); Dr. Dmitri Razhev (Institute of History and Archaeology, Russia); Dr. Alicia Ventresca Miller (Kiel University, Germany)

Funding: Wenner-Gren Foundation (#7552); University of Pittsburgh





Archaeology of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia

This course provides an overview of the key prehistoric and early historic developments that occurred in the territories of the former Soviet Union. This investigation will include: early evidence of animal and plant domestication in the Neolithic, the emergence of Indo-European languages, innovations in metallurgy and the rise of complex societies in the Bronze and Iron Age periods, and the impact of early ‘nomadic’ societies and empires.   The course will cover a vast time period, stretching from the earliest occupation evidence in the Paleolithic period to the Mongol Empire of the 13th century AD. The primary focus of the course will be on evaluating the main lines of archaeological evidence in order to interpret and understand the key cultural, economic, technological and ideological developments noted above.  However, the course will also investigate the substantial role that the discipline of archaeology and interpretations of the past have played in the larger socio-political dynamics of the Soviet and Post-Soviet periods.  Therefore, this course will appeal to a broad range of students interested in comparative studies of Old World archaeology as well as cultural and historical studies of the Soviet and Post-Soviet Union.

The Archaeologist Looks at Death

The aim of this course is to provide students with an understanding of how archaeologists investigate, analyze and interpret human remains from archaeological contexts. While the focus will be primarily on prehistoric case studies, the course will also look at the rapidly developing area of forensic archaeology in the contemporary world.  Therefore, the course will be divided into two main parts. The first half will focus on presenting some of the main elements inherent in the bioarchaeological analysis of human remains and the types of specific information that can be gained about the past lives of individuals and their place within societies. The second half of the course will focus more on how archaeologists construct interpretations relating to mortuary practices and rituals, attitudes about the afterlife, and principles of social organization and structure within past societies. 

Prehistoric Foundations of European Civilization

This course surveys European prehistory from the earliest human occupation of Europe until the Roman conquest. Geographical coverage will include Western, Central and Eastern Europe and southern areas including parts of the Mediterranean and Aegean. Emphasis will be placed on investigating major changes in social organization, cultural contact and exchange, technology and economy. Key developments covered will include the interaction between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, the emergence of Upper Palaeolithic art, Neolithic megalithic constructions, the emergence and spread of agriculture, the impact of metallurgy, Iron Age ‘Celtic’ developments, and the expansion and influence of the Roman Empire. This course will provide a useful foundation for students interested in archaeology, history, ethnic history, art history and classics.


Animal remains are often some of the most frequently encountered material remains recovered from archaeological sites and therefore provide crucial information relating to subsistence strategies, animal husbandry patterns, paleoenvironments and a wide range of other human behaviors.  This course provides an introduction to the main elements of Zooarchaeological research and will focus on the recovery, identification and contextual analysis of animal remains.  The course will provide both laboratory training as well as seminar discussions in order to evaluate the significance of Zooarchaeology within archaeological research.  Participants will therefore have the opportunity to gain practical skills in identification and analysis and to learn how this information can be applied to the study of complex societies in the Old and New World.

History of Anthropological Thought

This course provides a wide-ranging survey of the development of anthropological thought and the formation of the four-field discipline of Anthropology. Starting with early intellectual growth in Antiquity and the Middle Ages the course charts a path for students that will guide them through the dense and complex world of theory development in Anthropology from the time of Classical thought up through contemporary times. This class offers a critical foundation of knowledge for students majoring in Anthropology and/or undergraduate students planning to take more advanced seminar/writing courses in Anthropology, History, Sociology, and History and Philosophy of Science.

People, Places and Things

This course examines the use of recent theoretical perspectives that cross-cut many of the humanities and social sciences in order to explore the complex relationships that are created between people, landscapes and physical settings, and the use of objects and other forms of material culture. The course will survey key theoretical approaches to explore object agency, symbolism and ritual set within natural and built environments, and the roles that such places and things play within the composition of culture and long term mediation of social processes and memory. The course is diachronic in nature and examines a host of places and objects from around the world from prehistory to the present. A heavy emphasis will be placed on “interdisciplinary thought” with the goal of achieving a more nuanced and comparative understanding of the dynamic role that material culture and the natural and built environment have within the ever-evolving human condition. 


Ventresca Miller A, B Hanks, MA Judd, AV Epimakhov and D Rajev (2017). Weaning behaviors among Pastoralists: New Evidence of Infant Feeding Practices from Bronze Age Eurasia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 162: 409-22.

Hanks, B., R. Doonan, D. Pitman, E. Kupriyanova & D. Zdanovich, 2015. Eventful Deaths – Eventful Lives? Bronze Age Mortuary Practices in the late prehistoric Eurasian steppes of Central Russia (2100-1500 B.C.), in Death Rituals, Social Order and the Archaeology of Immortality in the Ancient World, ‘Death Shall Have no Dominion’, edited by c. Renfrew, M. Boyd, and I. Morley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 328-350.

Hanks B., 2015. Warfare and Ritual in Anthropology, in The Ashgate Research Companion to Anthropology, edited by A. Strathern and P. Stewart. London: Ashgate Publications, 273-294.

Hanks, B., 2014. Post-Neolithic of Eastern Europe, in The Cambridge World Prehistory, edited by C. Renfrew and P. Bahn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Doonan, R., B. Hanks, D. Zdanovich, E. Kupriyanova, D. Pitman, N. Batanina and J. Johnson, (2014) Metals, Society and Economy in the Late Prehistoric Eurasian Steppe, in Reader in Early Metallurgy, edited by B. Roberts and C. Thornton. Springer, 755-784.

Hutson, S., B. Hanks and A. Pyburn, 2013. Gender, Power and Politics in Early States, in Companion to Gender Prehistory, edited by D. Bolger. Oxford: Blackwell-Wiley, 45-67.

Batanina, N., and B. Hanks, 2012. Soviet Period Air Photography and Archaeology of the Bronze Age in the Southern Urals of Russia, in Archaeology from Historical Aerial and Satellite Archives, edited by W.S. Hanson and I.A. Oltean. London: Springer, 199-219. 

Warmuth, Vera, Anders Eriksson, Mim Ann Bower, Graeme Barker, Elizabeth Barrett, Bryan Kent Hanks, Shuicheng Li, David Lomitashvili, Maria Ochir-Goryaeva, Grigory V. Sizonov, Vasiliy Soyonov, and Andrea Manica (2012) Reconstructing the origin and spread of horse domestication in the Eurasian steppe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol 109(21): 8202-8206. 

Drennan, R.D., Hanks, B.K., and Peterson, C.E. 2011. The Comparative Study of Chiefly Communities in the Eurasian Steppe Region. Social Evolution and History: Studies in the Evolution of Human Societies 10:149–186. Moscow: Uchitel Publishing House.

Hanks, B., 2010. Agency, Hybridity and Transmutation: Theorizing Human-Animal Symbolism among Early Eurasian Steppe Societies’, in Master of Animals in Old World Iconography, edited by D. Counts and B. Arnold. Budapest: Archaeolingua, 175-191.

Hanks, B., 2010. Archaeology of the Eurasian Steppes and Mongolia, Annual Review of Anthropology 39: 469-487.

Hanks, B., and K. Linduff, eds. (2009) Social Complexity in Prehistoric Eurasia: Monuments, Metals and Mobility. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hanks, B. and R. Doonan. 2009. From Scale to Practice: A New Agenda for the Study of Early Metallurgy on the Eurasian Steppe. Journal of World Prehistory 22: 329-356.