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Carter Tristan, Associate Professor | Undergraduate Chair

photo of Tristan Carter

Tristan Carter

Associate Professor | Undergraduate Chair

Department of Anthropology

Area(s) of Interest:


Research & Supervisory Interests

My research focus is Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern prehistory, covering the Aegean, Anatolia, Levant, and Mesopotamia spanning the Epi-Palaeolithic to Late Bronze Age, i.e. hunter-gatherer to state-level societies.

Through studying obsidian tools I aim to map common cultural traditions across space and time (as represented by shared raw material and technological choices) following the belief that such practices both reflected and part-constituted these peoples’ ways of life. In reconstructing these ‘communities of practice’ we can reveal the networks of interaction which facilitated the movement of new practices and ideas. I specifically aim to document the connections that enabled the spread of agriculture and the subsequent emergence of chiefly and state-level societies in Anatolia and the Aegean. I also use the approach to reconstruct the supra-regional connections of the ‘world’s first temple complex’ at Göbekli Tepe in south-eastern Anatolia.

Raw material sourcing is undertaken at the McMaster Archaeological XRF Lab [MAX Lab], Canada’s first dedicated archaeological characterization facility, using energy-dispersive x-ray fluorescence spectrometry [EDXRF], a non-destructive method of elemental characterization. Current studies involve the analysis of artefacts from Anatolia (Boncuklu, Çatalhöyük, Göbekli Tepe and Körtik Tepe), Israel (Marj Rabba), Iraq (Tell Nader), Iran (Yanik Tepe), Jordan (Hemmeh, Wisad Pools), Syria (Abu Hureyra) and more recently Belize (Buenavista del Caya, Minanha).

My supervision interests include: Mediterranean/Mesopotamian/Old World prehistory, lithic technology; archaeometry; archaeology and popular culture; the archaeology of production and exchange; island societies; landscape survey; the politics of archaeology; state level societies; the archaeology of the body; the archaeology of death.

The major field projects that I am involved with are the Neolithic sites of Çatalhöyük and Göbekli Tepe (Anatolia), and the ‘Minoan’ settlements of Malia and Mochlos (Crete).

I enjoy long-term research collaborations with scholars based at the Université Bordeaux 3, Van University, Kiel University, Stanford University and NCRS Demokritos, Athens.


PhD Institute of Archaeology (UCL), 1999


Search course offerings in Anthropology


Courses (2018-19)


  • ANTHROP 2HH3 - Engineering, Mining And Technology: Archaeological Perspectives


  • ANTHROP 4KK3 - Archaeology of Neanderthals And Other Early Humans
  • ANTHROP 733 - Archaeology of Identity


Courses (2017-18)


  • ANTHROP 2WA3 - World Archaeology


  • ANTHROP 2PC3 - Archaeology and Popular Culture
  • ANTHROP 3LA3 - Lithics Analysis



Publications (Recent Selection) *peer reviewed

*2018  (Carter, T., Strasser, T., Panagopoulou, E., Campeau, K. and Mihailović, D.D.), ‘Obsidian circulation in the Early Holocene Aegean: A Case Study from Mesolithic Damnoni (SW Crete)’, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 17: 173-183.

*2018 Suda, Y., Grebennikov, A., Kuzmin, Y.V., Glascock, M.D., Wada, K., Ferguson, J.,R., Kim, J.C., Popov, V.K., Rasskazov, S.V., Yasnigina, T.A., Saito, N. Takehara, H., Carter, T., Kasztovszky, Z., Biro, K.T., and Ono, A.), ‘Inter-laboratory validation of the WDXRF, EDXRF, ICP–MS, NAA and PGAA analytical techniques and geochemical characterisation of obsidian sources in northeast Hokkaido Island, Japan’, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 17: 379-392.

*2017 ‘Nothing to see here! The challenges of public archaeology at Palaeolithic Stélida, Naxos’, Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies 5(3-4): 311-333.

*2017 (Carter, T., Batist, Z, Campeau, K., Garfinkel, Y., and Streit, K.), ‘Investigating Pottery Neolithic socio-economic “regression” in the Southern Levant: Characterizing obsidian consumption at Sha‘ar Hagolan (N. Israel)’, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 15: 305-317.

*2017 (Skarpelis, N., Carter, T., Contreras, D.A., and Mihailović, D.D.), ‘Petrography and geochemistry of the siliceous rocks at Stélida, a chert source and early prehistoric stone tool manufacturing site on northwest Naxos, Greece’, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 12: 819-833.

*2016  Obsidian consumption in the Late Pleistocene - Early Holocene Aegean: Contextualising new data from Mesolithic Crete’, Annual of the British School at Athens 111: 1-22.

*2016 (Carter, T., Contreras, D., Campeau, K., and Freund, K.), ‘Spherulites and aspiring elites: The identification, distribution, and consumption of Giali obsidian (Dodecanese, Greece)’, Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 29.1: 3-36.

*2016 (Carter, T., Mihailović, D.D., Papadatos, Y., and Sofianou, C.), ‘The Cretan Mesolithic in context: New data from Livari Skiadi (SE Crete)’, Documenta Praehistorica XLIII: 87-101.

*2016 (Carter, T., Contreras, D.A., Doyle, S., Mihailović, D.D., and Skarpelis, N.), ‘Early Holocene interaction in the Aegean Islands: Mesolithic chert exploitation at Stélida (Naxos, Greece) in context’, in M. Ghilardi (ed.), Géoarchéologie des Îles de Méditerranée. CNRS éditions, Paris: 275-286.

*2015 (Carter, T., Haddow, S., Russell, N., Bogaard, A., and Tsoraki, C.), ‘Laying the foundations: Creating households at Neolithic Çatalhöyük’, in I. Hodder and A. Marciniak (eds.), Assembling Çatalhöyük. EAA Monograph Series - Themes in Contemporary Archaeology I: 97-110.

2014a (Carter, T. Contreras, D.A., Doyle, S., Mihailović, D.D. Moutsiou, T. and Skarpelis, N.) ‘The Stélida Naxos Archaeological Project: New data on the Mesolithic and Middle Palaeolithic Cyclades’, Antiquity Project Gallery 88 (341)

2014b ‘The contribution of obsidian characterization studies to early prehistoric archaeology’, in M. Yamada and A. Ono (eds.), Lithic Raw Material Exploitation and Circulation in Prehistory: A Comparative Perspective in Diverse Palaeoenvironemnts. ÉRAUL 138, Liège: 23-33.

*2013a (Carter, T. Grant, S., Kartal, M., Coşkun, A. and Ozkaya , V.), ‘Networks and Neolithisation: Sourcing obsidian from Körtik Tepe (SE Anatolia)’, Journal of Archaeological Science 40(1); 556-569.

*2013b (Carter, T. and Milić, M.), ‘The consumption at Neolithic Ҫatalhöyük: A long-term perspective’, in F. Borrell, J.J. Ibáñez & M.M. Molist (eds), Stone Tools in Transition: From Hunter-Gatherers to Farming Societies in the Near East. Proceedings of the 7thPPN Stone Tools Workshop, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona Press, Barcelona: 495-508.

2013c ‘The chipped stone’, in J –P. Poursat (ed.), Fouilles Exécutées à Malia Le Quartier Mu V. Vie Quotidienne et Techniques au Minoen Moyen II. Etudes Crétoises 34, École Française d’Athènes, Athens: 5-42.

*2013d (Carter, T. and Milić, M.), ‘The chipped stone’, in Hodder (ed.), Substantive Technologies at Ҫatalhöyük: Reports from the 2000-08 Seasons. Ҫatalhöyük Research Project  Series Volume 9, BIAA Monograph 48, Monumneta Archaeologica 31. British Institute at Ankara, London; Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, Los Angeles: 417-478.   

*2013e  (Carter, T. and Milić, M.), ‘The chipped stone industry from Dhaskalio’, in C. Renfrew, O. Philaniotou, N. Brodie, G. Gavalas and M.J. Boyd (eds.), The Settlement at Dhaskalio. The Sanctuary at Keros and the Origins of Aegean Ritual, Volume I. McDonald Institute for Archaeology, Cambridge: 531-556.

*2013f  (Orange, M., Carter, T. and LeBouronnec, F.-X.), ‘Sourcing obsidian from Tell Aswad and Qdeir 1 (Syria) by SEM-EDS and EDXRF: Methodological implications’, CR Palevol 12: 173-180.

*2012a (Carter, T. and Contreras, D.), ‘The character and use of the Soros Hill obsidian source, Antiparos (Greece)’, CR Palevol, 11: 595-602.

2012b (Stemp, W.J., Helmke, C.G.B., Awe, J.J., Carter, T. and Grant, S.), ‘A green obsidian eccentric from Actun Uayazba Kab, Belize’ Association for Mexican Cave Studies Bulletin 23(9): 111-124 (116-117).

*2011a  ‘A true gift of mother earth: the use and significance of obsidian at Ҫatalhöyük’, Anatolian Studies 61: 1-19.

*2011b (Carter, T. Le Bordonnec, F. –X., Kartal, M., Poupeau, G., Calligaro, T. and Moretto, P.), ‘Marginal perspectives: Sourcing obsidian from the Öküzini Cave (SW Turkey)’, Paléorient 37.2: 123-149.