About the Society Awards Past Award Winners 2011 (Program for Scientists) Ruzan Mkrtchyan
I was born in Armenia, then part of the Former Soviet Union. I had an early interest in the evolutionary history of humans, their ecology and relationship to other taxa and was particularly drawn to the study of fossil morphology and paleodemography in paleo-populations. I started my studies in Yerevan State University and graduated from the University with an MA diploma in history and archaeology in 1977. I was lucky to join the State Museum of History of Armenia as a laboratory assistant where I combined my interest in paleontology and paleoanthropology. There I was in charge of cataloging and preserving paleoanthropological materials from a wide range of sites in Armenia. Shortly thereafter, in 1978, I began working at the Archaeological Laboratory of the Department of Archaeology of Yerevan State University as a junior research associate. Here, I further developed my expertise in osteological, anatomical and paleodemographical methods. In 1982, I left for Moscow to continue my paleoanthropological education for a PhD degree. I was inspired by the studies of the renowned Prof. Valeri Alekseev and with his kind support I enrolled at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences under his mentorship and completed my dissertation on the early Holocene human populations of the Russian Steppes. In 1987, I obtained the PhD at the Institute of Ethnography of the Order of the Friendship of Nations after N. N. Miklukho-Maklay of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Moscow.
Upon receiving my PhD, I returned to Armenia and continued my work at the Archaeological Laboratory of Archaeology Department of the Yerevan State University. Since 1993, I have been employed at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences, and have expanded the scope of my work to include excavations in a wide range of sites throughout Armenia; preparation and of fossil materials; sex – age estimations and paleopathology. Since 2003, I also serve as curator of bioarchaeological materials in the museum-reserve of Environmental and Cultural Values. For the past ten years, I have been part of an international Armenian-Russian-American collaboration, studying the Plio-Pleistocene deposits of the Lori Plateau in Northern Armenia. As part of this ongoing project, we have been excavating and surveying several sites including Nurnus, Kurtan and Dashtadem-3, which revealed both large and small mammalian faunal deposits dating from the Late Pliocene to Middle Pleistocene. Kurtan also includes the earliest sites with evidence for human presence in Armenia dating the 1.5 Ma.
I have been particularly involved in the education and development of the next generation of Armenian scientists and have been teaching paleontology, bioarchaeology and physical anthropology in Yervan State University.
I am greatly honored to receive the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Scientist from an Economically Developing Nation Award and would like to thank the members of the selection committee and those who made it possible.
Photo courtesy of Ruzan Mkrtchyan.