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Thomas R. Fenn

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Thomas R. Fenn

Thomas R. Fenn, Assistant Professor in the University of Oklahoma's Department of Anthropology, examining pigments in Native American beads

Assistant Professor
Ph.D. The University of Arizona, 2011

Office: Dale Hall Tower 510b


Research Interests

  • Ancient Pyrotechnologies
  • Archaeological Sciences
  • Complex Societies of the Old and New Worlds
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Trade and Exchange Networks
  • Provenance Studies of Archaeological Materials
  • South and East Asia
  • Geoarchaeology, Isotopic Analysis, Geochemistry


I am an archaeologist with more than two decades of applying scientific methods and techniques to answering archaeological and anthropological questions.  My primary research interests include examining early technologies, technological knowledge and the transmission of technology and knowledge, as well as more overarching questions on long distance trade, and local, regional and long-distance contacts and exchange.  My research covers a wide range of materials, regions and time periods with common threads of examining socio-economic and technological aspects of pyrotechnologies and the derivative products.  I currently have a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project aiming at determining possible regions of ancient glass production in India using elemental and isotope analyses.  I also have active projects in Mongolia, examining Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age metal flow between the eastern Eurasian Steppes and the Central Valley civilizations of China, in Tunisia, exploring human-landscape interactions at the Neo-Punic and Early Roman site of Zita, and in sub-Saharan Africa, at numerous sites examining trans-Saharan and regional trade networks and technology flow.  My analytical experience includes sample preparation and analyses with optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), electron microprobe analysis (EMPA), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), X-ray diffraction (XRD), thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS), and both laser-ablation and multi-collector inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA- & MC-ICP-MS).  I previously have taught courses in world archaeology, archaeological sciences, geoarchaeology and isotope geology, ancient civilizations, cultural anthropology, environment, technology and culture, and the anthropology of gender.  I encourage undergraduate and graduate student participation in my lab and field projects.  I strongly believe that hands-on experience is a vital part of the education of anyone interested in pursuing archaeology as a career.

Recent/Significant Publications

Dussubieux, Laure, Thomas R. Fenn, Shinu Anna Abraham, and Alok Kumar Kanungo. 2022. Tracking ancient glass production in India: Elemental and isotopic analysis of raw materials.” Anthropological and Archaeological Sciences 14, 14pp.

Cerezo-Roman, Jessica I., Thomas R. Fenn, Carlos Cruz Guzmán, Silvia I. Nava Maldonado, Claudia León Romero, and Elisa Villalpando. 2022. Cremations and Pyrotechnologies among the Prehispanic Inhabitants of Cerro de Trincheras, Northern Mexico. Latin American Antiquity, 1-20.

Fenn, Thomas R., Laure Dussubieux, Heather Walder, and Douglas D. Anderson. 2022. Glass beads and evidence for early “Pre-Contact” trade in Northwestern Alaska. In The Elemental Analysis of Glass Beads: Technology, Chronology and Exchange, edited by Laure Dussubieux and Heather Walder, pp. 137-158.  Studies in Archaeological Sciences No. 8.  Leuven University Press, Leuven, Belgium.

Carter, Alison, Laure Dussubieux, Thomas R. Fenn, Thanik Lertcharnrit, and T.O. Pryce. 2022. The exchange of beads in Central Thailand in the protohistoric period: Glass objects from Phromthin Tai. In The Elemental Analysis of Glass Beads: Technology, Chronology, and Exchange, edited by Laure Dussubieux and Heather Walder, pp. 161-176.  Studies in Archaeological Sciences 8.  Leuven University Press, Leuven, Belgium.

Miller, Ian, and Thomas R. Fenn. 2021. “Building, processing, and sharing 3D photogrammetric data: an archaeological viewpoint.” In Proceedings of the ICTeSSH 2021 Conference.

Kaufman, Brett, Hans Barnard, Ali Drine, Rayed Khedher, Alan Farahani, Sami Ben Tahar, Elyssa Jerray, Brian N. Damiata, Megan Daniels, Jessica Cerezo-Román, Thomas R. Fenn, and Victoria Moses. 2021. “Quantifying Surplus and Sustainability in the Archaeological Record at the Carthaginian-Roman Urban Mound of Zita, Tripolitania.” Current Anthropology 62(4).

Killick, David J., Jay A. Stephens and Thomas R. Fenn. 2020. “Geological Constraints on the Use of Lead Isotopes for Provenance in Archaeometallurgy”. Archaeometry 62(S1):86-105.

Fenn, Thomas R., Thilo Rehren, and Laure Dussubieux. November, 2017. “Preliminary Chemical and Technical Analyses of Essouk Metal Artefacts.”  In Essouk-Tadmekka: An Early Islamic Trans-Saharan Market Town, edited by Sam Nixon, pp. 383-390. Journal of African Archaeology Monograph Series, Volume 12. Brill, Leiden.

Fenn, Thomas R. and David J. Killick. 2016. “Copper Alloys.”  In The Search for Takrur: Archaeological Excavations and Reconnaissance along the Middle Senegal Valley, edited by Roderick J. McIntosh, Susan Keech McIntosh, and Hamady Bocoum, pp. 281-298. Yale University Publication in Anthropology, no. 93. Yale University Department of Anthropology and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, CT.

Fenn, Thomas R. 2015. “A Review of Cross-craft Interactions Between the Development of Glass Production and the Pyrotechnologies of Metallurgy and other Vitreous Materials.” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 25(1):391-398. DOI:

Crowther, Alison, Margaret-Ashley Veall, Nicole Boivin, Mark Horton, Anna Kotarba-Morley, Dorian Q. Fuller, Thomas Fenn, Othman Haji, and Carney D. Matheson. 2015. “Use of Zanzibar copal (Hymenaea verrucosa Gaertn.) as incense at Unguja Ukuu, Tanzania in the 7–8th century CE: chemical insights into trade and Indian Ocean interactions.” Journal of Archaeological Science 53 (January 2015):374-390.

Fenn, Thomas R., Matthew J. Ponting, and Mary E. Voyatzis. 2014. “Ceramic Analysis of Laconian Protogeometric Pottery from Tegea and Amyclae.” In Tegea I: Investigations in the Temple of Athena Alea 1991-94, by G. C. Nordquist, M. E. Voyatzis, and E. Østby, pp. 571-590. The Norwegian Institute at Athens, Athens. Papers and Monographs from the Norwegian Institute at Athens, Vol. 3, edited by E. Østby.

Killick, David and Thomas Fenn. 2012. “Archaeometallurgy: The Study of Preindustrial Mining and Metallurgy.” Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 41, pp. 559-575.

Ganio, Monica, Sara Boyen, Thomas Fenn, Rebecca Scott, Sofie Vanhoutte, Domingo Gimeno, and Patrick Degryse. 2012. “Roman glass across the Empire: an elemental and isotopic characterization.” Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry 27(5):743-753.

Huntley, Deborah L., Thomas Fenn, Judith A. Habicht-Mauche, and Barbara J. Mills. 2012. “Embedded Networks? Pigments and Long-Distance Procurement Strategies in the Late Prehispanic Southwest.” In Potters and Communities of Practice: Glaze Paint and Polychrome Pottery in the American Southwest, AD 1250 to 1700, edited by Linda S. Cordell and Judith A. Habicht-Mauche, pp. 8-18. Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona 75, University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Fenn, Thomas R., David J. Killick, Sonja Magnavita, John Chesley and Joaquin Ruiz. 2009. Contacts Between West Africa and Roman North Africa: Archaeometallurgical Results from Kissi, Northeastern Burkina Faso. In Crossroads / Carrefour Sahel. Cultural and Technological Developments in First Millennium BC / AD West Africa, edited by S. Magnavita, L. Koté, P. Breunig, and O. A. Idé, pp. 119-146, Journal of African Archaeology Monograph Series, Volume 2, Africa Magna Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Courses Taught

  • ANTH 1413 – Great Discoveries in Archaeology
  • ANTH 2953 – Topics in Anthropology
  • ANTH 4953 – African Archaeology (Special Topics in Anthropology)
  • ANTH 4953 – Technology and the Rise of Civilizations (Special Topics in Anthropology)
  • ANTH 4953 – Old World Archaeology
  • ANTH 4883/5883 – Archaeological Sciences
  • ANTH 5783 – Ceramic Analysis in Archaeology
  • ANTH 5893 – Geophysics in Archaeology (Special Topics in Anthropology)
  • ANTH 6960 – Directed Readings