Former Curator and Head of Section Sandra L. Olsen

Sandra Olsen is former Curator of Anthropology and Head of Section at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA. She is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Neurobiology at the School of Medicine and in the Anthropology Department of the University of Pittsburgh. Olsen received her PhD in Archaeology from the University of London in 1984 and did a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy in the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University.

As a zooarchaeologist, Olsen has examined the various roles that wild and domesticated animals have played in the lives of prehistoric peoples. Since 1993, Olsen has focused on early horse domestication and pastoralism in northern Kazakhstan. Her work has reached the media through BBC radio, National Public Radio, and Discovery Channel Canada as well as local television programs, Discover magazine, and internationally acclaimed newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and London Times. She has been a consultant for the television program Bones, and developed the concept for an episode of the children's program Dragonfly on bog people for PBS.

She has developed two major exhibits at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, The Age of Dinosaurs Lives On and Mongolia Today, and has won two first-place Telly Awards as producer of the short films associated with the exhibitions. She co-curated the American Museum of Natural History exhibition The Horse and the International Museum of the Horse (Kentucky Horse Park) exhibition A Gift from the Desert: The Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse. Olsen has published a catalogue for the A Gift from the Desert exhibition with Cynthia L. Culbertson as well as more than 50 articles and three edited volumes: Scanning Electron Microscopy in Archaeology, Horses through Time, and Horses and Humans: The Evolution of Human-Equine Relationships. 

A major recent project, The Arabian Rock Art Heritage project, funded by the Layan Cultural Foundation, began in 2010. Using advanced imaging techniques, the team's goal is to accurately record and interpret petroglyphs from dozens of sites throughout the Saudi landscape. A web site, a book, and articles are planned to disseminate the team's findings.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is ranked as one of the top five natural history museums in the country. The museum maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 21 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. More information is available at

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