Bjørnar Olsen

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Bjørnar Julius Olsen (born 2 January 1958, Finnmark, Norway) is professor at the University of Tromsø. He is a Norwegian archaeologist who specializes in archaeological theory, material culture, museology, northern/Arctic archaeology. Olsen is a prominent figure in the turn to things, including symmetrical archaeology.


Olsen was born in a small fishing village in Finnmark, Norway. He received his PhD from the University of Tromsø in 1984 and was a visiting researcher at the University of Cambridge 1985–1986. He became full professor in 1991 (at the age of 33) and has since 1994 been professor of archaeology at the Institute of archaeology, University of Tromsø. Bjørnar currently lives in Northern Norway with his wife and three children. He is a fellow of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

Olsen was a figure in the development of post-processualism and theoretical archaeology during the 1980s and 1990s and is now at the forefront of the development of new approaches to things, including symmetrical archaeology, and modern ruins in archaeology and material culture studies. He is also an international leader in the development of archaeological theory and Sámi prehistory/history. Olsen has published 10 books (and close to 160 scientific papers), including Archaeology: The Discipline of Things (2012 with Michael Shanks (archaeologist), Timothy Webmoor and Christopher Witmore), In Defense of Things. Archaeology and the Ontology of Objects (2010), and Persistent memories: Pyramiden – a Soviet mining town in the High Arctic (2010, with Elin Andreassen and Hein Bjerck; see Pyramiden) .

Olsen is director of the Ruin Memories Project. "Ruin Memories: Materiality, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past" is an international collaborative project that focuses on industrial ruins, abandoned fishing villages, war remains and mining sites in Norway, Russia, Iceland, Spain and the United States.


  • In Defense of Things. Archaeology and the Ontology of Objects (2010)
  • Persistent memories. Pyramiden – a Soviet mining town in the High Arctic (2010)
  • Archaeology: The Discipline of Things (2012)


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