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The Andes


From the high Cordillera to the coastal plains, the Andean region is characterized by both environmental and cultural diversity, home to complex empires like the Inka, as well as some of the earliest hunter forager sites in the Americas. This is a unique region in which to examine the peopling of the New World, the transition to agriculture, the development of socio-political complexity and human-environment interactions. In addition, the rich archaeological, bioarchaeological and ethnohistoric record can be combined to investigate ritual activities and their role in political integration at both small scales – in the investigation of specific mortuary rituals – and large scales, as in the investigation of pilgrimage across the Andean landscape.

Current and future directions

Exciting current directions in Andean archaeology include identity formation and manipulation as viewed through material culture and the bioarchaeological record, and the origins and organization of socio-political complexity. In addition, the environmental challenges posed in the Andean region make it an ideal place to examine human-environment interactions and sustainability over the long-time scale afforded by the archaeological record. In the Andes, School of Human Evolution and Social Change faculty Jane Buikstra and Kelly Knudson investigate these and other questions in Peru, Chile and Bolivia.

School strengths

Arizona State University’s strengths in Andean archaeology include the investigation of state formation; political integration and expansion; ritual activities; mortuary behavior; identity formation and manipulation; and host-pathogen co-evolution, with a focus on tuberculosis. In recent years, graduate students and faculty in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change have undertaken field and laboratory work – much of it funded by the National Science Foundation – in the Rimac Valley of central Peru, the Osmore Drainage of southern Peru, the San Pedro de Atacama oasis of northern Chile and the Lake Titicaca Basin of Bolivia and Peru. Finally, a graduate and undergraduate course entitled Andean Archaeology, taught by Kelly Knudson is offered every other year.


Andean archaeology in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change benefits from collaborative relationships with numerous institutions in the Andes, including Museo Contisuyo of Moquegua, Peru; Centro Mallqui in Algarrobal, Peru; and Museo R.P. Gustavo LePaige in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

Key school archaeology faculty

Jane Buikstra, Regents' Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Founding Director, Center for Bioarchaeological Research

Kelly Knudson, Associate Professor & Associate Director, School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Director, Archaeological Chemistry Laboratory