Current Institutional Affiliation
Visiting Scholar & Lecturer, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Michigan

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Michigan
Ethnic Groups and Colonies: Investigation of Prehistoric Coastal-Highland Interaction at Las Varas, Jequetepeque Valley, Peru

This project examines the interaction between ethnic groups and process of identity construction. Specifically, I will investigate the interaction between two prehispanic ethnic groups in the Andes: the coastal Chimu Empire (A.D. 1100-1470) and the highland Cajamarca polity. According to ethnohistorical sources, the people of Chimu and Cajamarca became allies in A.D. 1460 to resist an invasion by the Inca Empire. However, the relationship between the Chimu Empire and the Cajamarca polity prior to the Inca conquest is unclear. Some scholars believe that the Cajamarca polity established trade colonies near the coast, although archaeological research has not demonstrated the existence of these colonies. The results of a survey I conducted in July 2005 indicate that the site of Las Varas might be a highland colony situated between the Chimu Empire and the Cajamarca polity in the middle Jequetepeque Valley, Peru. Las Varas is a unique site since it has the largest quantity of highland ceramics and tombs in the survey area. I will conduct archaeological excavations of houses and burials at Las Varas to determine whether the site was settled by (1) people from the highlands, or (2) people native to the mid-valley but were using highland items. Excavation seeks to demonstrate how people at Las Varas maintained or modified their ethnic identity through household items and burial pratices. By revealing processes of ethnic affiliation at Las Varas, this study contributes to studies of the prehistoric Andes, ethnic group interaction, and the construction of ethnic identities.