My book is now available in paperback!


I’m an anthropological bioarchaeologist who analyzes mummies and skeletons from archaeological contexts in the Peruvian Andes, both to document their health status and lived experience. Generally speaking, my research interests include paleopathology, violence-related trauma, the use of the body and body parts in rituals, and bioarchaeological perspectives on embodiment. More specifically, I conduct research on what I call a “bioarchaeology of imperialism”, which aims to elucidate the biocultural impact of archaic forms of imperialism on community health and individual lifeways. My ongoing studies in the Andes examine how Wari imperial structures (AD 600 – 1000) affected, and were affected by, heartland and southern hinterland groups. Among these Wari-affiliated communities, I am documenting such things as mortuary practices, disease rates, dietary practices, migration patterns, genetic profiles as viewed through ancient mtDNA, body modification, frequencies of trauma, and specific kinds of culturally mediated violence (e.g., ritual fighting, corporeal punishment, domestic violence). My dissertation (December 2003) and various publications on the Bioarchaeology of Wari Imperialism and other bioarchaeological themes can be downloaded as .pdf’s from my Research/Publications page (see list to the right).

D-Shaped structure in Vegachayoq sector at the Wari capital site of Huari (Photo by T.A. Tung)

Building on those earlier studies, my most recent research –funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (2010)– investigates how Wari imperial collapse affected mortuary practices and morbidity profiles, especially as it relates to the prevalence of violence and warfare in the former imperial heartland. This new research will aid in providing a diachronic view of ancient health, diet, and lived experience from a time of imperial rule to political disintegration. This cultural transition likely contributed to social and political strife, which may have been manifested as violent conflict.

Perimortem trauma on a child cranium from the Monqachayoq sector at Huari. (Photo by T.A. Tung)

As part of those investigations into Wari and post-Wari community health and lifeways, I co-direct another project, “Reconstructing Biosocial (Pre)Histories in the Andes”, with Dr.Marshal Summar (formerly with the Vanderbilt Medical Center and Center for Human Genetics Research). This research entails the analysis of culturally contextualized ancient and modern mtDNA from highland Andean populations in the Department of Ayacucho. In particular, the ancient DNA from Wari and post-Wari populations form part of my larger bioarchaeological database aimed at understanding how imperial rule and imperial collapse structure health outcomes, migration and marriage patterns, and other aspects of prehispanic life.

View of the village of Pacaycasa, near the site of Huari. (Photo by T.A. Tung)

I am also the director of the “Beringa Bioarchaeology and Archaeology Project” in the Majes valley (Department of Arequipa), which I have been running since 2001. We have recovered at least 150 individuals from this Wari-affiliated site, including intact mummies and partially complete skeletons. These mortuary and osteological data are providing a much needed view of life in the southern hinterland of the Wari domain.

Disturbed burial from the Wari affiliated site of Beringa, Majes Valley, Dept. of Arequipa, where I directed excavations as part of my dissertation research. (Photo by T.A. Tung)

I am also the Project Bioarchaeologist for the “Conchopata Archaeological Project” (CAP), directed by William Isbell and Anita Cook. This is an important Wari imperial site located in the city of Ayacucho. My osteological analysis of the 318 burials—only some of which are complete—recovered by the CAP team has provided the basis for documenting health status and mortuary rituals in the Wari imperial heartland.

Adult female cranium covered in cinnabar, from the Wari site of Conchopata. (Conchopata Archaeological Project directed by William Isbell and Anita Cook.) (Photo by T.A. Tung)

My most recent project is a collaboration with Dr. Steve Wernke, director of the “Tuti Antiguo Archaeological Project” in the Colca valley of southern highland Peru (Department of Arequipa). I am the Project Bioarchaeologist overseeing the excavation and analysis of human burials from two major sectors at the site of Malata: 1) the Late Horizon (Inka era, AD 1450 – 1532) burial towers (chullpas) located at the eastern edge of the site and 2) the early colonial Spanish chapel where individuals were interred under the chapel floor. Analysis of these human remains ties into my broader interests in the biocultural effects of imperialism and colonialism, for this local Collagua ethnic group was first conquered by the Inka, and shortly thereafter, by the Spanish.

Excavating an adult male burial from under the floor of an early colonial chapel at the site of Malata, Colca Valley, Dept. of Arequipa. (Tuti Antiguo Archaeology Project directed by Steve Wernke.) (Photo by S.A.Wernke)