Elizabeth Arkush

  • Associate Professor

Elizabeth Arkush is an archaeologist whose research focuses on warfare, social identity, ritual, and political dynamics in prehispanic Peru.

Her comparative approach to understanding warfare explores how relationships of hostility and alliance shape individual, community, and regional identities, structure settlement patterns, generate social hierarchies, and inform ritual and the performance of authority.

Her recent research has addressed conflict, political organization, and social relationships in Peru’s Lake Titicaca Basin after roughly AD 1000, synthesizing fieldwork on pukara hillfort sites with ethnohistoric information.


Warfare: Special Topics in Archaeology

Warfare afflicts societies around the globe, and it has done so for thousands of years. From head-hunting raids to state military campaigns, warfare has played a double-edged role: it destroys individuals and families, but it is also central to society, defining gender roles and group identities, justifying political hierarchy, and supplying a potent source of violent images and narratives to be interwoven with culture. This seminar examines selected current issues in the archaeology and anthropology of war. Topics include the causes of war at multiple scales of analysis; the origins of war in human prehistory; cultural variation in the practice of war; relationships between war and political power; and the effects of war on the individual and society.

Archaeological Applications of GIS Analysis

This course takes a problem-oriented approach to the use of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and related tools in archaeology. We will cover concepts, case studies, theoretical issues, and analytic techniques useful for addressing particular kinds of questions about the relationships among archaeological sites and between people and the land they inhabited. Topics include catchments and resource use, travel and transport over terrain, visibility, hydrology, locational modeling, and networks and spatial syntax. Students may choose to participate in an optional lab component on ESRI ArcGIS software or to work with Idrissi and AutoCAD. It is expected that students will have taken Archaeological Data Analysis II and be familiar with techniques for the acquisition and management of spatial data, the use of vector graphics, rasters (including map algebra), and spatial statistics. The course is intended to pair with ANTH 2541(Regional Settlement, Communities, and Demography), and students are encouraged to take both courses simultaneously.

Introduction to Archaeology

Modern archeology draws much of its theory and goals from anthropology. This course will show how archaeologists use the fragmentary traces left by past peoples to develop an anthropological understanding of their cultures. We will explore the variety of ways archaeologists investigate such things as prehistoric diet, social life, politics, technology, and religion. Topics to be covered include: the nature of archaeological information, dating techniques, interpretation of material objects, and archaeological ethics. Studies from around the world will be used to illustrate major principles in archaeological research. The course will provide an understanding of how and why we study past societies, as well as the unique contribution archaeology can make to understanding ourselves. Recitation sections are an important part of the course and are not optional. Recitation section grades will be determined by a combination of participation, short quizzes, and exercises.

Power in Prehistory

Huge imbalances of power are fundamental to the shape of our modern world, yet in the long span of human history, they are a relatively recent development. This course introduces students to a range of ways anthropological archaeologists have thought about and investigated the origins of power and inequality in human societies. Central themes include the genesis of stable power relationships and the emergence of early complex societies; debates about evolutionary political models; and the roles of ideology, legitimacy, wealth, and coercion. Subsidiary themes include the relationship of archaeological discussions to the Western tradition of political thought, and the contemporary politics of archaeology. We will read a variety of ethnographic and archaeological case studies as well as programmatic writing in archaeology.

South American Archaeology

This course reviews the prehistory of South America from the first human settlement through the conquest of native groups by Europeans in the 1500s.  The primary focus is on civilizations in the Andes (modern-day Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador), where the Inca Empire was merely the last and largest in a long sequence of states and empires.  We will cover the lifeways of the first human settlers in the region, early monumentality and urbanism, the relationship between geographic environments and cultural developments, the economic and religious foundations of indigenous South American states, and their collapse.  In the process we will draw on ethnohistoric information collected in the contact period, and explore the rich artistic achievements of native South Americans in architecture, pottery, textiles, and metalwork.


Arkush, E. (2018) "Coalescence and Defensive Communities: Insights from an Andean Hillfort Town," Cambridge Archaeological Journal 28(1):1-22.

Arkush, E. (2017) "The End of Ayawiri: Abandonment at an Andean Hillfort Town,"  Journal of Field Archaeology 83:1-17.

Arkush, E. (2017) Coalescence and Defensive Communities: Insights from an Andean Hillfort Town. Cambridge Archaeological Journal. Online version 6/17, doi 10.1017/S0959774317000440.

Arkush, E. (2017) The End of Ayawiri: Abandonment at an Andean Hillfort Town. Journal of Field Archaeology 83:1-17.

Arkush, E. (2016) Arte rupestre en su entorno social: Ejemplares del intermedio tardío, horizonte tardío, y post-conquista (republica temprana) cerca de la Laguna Umayo, Vilque, Puno, in Arte Rupestre de la región del Lago Titicaca, ed. M. Strecker: 267-282.   Sociedad de Investigación del Arte Rupestre de Bolivia (SIARB), La Paz.

Langlie, B. & Arkush, E. (2016)Managing mayhem: Conflict, environment, and subsistence in the Andean Late Intermediate Period, Puno, Peru,” in The Archaeology of Food and Warfare, eds. A. VanDerwarker & G. Wilson: 259-290.  Springer. 

Arkush, E. (2014) “’I against my brother’: Conflict and confederation in the south-central Andes in late prehistory,” in Embattled Bodies, Embattled Places: War in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and the Andes, eds. A. Scherer & J. Verano: 199-226.  Dumbarton Oaks Library and Collections. 

Arkush, E. (2014) Soldados históricos en un panel de arte rupestre, Puno, Perú: Los caudillos del siglo XIX y el comentario político andino, Chungará 46(4):585-605. 

Arkush, E. & Tung, T. (2013) “Patterns of War in the Andes from the Archaic to the Late Horizon: Insights from Settlement Patterns and Cranial Trauma,” Journal of Archaeological Research 21(4):307-369.

Arkush, E. (2012) Violence, indigeneity, and archaeological interpretation in the central Andes, in The Ethics of Anthropology and Amerindian Research: Reporting on Environmental Degradation and Warfare, eds. R. J. Chacon & R. G. Mendoza: 289-309. Springer.  

Arkush, E. (2012) “Los pukaras y la poder: los collas en la cuenca septentrional del Titicaca,” in Arqueología de la Cuenca del Titicaca, Perú, eds. L. Flores & H. Tantaleán: 295-320.  IFEA, Lima.

Arkush, E. (2011) Hillforts of the Ancient Andes: Colla Warfare, Society, and Landscape.  University Press of Florida.

Arkush, E. (2011) Explaining the Past in 2010 (The Year in Review), American Anthropologist 113(2):200-212.

Arkush, E. (2009) “Warfare, space, and identity in the south-central Andes: Constraints and choices,”  in Warfare in Cultural Context: Practice, Agency, and the Archaeology of Violence, eds. A. E. Nielsen & W. H. Walker: 190-217.  University of Arizona Press.

Arkush, E. (2008) War, causality, and chronology in the Titicaca Basin, Latin American Antiquity 19(4):339-373.

Arkush, E. & Allen, M., eds. (2006) The Archaeology of Warfare: Prehistories of Raiding and Conquest.  University of Florida Press.

Arkush, E. & Stanish, C. (2005) Interpreting conflict in the ancient Andes: Implications for the archaeology of warfare, Current Anthropology 46 (1): 3-28.

Arkush, E. (2005) Inca ceremonial sites in the southwest Titicaca Basin, in Advances in the Archaeology of the Titicaca Basin, eds. C. Stanish, A. Cohen, & M. Aldenderfer: 209-242.  Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press.