Marc Bermann

  • Associate Professor

Marc Bermann is an archaeologist primarily interested in prehistoric states (particularly in the New World) and household archaeology. Other interests include the evolution of archaic empires, pre-Hispanic political organization and worldview, historiography, and peasant studies in general. His fieldwork is concerned with pre-Inca civilizations of Bolivia and Peru. Currently he serves as the Director of Graduate Studies.

Research Description

Household Life in Prehispanic Bolivia

Village sites of the Formative Period (1500 BC - AD 400) Wankarani culture of Bolivia appear as mounds made up of the accumulation of hundreds of years of house remains, domestic refuse, and the gray ash of cooking fires. Some mounds stand as high as 8 meters. The Wankarani Complex represents one of the earliest village and pottery-using populations of Bolivia.



Paleo-Kitchen: Prehistoric Diet, Cooking, and Domesticity

Undergradaute Seminar. Theories concerning a natural human diet, and the basis for food preferences and taboos, have long been the subject of controversy within both anthropology and the popular imagination. How do biological and cultural factors influence human food choice? In exploring this question, this course will examine the evolution of human diet from a nutritional and primate physiological perspective, and examine the symbolism of eating, consumption, and the nourished body in prehistory. Focal topics will include: current debates over hominid diets; the causes and consequences of the shift from hunting and gathering to food production; archaeological techniques for reconstructing subsistence and cooking patterns; and the development of ancient cuisines (including the Chinese, Sumerian, and Inca). In all cultures, cooking and eating are related to the definition of significant social roles. Therefore, we will investigate through case studies how food preparation spaces and gender division of labor in food preparation activities served to create domestic life in prehistory. Prerequisites: ANTH 0582 or ANTH 0780

Prehistoric Village Life

Undergraduate Seminar. No social grouping other than the family has been more widespread, enduring, and important in human life than the village. Anthropologists have long recognized the village as an essential unit of study in understanding social organization in traditional, peasant, and modern societies. Archaeologists recognize the emergence of village lie as an important threshold in societal evolution in many parts of the world. For much of human history, the village was the setting where people lived and interacted, where their perceptions and identities were formed, and where traditions and worldviews were perpetuated. This seminar will: (1) investigate the village cross-culturally as a characteristic type of human settlement, and (2) explore how village life was experienced by its members. Topics to be explored include: the village as community; leadership, sharing, and jealousy within the village; demographic perspectives; the social transformations accompanying the origins of village life; the village as adaptation; and inter-village interaction and the growth of regional political systems. Drawing on ethnographic and archaeological case studies from Europe, the Middle East, China, and South America, we will aim at comprehending why villages emerged when and how they did in the past, and why the village remains so important to societies today, if only in some cases as a vanished ideal.

Origins of Cities

This course examines the origin and characteristics of urban life. After reviewing the nature of cities in the modern world, attention will focus on prehistoric cities in the Old World and New World, and the social, political, ecological and demographic processes that led to their development. The focus of the course is on archaeological cities, but ethnographic and sociological studies of modern urban forms will be extensively used. The purpose of the course is to give students a comparative understanding and appreciation of urban life and its long history.

Archaeology Core Course

The aim of this course is to introduce students to 1) the nature of archeological information, 2) the full range of the human cultural past, from a Paleolithic beginnings to state-level societies, 3) the various theoretical propositions archeologists have found useful in understanding cultural change on this scale, and 4) the ways archeologists evaluate these propositions against the information available in the archeological record. The course examines the evolution of human culture using selected, world-wide examples to illustrate the broad sequence of human development. Particular attention will be paid to the major transitions in human history, such as the change from hunting-gathering to sedentary agricultural life ways and the rise of complex societies.

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.


Bermann, M. (1997) Domestic Life and Vertical Integration in the Tiwanaku Heartland. Latin American Antiquity 8(3): 93-112.

Bermann, M. and Estevez Castillo, J. (1995)  Domestic Artifact Assemblages and Ritual Activities in the Bolivian Formative. Journal of Field Archaeology 22:389-398.

Bermann, M. (1993) Jachakala: A New Archaeological Complex of the Department of Oruro, Bolivia. Annals of Carnegie Museum 62(4):31-340.