Elizabeth Arkush

I am an anthropological archaeologist of Andean South America.   My research has centered on warfare and its relationships to political power and social identity.  I am particularly interested in the potential of regional approaches, including GIS analysis, to illuminate social processes in space.

My research in Peru’s Lake Titicaca Basin addresses the later part of the prehispanic sequence after the collapse of the state of Tiwanaku about A.D. 1000, a time of widespread conflict and resource scarcity.   I am interested in how these crises were experienced, and how they affected social hierarchies, political and economic networks, and religious practice.   Some of my publications can be downloaded from the Publications page. 

My fieldwork has particularly focused on fortified hilltop villages or pukaras in the northern basin: their regional distribution, their chronology, their internal organization, and the underlying reasons for the conflict they indicate. My current field project, Proyecto Machu Llaqta, is a multi-year investigation into hierarchy, economic organization, and community dynamics at a major pukara.

I continue to be intrigued by the varied faces of warfare in practice, representation, and performance over the course of Andean prehistory.   I think of warfare as neither an extraordinary crisis nor a normal state of affairs, but a multifaceted social institution which, as it ravaged lives, families, and communities, also generated power relationships, defined and maintained social boundaries, informed gender identities, and supplied a rich source of images and narratives to be interwoven with belief and expressed in material culture.  My approach is informed both by the work of archaeologists on warfare globally and by broader social science perspectives on contemporary ethnic and sectarian conflict.  In turn, studying patterns of violence in deep time can illuminate the sources and effects of warfare in human societies generally, and as such may ultimately provide guidance about avoiding factional conflict in the future.



Elizabeth Arkush

Department of Anthropology

3302 Wesley W. Posvar Hall

230 S. Bouquet St.

Pittsburgh, PA 15260


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University of Pittsburgh