PI Elizabeth Arkush, Co-PIs Aubrey Hillman (OSU), Josef Werne (Pitt), Mark Abbott (Pitt)

Supported by the National Science Foundation

Current Projects

The team prepares the equipment to take cores at Laguna Umayo (2015).


This project investigates how well human biomarkers in ancient lake sediment match up with our estimates of changing population levels derived from archaeological surveys.

Recent full-coverage archaeological surveys in Peru’s Lake Titicaca basin directed by Charles Stanish (UCLA) and Elizabeth Arkush (Pitt) give a good basic understanding of changing human population levels over approximately the last three thousand years.  But getting at past population can sometimes be very difficult - e.g., for phases of human settlement with low population densities and high mobility, or in regions with poor surface visibility of sites. In this project, we investigate whether 5β-stanols, recently defined organic compounds in ancient lake sediment deriving from human feces, can serve as reliable population proxies.

Lake core locations (red squares) and completed archaeological surveys (white border) in the Arapa region (Stanish) and the Umayo region (Arkush).