1000 years before the Inca civilization emerged in Peru and Bolivia, there were the Tiwanaku–a large nation consisting of a complex and ethnically diverse community of people. Today, amid the vestiges of Tiwanaku architecture, pottery, lithics, and other artifacts, Dr. Sara K. Becker’s focus is on the human remains. However, to understand the bones, as Dr. Becker says, you have to understand the culture. To do so, she collaborates with local communities and archaeologists to unlock the lives of this ancient group.
While another contemporaneous society routinely intimidated surrounding groups through physical violence, the Tikanawu managed to control vast regions through nontraditional and mostly nonviolent methods. When we examine the tensions and violence of many contemporary societies, Dr. Becker’s research becomes especially important: what can the ancient Tiwanaku teach us about how we can we live together in unified, diverse, and peaceful communities?
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For more information on Dr. Sara Becker:
Dr. Becker’s faculty page at University of California, Riverside: https://anthropology.ucr.edu/people/faculty/becker/index.html
Academia page: https://ucriverside.academia.edu/SaraKBecker
Researchgate page: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sara_Becker2
Linked In page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sara-k-becker-5193a52b
More information on Dr. Becker’s research in South America:
“The Bioarchaeology of Community”, special volume in Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association edited by Dr. Becker and Dr. Sara Juengst: https://doi.org/10.1111/apaa.12083
“Head Extraction, Interregional Exchange, and Political Strategies of Control at the Site of Wata Wata, Kallawaya Territory, Bolivia, During the Transition between the Late Formative and Tiwanaku Periods (A.D. 200-800)” by Dr. Becker and Dr. Alconini: https://doi.org/10.7183/1045-66188.8.131.52
News article discussing Dr. Becker’s finding of a rare spinal condition among one set of Tiwanaku remains: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinakillgrove/2017/04/27/in-ancient-peru-archaeologists-find-rare-spinal-condition-and-possible-inbreeding/#3e3d94652db1
Another news feature on rare evidence of political torture in Dr. Becker’s archaeological fieldsites: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinakillgrove/2015/05/17/gruesome-evidence-of-political-torture-found-on-precolumbian-skulls/#35ae1acd7502
More information on the topics discussed in this episode:
“You’re a Bioarchaeologist? What is That?” by Dr. Kristina Killgrove: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinakillgrove/2015/05/01/youre-a-bioarchaeologist-what-is-that/#72e106817dbf
Dr. Becker’s co-author and site excavator Sonia Alconini’s professional page: http://anthropology.utsa.edu/faculty/sonia-alconini and personal blog: https://soniaalconini.wordpress.com/
Dr. Sara Juengst, bioarchaeologist and co-editor of Bioarchaeology of Community with Dr. Becker: http://anthropology.uncc.edu/people/juengst-sara
Dr. Deborah Blom, a fellow bioarchaeologist working in the same area and referenced in the episode: https://www.uvm.edu/~anthro/?
Museo Contisuyo in Peru: http://www.museocontisuyo.com/
Tiwanaku Center in Bolivia (Centro de Investigaciones Arqueológicas, Antropológicas y Administración de Tiwanaku):