Las Varas: Ritual and Ethnicity in the Ancient Andes

University of Alabama Press, 2020

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University of Alabama Press

From The University Record of the University of Michigan:

Many thanks to the dedicated and patient students of INTLSTD 401: Globalized Ancient Worlds. Fall 2019 evaluation can be seen here.

I am super grateful to the fantastic museums and libraries that made this class possible:

Kelsey Museum of Archaeology (U. Michigan)

Detroit Institute of Arts

U. Michigan Papyrology Collection

U. Michigan Museum of Art

Clark Map Library (U. Michigan)

Museum of Anthropological Archaeology (U. Michigan)

William L. Clements Library (U. Michigan)

U. Michigan 3D Lab (Fabrication Studio and XR Visualization)

Archaeological Fieldwork in Mexico and Peru: A Conversation with Jeffrey Parsons

The “Coastal Cajamarca” Style Did Not Come from the Coast 

Ñawpa Pacha 2019

Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 121-144

Available on Taylor & Francis Online


The Coastal Cajamarca style of pottery was first reported on the north coast of Peru and subsequently interpreted as an emulation of highland Cajamarca ceramics by coastal potters. Alternatively, some researchers proposed an origin of the style in the chaupiyunga, or the intermediary area between the coast and the highlands on the western slope of the Andes. This article presents excavation data from the site of Las Varas, an 11th-century village located in the Middle Jequetepeque Valley, to support the chaupiyunga-origin hypothesis. The quantity of Coastal Cajamarca sherds recovered from Las Varas (3,223) accounted for more than a third of the total number of diagnostic pottery, making it the dominant style of the site; this sample revealed a variety of motifs and designs not documented in coastal sites. Other vessels in Las Varas’ ceramic assemblage – domestic ware used for cooking and storage – resembled highland Cajamarca pottery in form and surface decoration.

Conference on Indigenous Languages, October 25, 2018. Bravo! to Professor Bruce Mannheim and Professor Martin Vega.

Here is a video of me interviewing Dr. Giancarlo Marcone, General Coordinator of the Qhapaq Ñan, or Royal Inca Road Project of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.

December 22, 2017 Interview

Thanks to Erika Nestor, Stephen Gonzalez, and University of Michigan CGIS (Center for Global and Intercultural Studies) office.

September 15, 2017

LACS Course Spotlight

I talk about my course "Inca, Aztec, and the Spanish Conquest" which I've been teaching since 2012. I speak to Alana Rodriguez about the use of 3D technology, 16th-century fake news, and why Inca history is like Game of Thrones Season 7.

2017 Society for Amazonian and Andean Studies Conference

November 4-5, 2017

Millsaps College

Jackson, Mississippi

I presented my paper "The Middle Horizon Détente: How Did Wari and Tiwanaku Escape Thucydides’s Trap?" A thousand thanks go to Professor Véronique Bélisle for organizing this fantastic conference.


Thucydides thought that the rise of one superpower in challenge of another would result in war: “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.” Political scientist Graham Allison’s recent book (2017) on the subject presented 12 cases from history (e.g., Athens/Sparta, France/Germany, Russia/Japan) where countries did indeed fall into “Thucydides’s Trap,” but he also offered four cases or exceptions where, curiously, the superpowers found ways to maintain peace. To these exceptions I would like to add one more: the 400-year-long co-existence of Wari and Tiwanaku, whose fates intertwined as evidenced by their almost simultaneous (at least in archaeological time) collapse that concluded the Middle Horizon. Perhaps if we searched hard enough we could find many more exceptions to Thucydides’s Trap where states or empires co-evolved and colluded as frenemies. We need to challenge the conventional model of a single-winner, zero-sum trajectory of state development -- consolidation of heartland, expansion, and empire -- and consider the great variations and configurations of political landscapes by which powers could be balanced, like the Aztec Triple Alliance, world-system European empires, and the current inseparable bond linking two seemingly buttheading competitors, China and USA.

Hello and thank you for visiting my website. I have been conducting archaeological research in Peru since 1999. From 2006 to 2007, I directed the excavation of Las Varas, a village in northern Peru that dates to AD 1000.

I am a lecturer at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, coordinator of the Indigenous Languages Program, and editor of the online, open-access journal Translating the Americas at the University of Michigan.

At the University of Michigan I teach the courses "Globalization and Indigenous Communities in South America" and "Inca, Aztec, and the Spanish Conquest." You can find the student evaluations of these courses here.


Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

University of Michigan

500 Church Street

Suites 500

Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1042

PODCAST Here We Are with Shane Mauss

I was interviewed by Inverse on the use of Quechua in Star Wars:

'Star Wars' Languages Owe to Tibetan, Finnish, Haya, Quechua, and Penguins

Howard Tsai, Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Michigan

Lecturer, South American Anthropology/Archaeology

Coordinator, Indigenous Languages Program

Coordinador, Programa de las Lenguas Indígenas de las Américas

Editor, Translating the Americas

Editor, Revista Traduciendo las Americas

Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, University of Michigan

Director, Las Varas Archaeological Project (Cajamarca, Peru)

Director, Proyecto Arqueológico Las Varas