Institute of Archaeology

Technology in Society: Archaeology and Ethnography in the Andes

Raqchi, collecting ichu

An examination of the social context of technologies, materials and design using examples from the archaeology and ethnography of the Andes. The course will start with a review of cultural developments in the Andes, identifying key themes where technological developments have been of particular interest. The course will then consist of weekly sessions where the students will discuss readings related to specific Andean technologies, in relation to a key reading on a theoretical or methodological debate outside the Andean area. Potential themes include:

  • Treatment of the human body (mummies, trophy heads and sacrifice)
  • Social organisation and labour (artisans, mines, community projects)
  • Agriculture technology (terraces, canals, crops and animals)
  • Materiality of power (arms, monumental construction, settlement design)
  • Technologies of communication (khipus, writing, iconography)
  • Sacred art and material agency (saints, huacas, amulets)
  • Copying and translation (staff gods, forgeries, chronicles)

For their assessment students should seek to apply the theories and methodologies discussed in class by developing a research proposal for future work on a problem or set of materials that interest them, or undertake a critical in-depth review of previous work on a specific technology. 

Aims of the course

  • Introduce students to the archaeology and ethnography of the Andean region. 
  • Examine case studies of Andean technology, design and materials selection in order to assess the relevance of current theories. 
  • To enable students to assess the variety and relevance of presented data and develop research strategies of their own.


  • To develop students familiarity with major sources of relevant evidence
  • To develop students familiarity with the current theoretical and methodological debate in the field
  • To help students produce logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course students should:

  • Possess an understanding of how cultural and environmental influences affect technological development and change through gaining a specific knowledge of Andean case studies.
  • Be able to critically assess previous research methods, the presentation of evidence and the basis for earlier interpretations.
  • Be able to develop their own research strategies, using oral presentations and written reports to present these

Teaching Methods

The course will be taught by lectures followed by seminars and include a museum visit. The course will utilize an electronic reading list.

Course information

  • Code: ARCLG227
  • Credits: 15
  • Coordinator: Bill Sillar
  • Prerequisite: None
  • Handbook:

For registered students

  • Moodle page:
  • Reading list: 


  • Not running in 2017-18

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