How did regional trade networks disrupt or impact communities in Peru over 1,000 years ago? The answers to that question will be developed this summer as a professor from Millsaps College, accompanied by a graduating senior at Millsaps, conduct research supported by a grant from the Rust Family Foundation.
Dr. Veronique Belisle, assistant professor of anthropology, and Matthew Brown, a student from Senatobia, Mississippi who will graduate next month with a degree in sociology-anthropology, will spend the summer studying the impact of the Wari state expansion on obsidian trade in Cusco.
“The project aims to evaluate how ancient state expansion affected the economy of local communities,” Belisle said. “Data will document the disruption or persistence of regional trade networks in a context of state colonization and shed light on a little-known area of the Cusco region.”
The project will include fieldwork at an obsidian quarry in Cusco and lab analyses in the United States. Belisle and Brown will document the obsidian quarry and collect samples. Back on the Millsaps campus, those samples will be scanned with the College’s portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) spectrometer to identify their chemical composition. The samples will then be sent to MURR – University of Missouri Research Reactor – for further chemical analysis using a technique called neutron activation.
“Since each obsidian outcrop has a unique chemical signature, we will be able to compare the composition of our samples with that of obsidian artifacts recovered in excavations in Cusco and beyond to understand where this type of obsidian was traded, evaluate changes through time, and assess Wari impact on obsidian procurement patterns” said Belisle.
After completing research in Peru over the summer, Brown will attend the University of Michigan, considered to be one of the top archaeology programs in the country, to pursue a PhD in anthropological archaeology. The work he will conduct in Peru will provide valuable field experience, and he will also collaborate with Belisle on the publication of their results in a scientific journal.
Based in Connecticut, the Rust Family Foundation was established in 1998, based on a legacy from Margaret Dole Rust (1918-1995). Since 2015, the Foundation has had an added emphasis on donations to projects in archaeology and related research and exploration.