Elizabeth Arkush

I am an anthropological archaeologist of Andean South America.   My research has centered on warfare and its relationships to political power and social identity.  I am particularly interested in the potential of spatial and regional approaches, including GIS analysis, to illuminate social processes.

My research in Peru’s Lake Titicaca Basin addresses the later part of the prehispanic sequence after the collapse of the state of Tiwanaku about A.D. 1000, a time of widespread conflict and resource scarcity.   I am interested in how these crises were experienced, and how they affected social hierarchies, political and economic networks, and religious practice.  My fieldwork has particularly focused on fortified hilltop villages or pukaras in the northern basin: their regional distribution, their chronology, their internal organization, and the underlying reasons for the conflict they indicate. Some of my publications can be downloaded from the Publications page. 

Some current and recent projects include:

  1. Proyecto Machu Llaqta (2009-2013), a survey and excavation project on social organization and community dynamics at a major pukara.

  2. Proyecto Pucarani (2015), a study of defensive architecture and organization at one of the largest pukaras in the Titicaca Basin.

  3. The Lake Core Biomarkers project (2015-present), a collaborative investigation of human biomarkers in lake sediment in the Titicaca Basin.

  4. Charting Andean Warfare over space and time (ongoing).

I am deeply intrigued by the varied faces of warfare in practice, representation, and performance over the course of Andean prehistory.   I think of warfare as neither an extraordinary crisis nor a normal state of affairs, but a multifaceted social institution which, as it ravaged lives, families, and communities, also generated power relationships, defined and maintained social boundaries, informed gender identities, and supplied a rich source of images and narratives to be interwoven with belief and expressed in material culture.  My approach is informed both by the work of archaeologists and anthropologists on pre-modern warfare globally, and by broader social science perspectives on contemporary ethnic and sectarian conflict. 



Elizabeth Arkush

Department of Anthropology

3302 Wesley W. Posvar Hall

230 S. Bouquet St.

Pittsburgh, PA 15260


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University of Pittsburgh