Geoarchaeology

Project team

  • Nick Branch, Senior Lecturer in Palaeoecology, School of Human and Environmental Sciences, University of Reading (01/01/2007 - 26/02/2010) 
  • Francisco Ferreira, PhD student, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway
    University of London (01/01/2007 - 01/01/2010)
  • Millena Frouin, Post doctoral research assistant, Department of Geography,
    Royal Holloway University of London (19/03/2007 - 28/02/2009)
  • Rob Kemp, Professor, Physical Geography, Department of Geography,
    Royal Holloway University of London (01/01/2007 - 26/02/2010)
  • Colin McEwan, Head of the Americas section and curator of Latin American collections, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, British Museum, London (01/01/2007 - 26/02/2010)
  • Frank Meddens, Honorary Research Associate, Department of Geography,
    Royal Holloway University of London (01/01/2007 - 26/02/2010)
  • Gabriel Ramon, Post-doctoral research assistant, British Museum, London
    (01/04/2008 - 26/02/2010)
  • Cirilo Vivanco, Professor of Archaeology, National University of San Cristóbal of Huamanga, Peru
  • Katie Willis, Reader, Development Geography, Department of Geography,
    Royal Holloway University of London (01/01/2007 - 26/02/2010)

Partners

  • University of Reading
  • Royal Holloway University of London
  • Universidad Nacional de San Cristobal de Huamanga

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council

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By collecting soil samples from excavation sites, researchers discovered each ushnu had been filled in with earth in one of two ways.

Excavating at an ushnu site
  • Excavating at an ushnu site.

  • Analysing the layers of soil.

  • Different coloured soils indicate material has been brought to the site from elsewhere.

  • Different coloured soils indicate material has been brought to the site from elsewhere.

  • Mapping the different layers of soil.

 

Either rich topsoil and iron-depleted subsoil had been used in layers to fill in the structure. In some, the same contrasting effect was achieved by using alternating layers of coarse and thin soil. Other ushnus, such as Condormarca, had been filled in with soil from outside the local area.

Researchers believe this soil was transported great distances to the ushnus and was perhaps taken from agricultural land. 

Researchers also believe that this ritual has great symbolic importance, representing a link between the need for agricultural sustainability and an appeasement of ancestors and deities. 


What is geoarchaeology?

The field of geoarchaeology uses a mixture of techniques to study the natural physical processes that affect archaeological sites, the formation of sites through geological processes and the effects on buried sites and artefacts post-deposition. Geoarchaeologists' work frequently involves studying soil and sediments as well as other geographical concepts to contribute an archaeological study. It uses geology, geography, mapping, Geographic Information System (GIS) and Digital Elevation Models.