Sarah Baitzel

Sarah Baitzel

​Assistant Professor of Archaeology
PhD, University of California, San Diego
research interests:
  • Andean archaeology
  • State Collapse
  • Mortuary Archaeology
  • Pastoralism
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    • Mondays & Wednesdays 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
      Fridays 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
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    • Washington University
      CB 1114
      One Brookings Drive
      St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    After 15+ years of conducting archaeological research in the Peruvian Andes, I continue to love and learn about the past and present people of this region. My research into the social identities and practices of ancient agropastoralists is broadly situated within the context of state collapse and vertical (lowland-highland) mobility. Because it takes a team of experts to bring the past back to life, I am a part of several archaeological collaboratives in southern Peru. 

    I currently lead an interdisciplinary team of U.S. and Peruvian archaeologists and specialists who investigate the archaeology of the Sama Valley in the northern Atacama of southern Peru. Ongoing excavations at the site of Los Batanes, an 11th century agropastoralist settlement (500 masl) founded by descendants of the Tiwanaku culture, have produced intriguing evidence for the social identities, economic strategies, and ritual traditions of its inhabitants. My Sama Valley research also includes pedestrian survey for site documentation and working with the Peruvian Ministerio de Cultura to protect archaeological remains in the valley that are threatened by urban and agricultural expansion. I also co-direct the Centro de Investigación Arqueológica y Antropológica Sama-Tacna (CIAAST), a research facility that offers lab space for analyses and conservation of archaeological collections, and housing for researchers. 

    I also continue my dissertation-based work on the interplay of identity, ritual, diet, mobility, and health on 1st-millenium CE populations in the Moquegua valley of southern Peru on the periphery of the Tiwanaku state. My research at the provincial Tiwanaku center of Omo M10 has taken me to explore grief, knowledge transmission, and cultural identity in mortuary ritual, and the life-histories and social production of textiles. Through collaborations on paleo-mobility and paleo-diet using isotopic analyses my colleagues and I explore multiple dimensions of social identities, migration, and power relations in early Andean states. 

    In 2019 I began a collaboration with Dr. Bronwen Konecky (Earth and Planetary Sciences, WashU) in the Sibinacocha Valley of southern Peru. Located at 15,000 ft above sea level, the region harbors archaeological sites that attest to the human presence in this marginal environment. Excavations by me and a US-Peruvian team of pastoral homesteads occupied over the last 600-1000 years has been featured in articles and movies:

    I will accept graduate student in Fall 2023. 

    recent courses

    L48 Anthro 190B Introduction to Archaeology

    Archaeology plays a critical and unique role in understanding the human past. Through study of the methods and theories of archaeology, and a survey of important firsts in the human past, this course introduces students to the way archaeologists use material culture to reconstruct and understand human behavior. Chronologically ordered case studies from around the globe are used to look at social, ecological, and cultural issues facing humans from the earliest times to the present. Students gain practice reconstructing the past through hands-on participation in two 1-hour labs focusing on lithics and animal bones. By the end of the course, students are expected to be able to think critically about how the past is presented, and why, and the importance of the past as it relates to the present and future.

      L48 Anthro 3095 The Incas and Their Ancestors: The Archaeology of the Ancient Andes

      From the hyper-arid desert of the Pacific Coast to the high-mountain plateaus of the Andes more than 12,000 feet above sea level to the lush forested Amazonian lowlands, Western South America presents one of the most diverse natural and cultural environments in the world and one of the few places were social complexity first developed. Beginning with the earliest human occupations in the region more than 12,000 years ago, this course examines how domestication, urbanization, the rise of early states, and major technological inventions changed life in the Andes from small village societies to the largest territorial polity of the Americas — the Inca Empire. Students will become familiar with the major debates in the field of Andean archaeology. Together, we will examine archaeological evidence (architecture, art, ceramics, metals, textiles, plant and animal remains, etc.) from context of everyday life (households, food production, craft production) to the rituals and ceremonies (offerings, tombs) that took place in domestic and public spaces. We will also touch on the role of Andean archaeology in the context of national politics and heritage sustainability.

        Selected Publications

        2022     Baitzel*, Sarah I., Martin Polo y La Borda, Brownen Konecky, Jarunetr Sae-Lim, Arturo F. Rivera Infante. “Pastoral Palimpsest: high-altitude herder dwellings in the south-central Andes (15th – 20th c. CE).” Journal of Field Archaeology 47(4):341-359. [LINK]

        2022     Goldstein*, Paul S., Matthew Sitek, Sarah Baitzel, Katherine Davis. “Tiwanaku Sealings and Signet Rings: Authority Transmission in the Ancient Andes.” Latin American Antiquity: 1-7.  

        2021     Dahlstedt*, Allisen C.; Emily Schach; Sarah I. Baitzel; Kelly J. Knudson. “Stable oxygen and radiogenic strontium variability in the Osmore Drainage, Peru: Implications for intra-regional Andean paleomobility studies.” Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 37: 102933. 

        2019     Baitzel*, Sarah I. and Arturo F. Rivera Infante. “Prehispanic settlement patterns and ecological complementarity in the lomas zone of the Sama valley, Tacna, Peru.” Chungara 51(3):381-402.

        2019     Baitzel*, Sarah I.. “The Archaeothanatology of Seated-Flexed Burials in the Ancient Andes.” Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 24:623-630

        2019     Baitzel*, Sarah I.  and David Trigo. “The Tiwanaku Camelid Sacrificer: Origins and Transformation of animal iconography in the context of Middle Horizon (A.D. 400-1100) state expansion.” Nawpa Pacha: Journal of Andean Archaeology 39(1):31-56. 

        2018     Baitzel, Sarah I.. “Cultural Encounter in the Mortuary Landscape of a Tiwanaku Colony, Moquegua, Peru (A.D. 650-1100).” Latin American Antiquity 29(3):1-18. 

        2018     Baitzel, Sarah I. “Parental Grief and Mourning in the Ancient Andes.” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 25(1):178-201.