Harvard anthropologist to discuss excavation of Peruvian town

February 20, 2012

Jeffrey Quilter, deputy director of Harvard’s Peabody Museum, shares his archaeological findings from the Magdalena de Cao Viejo project site in Peru during McDaniel’s annual Ridington Lecture at 7:30 p.m. March 1 in Decker Center Forum.

In his lecture, “In Small Things Remembered: The Archaeology of the Spanish-Indigenous Encounter in Peru,” Quilter will also discuss his experience working with Peruvian archaeologists at the El Brujo Archaeological Complex in the Chicama Valley.

Senior lecturer in the department of Anthropology at Harvard University, Quilter directs a multidisciplinary study of a 16th-17th century colonial town and church complex, Magdalena de Cao Viejo, at El Brujo that his team has been excavating since 2004.

A recent article in the November/December 2011 issue of Archaeology magazine about the excavation at Magdalena de Cao Viejo noted that the “windswept site is yielding a trove of artifacts from these early turbulent decades that are astonishingly well-preserved, even by the standards of the dry Peruvian coast, including a collection of handwritten and printed papers unequaled in the New World.”

Quilter’s work is revealing a “resilient native culture” according to Archaeology magazine, in the face of the early 16th-century Spanish conquest of Peru which “remains one of the most dramatic examples in history of civilizations colliding.”

The author of four books, including the richly illustrated “The Moche of Ancient Peru: Media and Messages” published by Peabody Museum Press in 2010, Quilter has participated in archaeological field projects in California, New Mexico, Missouri, Wisconsin, and various states on the U.S. East Coast as well as in England and Ecuador. He is involved in museum administration and undergraduate and graduate teaching, including Harvard’s biennial archaeological summer field school in Peru.

Quilter has directed a long-term research program in Costa Rica as well as several projects in Peru with current research on the ancient Moche and the Early Colonial Period. These two research lines are now merged in a long-term study of human-environmental interactions on Peru’s north coast from remote times to the present and how various regional climate changes are globally linked.

Quilter has organized more than a dozen conferences many of which resulted in edited books. In addition to his books, he has published in leading scientific and humanistic journals. He received his A.B. degree at the University of Chicago and his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He previously served as Director of Pre-Columbian Studies and Curator of the Pre-Columbian Collection at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., and as a professor at Ripon College, Wisconsin.

The annual Ridington lecture honors two long-time teachers at McDaniel, William Robbins Ridington and Edith Farr Ridington. After the Ridingtons’ deaths, their family endowed this annual lectureship, which began in 1991.