December 06, 2006

Peruvian government to honor SIUC anthropologist

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The National Congress of Peru has passed a resolution to honor a world-renowned researcher at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

During a ceremony set for Dec. 11 in Lima, Peru, anthropology Professor Izumi Shimada will receive a medal from Peru's government honoring his three decades of scientific contribution to Peruvian archaeology.

"I am very pleased by this honor as the congress represents the entire nation of Peru and that my research had some relevance and impact on the Peruvian public," Shimada said.

"The department is extremely pleased and proud of this recognition of Dr. Shimada's long, continuous efforts and many contributions to Peruvian archaeology and the study of the prehistory of the Andean region," said Susan M. Ford, chair of SIUC's anthropology department.

Shimada and an SIUC anthropology graduate student Go Matsumoto of Japan have been doing fieldwork in Peru since summer. They will return home sometime during the next few weeks.

Shimada and his crew recently uncovered the first ancient Peruvian knives ever excavated scientifically. They unearthed 22 graves approximately 1,000 years old in northern Peru. The tomb complex contained Sican artifacts, including the first "tumi" ceremonial knives ever discovered by archaeologists rather than looted by thieves. The discovery will allow scientists to study the tumi, Peru's national symbol, in its original setting.

Shimada is the world's top expert on the culture of two ancient Peruvian peoples, the Moche and the Sican. The Sican were gold-working peoples who predated the Inca in what is now the north coast of Peru between about 800-1300 A.D. They produced alloys of gold, silver and arsenic-copper in unprecedented scales in pre-Hispanic America.

Shimada's excavation of a Sican religious and ceremonial center, begun more than 25 years ago, is the longest continuous archaeological project in South America, funded in part by such agencies as the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society. Shimada performed the latest dig in conjunction with the Sican National Museum.

Shimada "came to Peru fascinated with its unique pre-Hispanic civilization," he said. "Over time, however, I came to appreciate a highly complex and dynamic kaleidoscopic character of both historic and prehistoric Peru, landscape and people. It always amazes and challenges me. It also has a marvelous cuisine!"

Shimada joined SIUC as an assistant professor in 1994, became an associate professor in 1996 and reached the rank of full professor in 2002. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1971 from Cornell University and his doctorate in 1976 from the University of Arizona.

Supporting and fostering faculty excellence is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.