June 04, 2018

Anthropology professor receives NSF grant for research work in Peru

by Hannah Erickson

CARBONDALE, Ill. – For many people, family is an important part of life. Family connections often impact our lifestyle choices and everyday decisions. But how did kinship and relationships affect the Sicán people of historic Peru?

This is the question that Anthropology professor, Izumi Shimada, and his team seek to answer with their research on the north coast of what is now Peru.

Archaeological research examines past social life in the Lambayeque region

When archaeologists find impressive monuments from the past, it often tells something about the power, prestige and identity of the people who once built them. As Shimada and his team research the 1,000-year old Sicán capital, they are hoping to discover more about how familial and interpersonal relationships impacted the Sicáns’ beliefs and rituals.

To do this research, the team will be excavating burials and conduct a detailed analysis of human skeletons, ceramic, metal and other funerary objects, as well as their associated styles and images. Results from the analysis will illuminate genealogical relationships and lifestyles of individuals during this time period. At the end of the study, the team will test their hypotheses regarding the importance of family and shared beliefs, and use that information for additional research in the future.

NSF grant to fund project

In support of this study, Shimada recently received a $213,517 grant from the National Science Foundation. This funding will allow the team to continue their research and analysis of the region, along with integrating their work into a data collection system that will assist researchers for years to come.

This funding is only the most recent grant Shimada has received for his archaeological research in Peru. In 1978 Shimada began his Sicán Archaeological Project. He then started his journey in 1990 to reconstruct the Middle Sicán social and political organization. He also received a grant in 2006 from the Tokyo Broadcasting System to excavate the Huaca Lora temple mound.

Building on this study, Shimada has written 150 journal articles and book chapters collaborating with other experts in the field. In addition, he has written or edited 11 books, sharing his research and knowledge with the Peruvian culture and the world.

Research assists students and communities

Not only will Shimada’s research promote international and interdisciplinary conversation and collaboration, but it will also provide American and Peruvian students with practical training and knowledge. The hands-on excavation and analysis work will prepare these students for archaeological careers of their own.

The lifelong work from Shimada’s Sicán Archaeological Project provided a collection framework for the Sicán National Museum in Ferreñafe, Peru, that opened in 2004. The new artifacts and information gained from this current project will serve as an addition and enrichment to this Peruvian museum.