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Warren B. Church, PhD

Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology

Warren B. Church, PhD


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Office Hours


Office Hours: By appointment; usually Tuesday and Wednesday, 1:00 to 4:00 pm


1982 B.A., Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder
1988 M.A., Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder
    Master's thesis: Test Excavations and Ceramic Artifacts from Building
     No. 1 at Gran Pajatén, Department of San Martín, Peru
. 313 pp.
1991 M.Phil., Anthropology, Yale University
1996 Ph.D., Anthropology, Yale University
    Dissertation: Prehistoric Cultural Development and Interregional
    Interaction in the Tropical Montane Forests of Peru
. 988 pp.

Specialty Area

General: New World archaeology and ethnohistory, especially Tropical Andean South America; ecological/environmental anthropology; interregional interaction; Andean civilizations; archaeology of cultural geography, social identity, and social boundaries; ceramic and lithic analysis; museums and public anthropology; world heritage conservation in parks and preserves.

Specific: Archaeology and ethnohistory of Chachapoyas, Peru; neo-tropical palaeoecology, adaptive strategies, settlement demography, and interregional interaction at the northeastern edge of the Central Andes.


    In the mid-1980s I began conducting archaeological research in Peru's pre-Hispanic Chachapoya ethnohistoric and archaeological culture area which extended north and south approximately 300 km (200 miles) along the Huallaga and Marañon river divide at the time of European conquest. Much of this steep, wet terrain was regarded as ill-suited to sustain permanent settlement, and scholars speculated that it was either devoid of permanent populations, or that ancient settlements only represented colonization during the final centuries of the pre-Hispanic era. Much of my work as a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Yale University questioned these notions, and focused on sites in and around the Rio Abiseo National Park. The park extends down the eastern flank of the Andes from wet andean paramo grasslands near 4,100 m, through montane and premontane rain forests, to subtropical forests at 400 m. Today, the park is a remote, uninhabited archaeological time capsule and center of extraordinary biodiversity, and has been recognized as World Cultural Heritage, Natural Heritage, and a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

    My analysis of the combined assemblages of archaeological data from ancient settlements at Gran Pajaten (ca 400 BC-AD 1536) and Las Papayas (ca. AD 1300), rockshelters of Chirimachay (ca. AD 700) and Manachaqui Cave (ca 10,350 BC - AD 1536), and the tombs of Los Pinchudos (ca. AD 1500), have allowed construction of the longest and most complete sequence of local cultural development yet recovered from the northeastern slopes. In the forests and grasslands above 2600 m, local inhabitants utilized rockshelters, and built settlements, cliff tombs, terrace networks, and roads on monumental scales. The deep sequence has undermined speculative historical narratives that judged the region as always too remote, unproductive, and archaeologically irrelevant. As consequence of this research, we now see that the park's pre-Hispanic inhabitants enjoyed coveted access to many high and low altitude production zones, as well as to trade and communication networks that linked Andean and Amazonian societies. 

    My most recent research is more collaborative, and has sought to understand regional climate alterations in and around the eastern slopes of Chachapoyas, and their potential effects on land-use, subsistence strategies, community mobility, conflict, and changes in settlement practices through time.

Selected publications (Download at and

2018    Primeros indicios de la Sociedad Montecristo Excavaciones en Gran Pajatén y sitios del Parque Nacional del Río Abiseo.
           In  Parque Nacional del Rio Abiseo: Memoria Viva del Paisaje Cultural Andino-Amazonico, pp. 274-309. Apus Graph Ediciones,
           Compania Minera Poderosa, Asociacion Pataz. Lima.

2018    ¿Qué era Chachapoyas? Avances del siglo XXI en la historia, arqueología, y geografía  cultural de los Andes nororientales. Co-
            edited volume with Anna Guengerich. Boletín de Arqueología de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, No. 23 (2017:2).
            Lima. Three co-authored articles:

  • Introducción: La (re)construcción de Chachapoyas a través de la historia e histografía (with Anna Guengerich)
  • Gran Pajatén y su contexto en el paisaje prehispánico Pataz-Abiseo (with Luis Valle Alvaro)
  • Conclusión: Una mirada hacia el futuro: nuevas direcciones en la arqueología de los Andes nororientales  (with Anna Guengerich)

2017    A 2000-yr history of disturbance and recovery at Laguna de los Condores, a sacred site in Peru’s northeastern cloud forest
            (with Matthews-Bird, Frazer, Bryan Valencia, Larry Peterson, and Mark Bush). The Holocene 27 (11), 1707-1719.
2017    Exploring Imperial Expansion Using an Isotopic Analysis of Paleodiet and Paleomobility Indicators in Chachapoyas, Peru.
           American Journal of Physical Anthropology 162(1):51-72.
2015    Climate change and the agricultural history of a mid-elevation Andean montane forest (with Mark Bush and Nicole
           Moshblech). The Holocene 25(9) 1522–1532, S.I. online. 
2008    Chachapoyas: Cultural Development at a Pre-Hispanic Andean Cloud Forest Crossroads (with Adriana von Hagen). In
           Handbook of South American Archaeology. Helaine Silverman and William Isbell eds. Pp. 903-926. Springer: New York.
1999    Más Allá del Gran Pajatén: Conservando el Paisaje Prehispánico Pataz-Abiseo. Revista del Museo de Arqueología, Antropología
           e Historia No. 7 (1997). Pp. 203-246. Facultad de Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, Perú.
1994    Early Occupations at Gran Pajatén, Perú. Andean Past 4. Pp. 281-318. Latin American Studies Program, Cornell University.
           Ithaca, NY.
1994    Threats to Rio Abiseo National Park, Northern Perú (with Kenneth R. Young, Mariella Leo and Patricia F. Moore). Ambio 23(4-
           5):312-314. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Stockholm.

I teach a broad variety of anthropology and archaeology courses at undergraduate and graduate levels. I am also on the Graduate Faculty of the Masters Degree Program in Environmental Science.

Grants for research have been received from Fulbright-Hays, National Science Foundation, Dumbarton Oaks, National Geographic Society, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.