The Archaeology of Dependency (ArchDepth): Resources, Power and Status Differentiation

Research Group Leader: Dr. Christian Mader

PhD Researchers: Claire Conrad, Tamia Viteri Toledo

Student Assistant: Hanna Schubert


International Conference Archaeologies of Dependency in Latin America, September 7-8, 2023.

Conference programme

An archaeology of dependency – as an academic field of study – does not exist so far. In archaeology and related disciplines, systems of strong dependency have been mostly investigated in the form of slavery during Classical Antiquity in the Greco-Roman world. Consequently, there is no general concept yet, which allows to analyze types of asymmetrical dependency in pre-industrial societies, especially from a comparative view.

CFP-archeologies of dependency.JPG
© C. Mader

Current State of Research and Approach

The Research Group sets up the methodological and theoretical framework for the examination of asymmetrical dependencies in archaeology. The key of this holistic approach lies in the concept of resource dependency, comprising resources and humans, and in consulting several lines of archaeological evidence, which are combined and serve as control values to each other. Resource dependencies imply two significant sorts of strong structural dependency within a larger ecological and sociopolitical setting.

The first sort concerns the dependency between resources and people, which is the basis for the second sort, the dependency between people. In contrast to associated concepts, such as inequality, status differentiation, and social stratification, which describe rather conditions, resource dependency is a more dynamic idea, stressing the structural relations of distinct actors in these asymmetrical conditions. Furthermore, the concept reveals that also asymmetrical modes of dependency are mutual.

In order to obtain a reliable picture of resource dependencies in the past, various lines of archaeological evidence must be followed and associated with each other. For the determination of resources, social stratification, and strong asymmetrical dependency in the archaeological record, this Research Group explores material culture principally along three lines of evidence.

The Research Group Will Focus on the Following Three Lines of Archaeological Evidence

  1. the analysis of landscapes, architecture, and households,
  2. the analysis of artifacts and ecofacts, and
  3. the analysis of funerary contexts.

In cases in which written records are at hand, these sources are also considered.

Map of South America showing the study areas of the trans-Andean ArchDepth Research Group.

Along these three interconnected lines of evidence the ArchDepth Research Group takes a trans-Andean-Amazonian perspective through three case studies: Tamia Viteri Toledo's project in Ecuador's Napo River Basin on the eastern flank of the Andes, Claire Conrad's project in the Vilcabamba region around the archaeological site of Vitkos in the Peruvian highlands, and Christian Mader's project in Peru's northern Nasca Drainage around the contemporary town of Palpa on the western flank of the Andes.


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