Gary Urton

Gary Urton

Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies, Department of Anthropology
Chair of the Department of Anthropology
Gary Urton

Faculty Project: Andean Art History and Archeology Working Group                                      

Faculty Project: Studies of Andean Art History and Archaeology (AAHA)                                      

Faculty Project: Sucre Summer Program, Logistical Support


Andean Art History and Archeology Working Group

Andean Art History and Archaeology has become established as an important interdisciplinary field of studies at Harvard University over the past eight years. As of the 2011-12 academic year, there are seven graduate students focusing their course work and research in AAHA. Professors Urton, Cummins and Quilter suggest that their teaching and research activities, as well as their participation in conferences focusing on Andean Studies, are having an impact in the fields of Andean Art and Archaeology on campus and beyond. In 2011-12, they have spent considerable time promoting a monthly Andean Art and Archaeology discussion group, as well as a lecture series in which guest speakers could present their on-going research. Urton, Cummins and Quilter believe that with a core of three faculty members and a growing body of graduate students, all of whom are deeply committed to developing and strengthening the study of Andean Art History and Archaeology, their working group will continue to play a vital role in the development and promotion of material culture-based studies in the Andean region of South America in the coming years.

Participating Harvard Faculty:  Gary Urton, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies; Thomas B.F. Cummins, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of the History of Pre-Columbian and Colonial Art; Jeffrey Quilter, Senior Lecturer on Anthropology

Studies of Andean Art History and Archaeology (AAHA)

Over the past six years, Harvard faculty and Andeanist colleagues, Gary Urton, Tom Cummins and Jeffrey Quilter established an interdisciplinary field of studies called Studies of Andean Art History and Archaeology (AAHA) with a particular focus in 2007-2008 on issues concerning art history and archaeology in Andean South America.  Furthermore their teaching and research activities, as well as participation in conferences focusing on Andean studies, have had an impact in the fields of Andean Art and Archaeology on campus, and beyond.

During the 2007-2008  academic year with support from a collaborative research grant from DRCLAS, the AAHA organized a Monthly Andean Art and Archaeology discussion group, inviting people from beyond the immediate Harvard community who are committed to Andean art historical and archaeological studies to speak and/or to meet regularly with the group. The initiative also convened a Lecture Series with speakers from outside Harvard for public lectures on topics of interest to the larger Harvard community and seminar presentations on topics relevant to courses and faculty and student research on the Andes.   Since 2006-2007 the AAHA began collaborating with Andeanist colleagues from the Universities of Chicago and Vanderbilt creating the Andean Consortium in which groups of Harvard, University of Chicago and Vanderbilt faculty and graduate students specializing in Andean studies meet annually to discuss theoretical and methodological issues in Andean art history, archaeology and ethno-history. During spring 2008, Gary Urton and Tom Cummins attended the meeting at the University of Chicago along with five graduate students (three in Archaeology; two in Art History).

The Studies of Andean Art History and Archaeology initiative is playing a central role in the development and promotion of teaching and research on Andean South America at present -- and hopefully for years to come.

Participating Harvard faculty: Gary Urton, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies; Thomas B.F. Cummins, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of the History of Pre-Columbian and Colonial Art; and Jeffrey Quilter, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Curator, Intermediate Area Archaeology; Senior Lecturer on Anthropology

Khipus: Counting Knots in the Incan Empire

Harvard's Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies Gary Urton has studied the Inkan khipus - knotted strings that recorded quantitative and narrative information about the great Andean empire - since he started studying Andean culture as a doctoral student. This instrument, made of strands of knotted and often dyed wool or cotton, registers various types of information: numeric, demographic, calendrical, narrative and tributary. Working closely with Urton, the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and Harvard University's DRCLAS organized an exhibition, "Khipus: Counting Knots in the Incan Empire," from July 2003 through March 2004 in the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino in Santiago, Chile. It was the first ever exhibition devoted entirely to khipus and one of the most popular exhibitions in the museum's history. As a result of this research and joint work on an exhibition, there are continuing collaborations between researchers at Harvard and at the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino on Pre-Columbian art and archaeology of South America. 

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