Life on the Move: Bioarchaeological Contributions to the Study of Migration and Diaspora Communities in the Andes

  • Tiffiny A. Tung

The study of ancient human migration has long been a notable aspect of anthropological research as scholars investigate why people opt, or are forced to move from their homeland to a new locale. Explanations vary widely, but according to Arutinov (2002: 89) the underlying motivation for most migrations, “including the most ancient ones, are…things are not going well for a people in their own homeland,” leading people to seek a better life in another place. Similarly, individuals and families may be drawn to an urban center in pursuit of new economic, social, political, or other kinds of opportunities. The potential push and pull factors for migration highlight a key path of inquiry worth exploring in the archaeological record. Why are people moved, or why do they opt to leave a familiar landscape filled with known kith and kin to venture to an unknown locale, often filled with strangers and customs different from one’s own? And how can researchers detect this movement in the archaeological record?

In this chapter, I discuss ways in which non-local (non-natal) individuals can be identified using data on skeletal morphology and the chemical composition of bones and teeth, and I discuss how they can be used to address questions about migration and diaspora communities in the ancient Andes. Archaeologists working in the Andes have examined the Inca policy of relocating groups of people and creating diaspora communities in the process (Bauer and Stanish 2001; D’Altroy 2002; Julien 2000) and have provided a thorough overview of how diasporas relate to ayllus and the vertical archipelago systems (Goldstein 2005). My focus is on an earlier time period: the Middle Horizon (AD 500–1000). I summarize bioarchaeological studies that document diaspora communities associated with the Tiwanaku and Wari states (Figure 34.1).


Strontium Isotope Strontium Isotope Ratio Geological Zone Middle Horizon Annular Form 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tiffiny A. Tung
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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