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Kimberly Munro, Ph.D. student and Huel D. Perkins Fellowship Diversity award winner

As long as I can remember I have been interested in the history and people of South America. An early fascination with my South American heritage (my mother is Peruvian, and father Chilean) was reinforced by trips to Peru and Chile as a child to visit family. The exotic decorations that hung in my childhood home, paintings of Indigenous people, landscapes, and replicas of ancient pots and figurines decorated with Andean iconography, fostered a growing interest on the prehistory of the Andes. The dream of working with South American cultures never faded and when I started my undergraduate work at Florida State University in 2002, anthropology opened a new way to appreciate the cultures I had encountered years before.

Fate, however, intervened when I was offered a position as an Archaeological Trainee with the Southeast Archaeological Service (a branch of the National Park Service (NPS)). After my first field dig, in the summer of 2004, I became enamored with archaeology. Eventually, that NPS position lead to a hire with the US Forest Service, where I spent five years working as an Archaeological Technician for the Apalachicola National Forest outside of Tallahassee, Florida. I was able to work and do what I loved while working jointly on my bachelor’s, followed by my master’s degree.

After graduating with a dual major in Anthropology & Religious Studies, I continued on at Florida State University to do my masters in Geography, with a focus on Geographic Information Sciences (GIS). My master’s research allowed me to look at GIS Applications in Archaeology, and I did my thesis project on developing a historic database in GIS of aerial photographs for the Apalachicola National Forest. These photos dated back to the 1930s, and through them I was able to create a system to help locate and protect historic sites on the forest.

I enrolled as a PhD student in the fall of 2012 after being awarded the Huel D. Perkins Fellowship in Diversity through the University. The joint department at LSU has allowed me to bring my anthropology and geography backgrounds together to focus my research.
My doctoral research specifically focuses on highland-coastal interactions in North-Central Peru. I’m interested in how smaller groups may act as a “buffer” in intermediary zones, and how those groups located on the periphery of larger socio-political culture cores fit into regional networks of exchange, and interaction.

My first opportunity to work in Peru came in 2006, when I was accepted as a student in the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Santa Rita B Project in the Chao River Valley, located on the Northern coast of Peru. Since then I have worked in Peru for several field seasons as a crew chief and field instructor in the central highlands, with the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico Regional Ancash (PIARA) Peru project. In 2013 I began my own dissertation research, in the upper Nepeña River Valley, located in north-central Peru. I chose the upper Nepeña area, because it is located in a prime ecological zone, and on major prehistoric access routes between the coast and the highlands. The upper reaches of the valley had also only minimally been explored by researchers. I was lucky in that during my 2013 survey work, I recorded a never before documented archaeological complex known as Cosma.

Cosma is an isolated community, situated in a basin surrounded on three sides by tall mountain ridges of the Cordillera Negra Mountains. Located at an altitude of 2600 MAMSL, it is a multicomponent site which includes three platform temple mounds that date at least to the Early Horizon (900-1 BCE). There is also an Early Horizon monumental hilltop fortress, and an Inca Occupation. Additionally, the town itself has important historical significance, as it is listed as the oldest in the district, and was established during the Colonial era in 1714. The current day inhabitants of the community are indigenous Quechua speakers, perhaps descendants of Inca or pre-Inca groups. This upcoming July will be the first year of the “Cosma Archaeological Project,” where I will be heading a small team of collaborators. Our main goals for this season are to map and conduct test excavations at the site, and determine a site chronology. The remoteness of the site in the far reaches of a coastal valley and its continuous occupation make it the perfect dissertation site for studying Coastal-Highland interactions, and more specifically, how those interactions changed or were effected through time as different cultural groups came into and then out of power.

I’m lucky in that the department here at LSU is so multi-faceted that I can bring all my research interests and strengths together to look and work in Cosma under many different lenses. The modern day Indigenous community allows for a cultural, or ethnographic opportunity of study, whereas Cosma’s location and isolation can allow for a regional and spatial study. The complexity and long-term occupation of the site also allow for archaeological investigations to hopefully tease out the larger story on the history of the community and the surrounding region.

I’m grateful to the department for the opportunities and funding I have been given. I’m also grateful to the people of Cosma for allowing me to work and live in their community, while conducting my research. Because Cosma is so complex and has multi-components, I’m hoping to establish a long-term research project there, working in and with the community, well after my dissertation is completed.

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