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Population Prehistory of the Andes:
A Cross-Disciplinary Conspectus
Population Prehistory of the Andes (November 27 - 29, 2011)

Symposium description

The Central Andes rank among the world’s rare hearths of ‘pristine’ development of civilisation. Various disciplines —‌ not least archaeology, linguistics and genetics — can each open up their own window on that past. Their data and methods differ greatly, but are all the more complementary for it. This symposium series aims to converge their disparate perspectives on their common goal of a fuller, more coherent understanding of Andean prehistory.

Previous symposia in Cambridge, London and Lima have centred on the linguistic, (ethno‑)historical and material culture records. The Leipzig symposium renews the much-needed conversation between those disciplines, but turns the focus to population prehistory, by integrating now into the cross-disciplinary mix our most direct forms of evidence from the Andean protagonists themselves, i.e. from genetics and bioarchaeology. Contributions will range from ancient to modern dna, from classical ‘single-sex’ markers to full genome analysis; and from bone isotopes to dental morphology and cranial modification. Specialists in these fields will join leading linguists, archaeologists and anthropologists of the Central Andes.

The symposium will address the whole time‑span from the first peopling of the Andes to the mass resettlement policy of the Incas, and the demographic collapse and dislocations then wrought by Europeans (and their pathogens). A particular theme will be that of population movement, and how the disciplines might best work together to retrace demographic dispersals, migrations and retreats through Andean prehistory.

The Leipzig meeting continues the innovative and successful symposium format from Cambridge and London, conceived explicitly to foster awareness, discussion and co-operation across the divides between disciplines. Participants are not asked to present a long, formal paper, nor to report only on individual studies. Rather, they will be invited to prepare two or more brief synopses (of roughly five minutes each) on those session themes in which they have particular expertise or interest. These synopses are to set out the perspective on that theme from their own discipline, but as relevant to and in terms intelligible to all the others. On each theme, the session will open with a synopsis from each discipline, as a basis to launch the ensuing discussion between them, to which over half of the symposium time will be dedicated.

Outputs are to arise directly out of debate at the symposium. They will take the form of (at least) two major multi-authored articles, with commentaries and response, in leading cross-disciplinary journals. These articles will be co‑ordinated by the conveners, with symposium participants as co‑authors contributing sections on their respective fields of expertise, or as independent commentators, as they prefer. The papers will explore how far the evidence from the various disciplines currently does or does not converge on a coherent overall population prehistory for the Andes, and how best to go about co‑ordinating research towards that shared goal. Current intentions (pending discussion at the close of the symposium itself) are for one article on the overall ‘state of the cross-disciplinary art’ on population prehistory in the Andes that emerges from the symposium, and a separate paper to focus specifically on past population movements.