Department of Anthropology
Research area: Archaeology
I am an anthropological archaeologist whose research in the Peruvian Andes examines how communities emerge and transform though human-environment interactions, especially how these interactions are mediated through religion, ritual, and food production. Much of my previous and existing research is focused in the glaciated Cordillera Blanca mountain range of north-central Peru and the archaeological site of Hualcayán. At Hualcayán, I have examined how ancient people built one of highland Peru’s earliest settled villages, temples, and agricultural systems, and in so doing, how they assembled a community that persisted and transformed for nearly 4000 years. This research contributes to anthropological discussions of place-making, human-non-human assemblages, tradition, identity, religion and ritual, and political and historical ecology. My upcoming project will expand on this work by combining regional environmental analyses (lake cores, drone photogrammetry, and GIS mapping of sites, fields, and watersheds) and intensive excavations to test hypotheses about how highland Andean populations first cultivated the land and transformed the landscape as they participated in a broader social network called Kotosh—a set of shared practices that most archaeologists solely define in terms of a religion, rather than a ritual economy of cultivation (3000–500 BCE).
I am also deeply invested in issues of cultural heritage and I work closely with indigenous Peruvian communities, in particular the Quechua-speaking comunidades campesinas of highland Ancash, to co-create heritage events, educational programs, and museum installations that explore the value of the past in the modern world. I am currently directing a collaborative “storytelling” project in Peruvian schools to foster conversation about heritage and ethnoecology, with outputs ranging from educational coloring books to augmented reality expositions. This work intersects closely with my other ongoing collaborative projects with ethnographers and climate scientists, which seek to understand and mitigate the social and ecological impacts of climate change in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca.
Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, 2017
I teach students to engage with archaeology not simply as a means to learn “what happened” in the past, but also as a tool for thinking about the social roles of materials and the built environment. My classes cultivate an atmosphere in which students are comfortable to tackle difficult topics, from environmental justice to racism and stewardship of the past. My methods courses teach students how to both record and create knowledge by using digital technologies, such as GIS, 3D modelling/photogrammetry, drones, and relational databases. I have innovated digital methods in archaeology by designing and implementing tablet-based field recording systems and other digital tools for student learning. I am currently assembling a digital and geospatial laboratory for UTSA anthropology students.
I direct the PIARA Peru archaeological project and field school where I teach fieldwork methods and community outreach while mentoring undergraduate and graduate student research. My field house and laboratory in highland Peru provides the infrastructure for these activities and the opportunity to engage with local stakeholders by living and working with them in a rural village setting. Collectively, my projects afford opportunities for students to develop skills in archaeological research design, digital mapping and modeling, ecological analysis, ethics, and applied archaeology.
Prospective students: I am currently accepting MA and Ph.D. students whose research, area, and/or methodological interests align with my own, including students who are interested in heritage-focused projects.
Current MA students: Alesia Hoyle
In prep. – Bria, Rebecca E. “Tradition as the Performance of Community: Building and ritual at Formative Period Hualcayán, Peru (2400–500 BC),” for Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.
In prep. – Bria, Rebecca E. and Erick Casanova Vasquez. “Collaborative Photogrammetry: Enriching community engagement and increasing archaeological literacy in rural Peru” In the volume Critical Archaeology in the Digital Age (IEMA Distinguished Monograph Series), Kevin Garstki, ed. SUNY Press: Albany.
Forthcoming 2020 – M. Elizabeth Grávalos and Rebecca E. Bria. “Prehispanic Highland Textile Technologies: A view from the first millennium AD at Hualcayán, Ancash, Peru.” Latin American Antiquity.
Forthcoming 2020 – Bria, Rebecca E. “Ritual, agricultura y la formación de una comunidad Recuay en Hualcayán.” In la Cultura Recuay. Jorge Gamboa and George Lau, eds. Universidad Nacional Santiago Antúnez de Mayolo, Huaraz.
Forthcoming 2020 – Bria, Rebecca E. “Old Temples, New Substances: Emplacing and replacing Chavín at Hualcayán.” In Reconsidering the Chavín Phenomenon in the 21st Century. Richard Burger and Jason Nesbitt, eds. Washington D.C: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
2019 – Bria, Rebecca E. and Doris Walter. “Multiple Ways of Understanding Peru’s Changing Climate.” Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community, no. 14.
2016 – Bria, Rebecca E. and Kathryn E. DeTore. “Enhancing Archaeological Data Collection and Student Learning with a Mobile Relational Database.” In Mobilizing the Past: Recent Approaches to Archaeological Fieldwork in the Digital Age. Erin Walcek Averett, Jody M. Gordon, and Derek B. Counts, eds. Grand Forks: The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.
2015 – Bria, Rebecca E. and Elizabeth K. Cruzado Carranza. “Making the Past Relevant: Co-creative approaches to heritage preservation and community development at Hualcayán, Ancash, Peru.” Advances in Archaeological Practice, 3(3):208-222.
Main Office: MH 4.03.38
Department of Anthropology
University of Texas at San Antonio
College of Liberal and Fine Arts
One UTSA Circle
San Antonio, TX 78249-1644