College of Liberal and Fine Arts

Sonia Alconini, Ph.D.


Department of Anthropology

Research area: Archaeology


Phone: (210) 458-4411

Office: MH 4.03.28

Research in Progress

Imperial frontiers were dynamic and vibrant zones of interaction, exchange, and confrontation, where the power of the empire was constantly challenged, asserted and negotiated. I have been working in different segments of the ancient Inka frontier, in order to understand wider processes of accommodation, rebellion and ethnogenesis. I strongly advocate that the study of ancient frontiers provides a unique opportunity to understand the basis of imperial power, and the ways in which empires affirmed their territorial presence. Perhaps more importantly, it allows us to appreciate the agency and reactions of frontier and indigenous communities. 

My research combines regional-scale settlement dynamics with household and communal archaeology, in order to reconstruct the complex nature of ancient states and empires. I have worked for several years in the eastern Inka frontier, but also in the Tiwanaku heartland and its provinces. Currently, I am conducting research in the Kallawaya region, located to the east of the Titicaca basin.

See my website at:

Honors and Awards: UTSA President's Distinguished Achievement for Excellence in Core Curriculum Teaching (2016), UTSA President's Distinguished Achievement Award for Advancing Globalization (2015)


Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2002


My teaching philosophy emphasizes helping students to become independent, inquisitive lifelong learners. This entails developing undergraduate and graduate courses that promote education as an active and dynamic process. I also emphasize critical thinking and experiential learning, as an avenue to apply a set of theories and methods to real-life situations. 

I teach at the undergraduate level a set of courses including Introduction to Archaeology, South American Archaeology, Museum Studies in Anthropology, Research Methods in Anthropology and Death and Dying. At the graduate level some course that I teach comprise Statistical Applications to Archaeology, Geographic Information Systems, the Archaeology of Frontier and Boundaries, and seminars on Andean Archaeology.

Prospective students:

I am currently accepting MA and doctoral students. I am interested in applicants whose proposed research focuses on one or more of the following areas: Pre-Columbian Andes; the Inka empire; provincial Inka studies; Inka household archaeology, Inka regional settlement patterns and GIS; and Guarani archaeology and the Amazon.

Current Ph.D. students: Lynn Kim, Matthew Warren, Adam Birge, Kevin Daiber, Jose Barragan

Current MA students: Brooke Salzman, Alesia Hoyle

Representative Publications

2016    The Southeastern Inka Imperial Frontier: Warfare, Boundaries and Frontier Interaction. University Press of Florida.

2015    Head extraction, inter-regional exchange, and political strategies of control in the Kallawaya territory of Bolivia during the late Formative to Tiwanaku period transition (AD 500-800). Latin American Antiquity, 26(1):30-48. Co-authored with Sara K. Becker. 

2013    Alfarería Inka Estatal y Provincial: Producción y Distribución del Estilo Cerámico Inka Taraco Polícromo en el Centro Artesanal de Milliraya y la Región Kallawaya. Chungara, Revista de Antropología Chilena. Volume 45, No. 2: 277-292. 

2010    Distant Provinces in the Inka Empire: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Inka Imperialism. Edited by Michael Malpass and Sonia Alconini. University of Iowa Press, Iowa.

2010    Alliances and Local Prestige: Yampara Households and Communal Evolution in the Southeastern Inka Peripheries. In Distant Provinces in the Inka Empire: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Inka Imperialism. Edited by Michael Malpass and Sonia Alconini. University of Iowa Press, Iowa. 

2008    Dis-embedded Centers and Architecture of Power in the Fringes of the Inka Empire: New Perspectives on Territorial and Hegemonic Strategies of Domination. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 27:63-81.

2004    The Southeastern Inka Frontier against the Chiriguanos: Structure and Dynamics of the Inka Imperial Borderlands. Latin American Antiquity 15(4):389-418


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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