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Alfred L. Kroeber and Partnerships in the Field

The work of American anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber (June 1876–October 1960) was largely influenced by two archaeologists: Max Uhle and Julio C. Tello.

Both Uhle and Tello were pioneers in South American archaeology in the early 20th century who sought to answer questions about the chronology and origins of Peruvian cultures. Kroeber built upon Tello’s and Uhle’s archaeological projects to address the ambiguity of chronology in South America. Tello opposed Uhle’s proposals, developed between 1904 and 1914, that Andean civilizations had been derived from Mesoamerican cultures. The difference in thought led Kroeber to study both Tello’s and Uhle’s research in an attempt to estimate time periods of Peruvian culture. Kroeber studied Uhle’s collection of artifacts at the University of California, Berkeley, to group grave sites according to type of artifacts. Kroeber worked under the assumption that graves containing similar artifacts belonged to the same time period and dissimilar artifacts belonged to different time periods. Kroeber became familiar with Uhle’s work while working at the University of California, Berkeley, but became familiar with Tello’s research by joining him in the field.

When Kroeber was arriving in Peru for the first time, on behalf of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Tello was initiating an archaeological program on the coast of Peru, south of Lima. What resulted was a research partnership between the two that led to a publication by Kroeber, in which he compared Uhle’s and Tello’s ideas about Peruvian prehistory. The 1926 publication also included Kroeber’s observations on Nasca sites and archaeological features. Kroeber decided to spend that entire field season in Nasca; throughout his career he worked in several valleys on the central and northern Peruvian coast.

Text Source: Kroeber, Alfred L., and Donald Collier. The Archaeology and Pottery of Nazca, Peru: Alfred L. Kroeber's 1926 Expedition. AltaMira Press, 1998. [18].
  • Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology