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Department of Archaeology



I'm an archaeologist with wide-ranging theoretical interests that include, most basically, material culture or 'things' and social relations in the human past.   Research areas include the American Southwest, New England, Hawaii, and the Andes; my current research activity involves an exploration of heterarchy in the Andes.  Heterarchy is social organisation that involves networks and linkages that are horizontal, fluid, and often informal, rather than rigidly institutionalised in the hierarchical forms that we experience in modern Western society.   In related research, I've explored the ways that craft production in the past might be differently organised in heterarchical settings, and I've considered how art and other symbolic material culture might tell us about the experience of everyday life in heterarchical (smaller-scale) societies in the past.  

A 2016 issue of the journal World Archaeology was entitled 'The Archaeology of Coalition and Consensus' .  In a group of edited papers, archaeologists sought an understanding of the ways that people built alliances, forged consensus, and cooperated in past societies where 'top-down' leadership was weak or absent.  My recent co-authored article in Annual Reviews of Anthropology (with Tim Earle) evaluated collective action theory and related themes to widen understandings of past political economies.

Fascinated by questions of how affect and emotion shaped human interaction in the past, I have looked for ways we can recognise these dynamics in the archaeological record.  While social scientists recognise the 'power of public opinion', we need to be creative to assess these dynamics in the past.  Again, material culture (and art) offer insights if we know how to look.

More generally, my long-standing research interests involve community organization, explored through studies of architecture and the built environment.  I have investigated power and its institutional dynamics in early states (the Inka empire), and particularly the importance of ideologies in materializing power relations.  I also have broad interests in the origins of social inequality in the human past, the emergence of leadership, and 'bottom-up' patterns of social integration.  In other words, why might people give up their freedom to accept leaders, and how do people manage social relations at expanding scales of societal interaction?

I have studied 'middle-range' societies comparatively through the archaeology of the Andes, Hawaii, and the American Southwest.  My most significant fieldwork has been in the Calchaqui Valley of Salta Province, Argentina; this work is currently being written up for publication.  The archaeology of daily life and heterarchical social order is being investigated through the publication of excavations undertaken from 1998-2006 at Borgatta, a large site in Cachi Adentro, in Salta Province, in collaboration with Dr Kevin Lane of CONICET, Argentina.

I'm also currently investigating the relationships between Natives and English settlers from 1620 to the present in the town of Harwich on Cape Cod.  Here, the aim is to build our understanding of changing social and economic relationships in a setting where Natives and English settlers lived side by side for many years. 


Key publications: 
[1] DeMarrais E.(2013). Art as an affecting presence: Infant funerary urns in Pre-Hispanic northwest Argentina. World Art, 3(1), 110-119. DOI: 10.1080/21500894.2013.777850.
[2] DeMarrais E.(2013). Understanding heterarchy: Crafting and social projects in pre-Hispanic Northwest Argentina. Cambridge Archaeological Journal DOI: 10.1017/S0959774313000474.
[3] DeMarrais E.(2012). Quechua’s southern boundary: The case of Santiago del Estero, Argentina., P. Heggarty and D. Beresford-Jones (eds.), Archaeology and Language in the Andes: A Cross-disciplinary Exploration of Prehistory, Vol.173 (Proceedings of the British Academy 173.) London: Oxford University Press/British Academy. 373-406.
[4] DeMarrais E.(2011). Figuring the Group. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 21(2), 165-186. DOI: 10.1017/S0959774311000229.
Other publications: 

Edited books

[1] E. DeMarrais, C. Gosden and A.C. Renfrew (eds.), (2004). Rethinking Materiality: The Engagement of Mind with the Material World. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
[2] A.C. Renfrew, C. Gosden and E. DeMarrais (eds.), (2004). Substance, Memory, Display: Archaeology and Art. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.


Articles & Chapters

[1] DeMarrais E.(2016). Making pacts and cooperative acts: the archaeology of coalition and consensus. World Archaeology, 48(1), 1-13. DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2016.1140591.
[2] DeMarrais E.(2014). Introduction: The archaeology of performance. World Archaeology, 46(2), 155-163. DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2014.899157.
[3] DeMarrais E. and Robb J. (2013). Art makes society: An introductory visual essay. World Art, 3(1), 3-22. DOI: 10.1080/21500894.2013.782334.
[4] DeMarrais E. and Robb J. (2013). Art Makes Society - A Special 'World Art' Issue. World Art
[5] DeMarrais E.(2011). Corrigendum: Figuring the Group. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 21(3), 488. DOI: 10.1017/S0959774311000576.
[6] DeMarrais E.(2009). Review: Monuments, Empires, and Resistance: The Araucanian Polity and Ritual Narratives by T.D. Dilleyhay. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 19(1), 123-124. DOI: 10.1017/S0959774309000122.
[7] DeMarrais E.(2009). Review: Handbook of South American Archaeology edited by H. Silverman and W.H. Isbell. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 19(3), 450-451. DOI: 10.1017/S0959774309000675.
[8] DeMarrais E.(2007). Early figuration in the south Andes: Materiality, iconography, and the uses of images. A.C. Renfrew and I.R. Morley (eds.), Image and Imagination: A Global Prehistory of Figurative Representation. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
[9] DeMarrais E.(2007). Settings and symbols: Assessing complexity in two pre-Hispanic polities. S. Kohring and S. Wynne-Jones (eds.), Socialising Complexity: Approaches to Power and Interaction in the Archaeological Record. Oxbow Books. 118-139.
[10] DeMarrais E.(2005). Review: Andean Archaeology, Volume I: Variations in Sociopolitical Organization & Volume II: Art, landscape, and society by W.H. Isbell and H. Silverman. Antiquity, 79(304), 474-475.
[11] DeMarrais E.(2005). A view from the Americas: ‘Internal colonization’, material culture and power in the Inka Empire. H. Hurst and S. Owen (eds.), Ancient Colonisations: Analogy, Similarity and Difference. London: Gerald Duckworth and Co.. 73-96.
[12] DeMarrais E.(2004). Review: Tiwanaku and Its Hinterland: Archaeology and Paleoecology of an Andean Civilization edited by A.L. Kolata. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 14(2), 289-291. DOI: 10.1017/S0959774304210174.
[13] DeMarrais E.(2004). The materialisation of culture. E. DeMarrais, C. Gosden and A.C. Renfrew (eds.), Rethinking Materiality: The Engagement of Mind with the Material World. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. 11-22.
[14] DeMarrais E.(2002). Antiquity and the New World. Antiquity, 76(294), 1089-1094.
[15] DeMarrais E.(2002). Review: The Archaeology of Communities: A New World Perspective edited by M.A. Canuto and J. Yaeger. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 12(1), 169-171. DOI: 10.1017/S0959774302280087.
[16] DeMarrais E.(2001). La arqueología del norte del Valle Calchaquí. E. Berberián and A. Nielsen (eds.), Historia Argentina Prehispánica Volume 1. Córdoba: Editorial Brujas. 289-346.
[17] DeMarrais E.(2001). The architecture and organization of Xauxa settlements. T.N.D. Altroy and C.A. Hastorf (eds.), Empire and Domestic Economy. (Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology.) New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 115-153.
[18] M'Altroy T.N., Lorandi A.M., Williams V.I., Calderari M., Hastorf C.A., DeMarrais E. and Hagstrum M.B. (2000). Inka rule in the northern Calchaqui Valley, Argentina. Journal of Field Archaeology, 27(1), 1-26.
[19] DeMarrais E.(1999). Symbolic power in Cahokia's countryside. Review: Cahokia and the Archaeology of Power by T. Emerson. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 9(2), 259-260. DOI: 10.1017/S0959774300015407.
[20] DeMarrais E.(1999). Comment: Socioeconomic growth, culture scale and household well-being by J.H. Bodley. Current Anthropology, 40, 613. DOI: 10.1086/300084.
[21] DeMarrais E., Castillo L.J. and Earle T. (1996). Ideology, materialization, and power strategies. Current Anthropology, 37(1), 15-31.

Teaching and Supervisions


I coordinate the first-year paper A1, World Archaeology, which introduces students to the discipline and the human past across the globle.

I teach Ancient South America and The Archaeology of North America and Mesoamerica on a two-year cycle.  In 2018-19, I'm teaching The Archaeology of North America and Mesoamerica.  Next year, 2019-20, I will teach Ancient South America.  These papers are broad survey courses that emphasize questions of power and ideology, art and material culture, and societal dynamics, drawing upon established knowledge and theory but also exploring new ideas of material-relational theory and ontology to understand the past in these regions.

Research supervision: 

I supervise both MPhil and PhD students on a range of topics, many of them focused on the archaeology of the Americas, although students working with me often explore aspect of material culture or archaeological theory using case studies from global archaeolgy.  I have supervised students working in the Andes, central America, the American Southwest, New England, the Philippines, and Korea.    

Current Students:

  • Helen Alderson
  • Hari Blackmore
  • Sara Morrisset
  • Camila Alday

Other Professional Activities

I served on the Editorial Board of World Archaeology from 2008-2018.

I am an Associate Editor of the Cambridge Archaeological Journal.

Job Titles

Associate Professor in Archaeology
Senior Postgraduate Tutor, Churchill College
Director of Studies, Churchill and Murray Edwards Colleges

General Info

Takes PhD students
Not available for consultancy
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Material Culture
Archaeological Theory

Contact Details

Deaprtment of Archaeology
Downing Street
ed226 [at]
01223 (3)39002


Person keywords: 
Material Culture
Agricultural origins and Sedentary Societies
Archaeological Theory
Art and Iconography
Artefact Analysis and Technology
Built Environment
Material Culture
Rethinking Complexity
Geographical areas: 
Periods of interest: 
Other Historical