The Dazzle of Vermilion: Tracing the Early Cinnabar Trade in the Ancient Andes - Richard Burger

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Thursday, September 29, 2016 5:30pm - 6:30pm
Salomon Center, Room 001

Recent research has identified the long-distance exchange of vermilion pigment as beginning before 1,000 BC and spanning much of the Central Andes.  Through the study of mercury isotopes, it is now possible for the first time to determine the geological sources of cinnabar (mercury sulphide) and to begin to reconstruct prehistoric networks that distributed this rare material. Complementary information from lake cores allow insights into the history of the mining of this substance and medical research has permitted the evaluation of the health consequences of cinnabar procurement and use.  In this talk, archaeological contexts will be examined to explore the symbolism and use of cinnabar for three millennia. Sponsored by donors to the Jane Powell Dwyer Lecture Fund and the Friends of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in archaeology from Yale College and completing his doctoral work at the University of California, Berkeley, Richard Burger became a member of the Yale faculty in 1981, and eventually served as the Chairman of the Anthropology Department and the Council for Archaeological Studies. Burger also served as Director of the Peabody Museum of Natural History from 1995 - 2002. Professor Burger is currently the Charles J. MacCurdy Professor in Yale’s Department of Anthropology, and Curator in the Division of Anthropology at the Peabody Museum. In Peru he has taught at the San Marcos University (UNMSM) and the Catholic University (PUCP) in Lima and is an honorary member of the faculties of the University of Cuzco (UNSAAC) and the University of Iquitos in Peru. Burger also served as Chair of the Senior Fellows of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. and is currently the President of the Institute of Andean Research (New York). An archaeologist specializing in emergence of civilization in the Central Andes, Burger has carried out research in Peru for over two decades. He has directed excavations at Chavin de Huantar and Huaricoto in Peru's northern highlands and at Cardal, Mina Perdida and Manchay Bajo on Peru's central coast. He has pioneered the sourcing of obsidian and cinnabar in Peru in order to better understand ancient patterns of interaction and exchange. He has written numerous books and articles on South American prehistory including Chavin and the Origin of Andean Civilization.