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Michelle Young

Assistant Professor of Anthropology (Anthropological archaeology; Andes; material culture)


Anthropological archaeology; archaeometry; interregional interaction and long-distance exchange; material culture and social identity; ceramics; pigments; ritual and religion; social difference; gender; museums and heritage.

Michelle E. Young is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology who specializes in the archaeology of the pre-Hispanic Andes. Professor Young’s interests center on the relationship between interregional interaction, the adoption of new ritual practices, and the emergence of new individual and communal social identities in the south-central Peruvian highlands in the early 1st millennium BC. Methodologically, her work brings together analyses of visual and material culture with archaeometric techniques to illuminate the role of the material world in fomenting large-scale social change.

Between 2014 and 2017, she directed the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológica Atalla, carrying out mapping, survey, excavation, sample collection, and laboratory analyses of materials from Atalla, Peru, in collaboration with Peruvian and international students, scholars, and local workers. This project investigated the contexts in which new forms of social behavior – such as sedentary village life, long-distance exchange, new forms of ceremonialism, superregional identity formation, and social inequality – emerged in the Andes during the early 1st millennium BC. Her project also established a multi-year program of community outreach and education based in the town of Yauli.

Since 2019 she has directed the Cinnabar Roads Project, an archaeological survey and excavation project studying the ancient exchange routes between the highlands and the coast of southern Peru. This project aims to understand the economic and social mechanisms that supported the exchange of products between communities situated in distant environmental zones.

She is also currently the director of the Pre-Columbian Pigments Project, a collections-based research project of identification and sourcing of pigments used by the pre-Hispanic inhabitants of the Central Andes. This project aims to understand how the long-distance exchange, use, and meaning of certain pigments varied both regionally and through time.

Professor Young has conducted archaeological field work, laboratory analyses, and collections-based research in the United States, Belize, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Madagascar. Her research has been supported by generous funding from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright, Smithsonian Institution, and Rust Family Foundation.