The Late Intermediate Period (AD 1000–1470) site of Ungará, in Peru, looking towards the eastern sector. The entrance to the valley is in the background. Photo by Jennifer Larios.

The Cañete Valley stretches along the west coast of Peru, bounded by the Pacific Ocean. Tourists flock to the beaches, but other parts of the valley are extremely remote. University of Michigan graduate student Jennifer Larios chose to work in one of those remote areas, on an archaeological site about 1000 years old. This summer is her first season doing fieldwork there.  

Within her first month at the site, she got the news: she’d won a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which will fund three years of tuition and her fieldwork.    

“This was the first fellowship I ever applied to, so I’m really happy to have won the award!” wrote Larios. “The fellowship will be used towards my research at the site of Ungará, which is a Late Intermediate Period (AD 1000–1470) site in the Cañete Valley, Peru.”

The site is important because of its strategic location, Larios explained: it has a view of the entire lower valley and is next to the valley’s largest canal.

“Whoever was living there was clearly in charge of defending the entrance to the Huarco Kingdom’s territory and managing the water,” she wrote.

Before she does any excavating, however, she has to map the site.

“This season my goal is to create a plan of the site in order to understand the spatial configuration and the architectural history of the site,” she wrote. “The site map will also help me come up with a plan for excavations and geophysical analyses, which I hope to start next year. In sum, my research there will broadly focus on the site’s political and economic role in the Huarco Kingdom during the Late Intermediate Period. However, I hope to excavate both commoner and elite spaces and move away from an elite/commoner dichotomy. Essentially, I hope to look at the political and economic role of groups of various statuses, which I believe are present at the site.”