On the coast of Peru, the Panamerican Highway runs through an archaeological site called Jahuay: not near it or around it, but literally through it, bisecting the archaeological ruins and exposing the site to looters. UMMAA graduate student Jo Osborn chose to study this site in spite of the damage because, thanks to the extremely arid climate, there is exceptional preservation of organic materials, including fish and fishing nets—the focus of her research.
“Jahuay has extensive intact contexts that will allow me to assess the degree of specialization at the site,” wrote Osborn. “Salvaging as much information as possible is essential before more looting and destruction take place.”
Jahuay is located just north of Chincha Alta, Peru. From about 350 BC to 0 AD, Jahuay was a fishing community occupied by people from the Topará culture.
“My research is about the emergence of economic specialization on the Peruvian coast, particularly fishing specialization,” Osborn wrote. “At this site I'm interested in determining whether or not the Topará were fishing specialists, or if they engaged in a variety of economic activities.”
Now she will be able to do precisely that. This fall Osborn received the Fulbright-Hays award, which will fund ten weeks of excavation at Jahuay with an 8-person crew and several weeks of analysis.
“It feels absolutely incredible to receive this award,” she wrote. “This is going to allow me to extend my excavation season as well as complete all of the analyses I have planned. There has not been a lot of research done on Topará, so I am thrilled to know that I have the means to do this site and this culture justice.”
In addition to discovering more about the economic structure of the community, Osborn also hopes to find evidence for whether Jahuay was occupied seasonally or year-round, and to what extent it was connected economically to other local communities.
Her work will inform research done by other South American archaeologists, but also that of historians, economists, and others who study economic development and political economy.
Osborn gives credit to her committee for guidance and support.
“I know that I never could have received this fellowship without the immense amount of support I've received from my committee members: Kent Flannery, John O'Shea, and especially Joyce Marcus,” she wrote. “Receiving the Fulbright-Hays DDRA isn't just a validation of my work—it's also evidence that their teaching and mentorship over the past five years has made a difference!”