Photo of Grávalos, M. Elizabeth

M. Elizabeth Grávalos

Graduate Student



Building & Room:

BSB 2102


1007 W. Harrison Street


I conduct archaeological research on prehispanic communities in the north-central highlands of Peru. Specifically, my work examines ceramic production and consumption from a situated learning approach to understand how local villages mediated shifts in political economy. One way I do this is through the study of the technological attributes of pottery, including the paste recipes of specific vessel types. In doing so, I evaluate the creation, maintenance, and negotiation of local craft traditions and identify potting communities of practice. My work links theories of practice and technology to gain a diachronic understanding of ceramic production and social learning at the village level, and scales up to the regional context to elucidate social boundaries and economic relationships. As a Research Assistant at the Field Museum's Elemental Analysis Facility since 2016, I have received training in several archaeometric techniques. This includes laser ablation - inductively coupled plasma - mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) and petrographic thin-section analysis, which I employ in my dissertation to examine variability in ceramic technologies over time and between discrete archaeological sites.

I have nine years of excavation and lab experience at both highland and coastal archaeological sites in Peru. I also participated in historic archaeology projects in Chicago, US and the Bahamas.

Since 2016, I have studied pottery from museum collections at the Museo Arqueológico de Ancash (Ancash Archaeology Museum ) in Peru, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Field Museum. I also served as the Textiles and Perishables Specialist for PIARA ( at the site of Hualcayán in Ancash, Peru from 2011-2014. As a part of this position, I cleaned, catalogued, and analyzed perishable materials recovered from mortuary contexts. This work formed the basis of my master's thesis at Purdue University.


Selected Grants

National Science Foundation, Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Award #1830719, "Consumption of Food and Social Distinction", Co-PI with Dr. Patrick Ryan Williams

Wenner-Gren Foundation, Dissertation Fieldwork Grant: "Social Distinction and Communities of Consumption at Jecosh, Peru (ca. 100-1000 CE)", Principal Investigator

The Field Museum's Women's Board, Field Dreams Grant: "Ceramics and Social Status in Prehispanic Peru", Principal Investigator

Rust Family Foundation, Archaeology Research Grant: "States of Consumption: Cultural Resilience and Politico-Economic Relations at Jecosh, Callejon de Huaylas, Peru (1-1000 CE)", Principal Investigator

American Museum of Natural History, Collections Study Grant: "Raw Material Procurement and Indigenous Knowledge: Ceramic Production During Wari State Expansion in the Callejón de Huaylas, Peru (600-1000 CE)", Principal Investigator

University of Illinois at Chicago, Chancellor's Graduate Research Award: "Wari Imperialism and Indigenous Knowledge: Political Economy and Craft Production in Prehispanic Peru", Principal Investigator

Selected Publications

In press          K.J. Vaughn, M.E. Grávalos, M Z. Zegarra, and A.J. Gorman, “Cerro Tortolita, an Early Intermediate Period Ceremonial Center in the Upper Ica Valley”. Peruvian Archaeology, Yamagata University, Japan.

In progress     M.E. Gravalos, R.E. Bria, and L. Dussubieux, and G.F. Lau. “LA-ICP-MS of Recuay Ceramics and Raw Clays: Production and Consumption in the Callejón de Huaylas, Peru (100-700 CE)”. For Journal of Archaeological Science.

In progress     M.E. Grávalos and R.E. Bria, “Prehispanic Highland Textile Technology: A view from the first millennium CE at Hualcayán, Ancash, Peru”. For Ñawpa Pacha.

Notable Honors

2016, Joshua Terry Award, UIC Anthropology Department

2014, Distinguished Master's Thesis Award, Purdue Univ, College of LAS


2014 M.S. - Anthropology, Purdue University
2011 B.A. - Double Major in Anthropology and Spanish, DePaul University

Professional Memberships

Society for American Archaeology

Field Museum Women in Science

Selected Presentations

2018   M.E. Grávalos and E.A. Sharp. Enduring Traditions, Material Transformations: Understanding Wari State Influence in Highland Ancash, Peru. Presented at the 83nd Annual Society for American Archaeology Meeting, Washington, D.C. April 11-15th.

2018               M.E. Grávalos. Mixed Clays, Mixed Methods: Geochemical and Mineralogical Approaches for Characterizing Pottery Technologies in Callejón de Huaylas, Peru. Invited talk for workshop “The 'Social' Side of Archaeometry: Scientific Methods for Addressing Anthropological Questions”. Presented at the Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois, March 2nd.

2016               M.E. Grávalos, P.R. Williams, L. Monz, and E. Hubert. An Obsidian Stone Tool Workshop at Cerro Baúl? Wari Provincial Craft Production and Political Economy. Presented at the 81st Annual Society for American Archaeology Meeting, Orlando, Florida, April 6-10th.

2015               M.E. Grávalos and K.J. Vaughn. LA-ICP-MS Analysis of Nasca Ceramics from the Residential Sector at Cerro Tortolita, Ica, Peru. Presented at the 80th Annual Society for American Archaeology Meeting, San Francisco, California, April 15-19th.

2014               M.E. Grávalos and R.E. Bria. Conceptualizing Communities of Weavers and Group Identity Through the Analysis of Fragmented Andean Textiles. Presented at the 79th Annual Society for American Archaeology Meeting, Austin, Texas. April 23-27th.

Research Currently in Progress

Currently, I co-direct the Proyecto de Investigación Arqueológico - Jecosh (Jecosh Archaeological Research Project or PIAJ) in highland Ancash, Peru with colleagues Emily A. Sharp and Denisse Herrera Rondan. For this project our goal is to examine shifts in village life at the site of Jecosh between the Early Intermediate Period (ca. 100-700 CE) and the Middle Horizon (ca. 700-1000 CE) through excavations of domestic and mortuary contexts. We completed excavation in 2017, which revealed previously unknown mortuary practices and household architecture, as well as a unique ceramic assemblage. Our analysis of these findings is currently ongoing. My research on this collaborative project is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Rust Family Foundation, and the University of Illinois at Chicago Office of the Chancellor.


I am also undertaking a comparative petrographic thin-section analysis of prehispanic pottery from six discrete archaeological sites in the Callejón de Huaylas in collaboration with Dr. Isabelle Druc.