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Photo of Williams, Patrick Ryan

Patrick Ryan Williams, PhD

Curator of Archaeological Science, Field Museum

Adjunct Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

Anthropology, Archaeology


I am an anthropological archaeologist who works on the earliest expansionist states of South America. My scholarly interests are focused on the development of ideological systems associated with early “global” polities. I am very interested in understanding the material basis for the interaction between different component groups in first generation heterogeneous expansive states, and the nature of the relationships between peer polities at this political scale.

My research has focused on one of the few cases where we can archaeologically document extensive long term direct contact between two such polities: Wari and Tiwanaku.  I am currently undertaking research at the only known site of such direct interaction. I also work with colleagues in other regions under the influence of the same cultures in order to obtain a comparative perspective on this relationship.

Selected Grants

National Science Foundation, Archaeometry Program "Collaborative Research EAF", Co-Principal Investigator

National Science Foundation, Major Research Instrumentation Grant "ICP-MS", Co-Principal Investigator

National Geographic Society, "Tiwanaku Temple at Cerro Baul", Principal Investigator

National Science Foundation, Archaeometry Program “EAF Interlab Comparison”, Co-Principal Investigator

National Science Foundation, Archaeometry Program “Adaptable Chamber LA-ICP”, Co-Principal Investigator

National Science Foundation, Senior Research Grant “Tiwanaku Roads”, Co-Principal Investigator

Dumbarton Oaks/Harvard University, Research Grant “Late Tiwanaku Bioarchaeology”, Co-Principal Investigator

Brennan Foundation Grant, “Tiwanaku Geophysics”, Co-Principal Investigator

National Science Foundation, Major Research Instrumentation Grant “EAF”, Principal Investigator

National Endowment for the Humanities, Collaborative Research Grant “Ritual Feting”, Co-Principal Investigator

Selected Publications

2022 Williams, Patrick Ryan, Gary Feinman, and Luis Muro Ynoñán, Editors. Beyond Death: Beliefs Practice, and Material Expression. Oxford: BAR Press and Fieldiana Anthropology (in press).

2020 Williams, Patrick Ryan. Cambio Climático en los Antiguos Andes.  Universidad Nacional de Moquegua, Peru. 218 pp.

2019 Williams, Patrick R., Donna Nash, Josh Henkin, and Ruth Ann Armitage.  Archaeometric Approaches to Defining Sustainable Governance: Wari Brewing Traditions and the Building of Political Relationships in Ancient Peru.  Sustainability 11(8), 2333;

2018 Williams, P. R., A. C. Londoño, M. Hart.  Modeling Archaeological Landscape Transformations in Early Andean Empires. In New Geospatial Approaches in the Anthropological Sciences, R. Anemone and Glenn Conroy, Eds.  Albuquerque: UNM Press.  Pp. 189-209.

2016 Williams, P. R. and Donna Nash. Religious Ritual and Wari State Expansion.  In Ritual and Archaic States, edited by Joanne M. A. Murphy.  Gainesville: University Press of Florida. 131-156.

2013 Williams, P. R. Tiwanaku: A Cult of the Masses. In A. Vranich and C. Stanish, eds. Visions of Tiwanaku.  Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. pp. 27-40.

2009 Nash, D. and P. R. Williams.  Wari Political Organization: The Southern Periphery. Andean Civilization: A Tribute to Michael E. Moseley. J. Marcus and P. R. Williams, eds. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, UCLA. Pp. 257-276.

2006 Williams, P. R. and D. J. Nash Sighting the Apu: A GIS Analysis of Wari Imperialism and the Worship of Mountain Peaks World Archaeology 38(3):455-468.

2002 Williams, P. R.  A Re-examination of Disaster Induced Collapse in the Case of the Andean Highland States: Wari and Tiwanaku. World Archaeology 33(3): 361-374.

2001 Williams, P. R. Cerro Baúl: A Wari Center on the Tiwanaku Frontier. Latin American Antiquity 12(1): 67-83.

Professional Leadership

Board of Directors, 2012, Institute for Andean Studies

Scientific Advisory Board, 2014, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute ArchPro, Vienna

President FMNH Chapter 2009-2011, AAUP, Illinois State Council Representative

Director, Academic Advisory Board 2002 -, Asociación Contisuyo


1997 Ph.D., Anthropology - GIS & Remote Sensing Minor, University of Florida.
1995 M.A., Anthropology, University of Florida.
1993 B.A., Geography & Anthropology, Northwestern University.

Licensures and Certifications

Lic. en Arqueologia, Pacifica Universidad Catolica del Peru, 2006

Professional Memberships

Society for American Archaeology, 1991-

American Anthropological Association, Archaeology Division, 2001-

Archaeological Institute of America, 2011-

Registro Nacional de Arqueólogos del Perú BW-9507, 1995-

Colegio de Arqueólogos del Perú 040612, 2006-

Research Currently in Progress

June 1997 - present, Project Director, Cerro Baúl Excavation Project. Ongoing excavation of a Wari administrative center occupied ca. A. D. 600 - 1000.

Sept 2000 - present, PI, Geoarchaeological and geochemical investigations in the Andean altiplano.  Collaborations with colleagues on investigating the buried structured of Tiwanaku urban sites.

Sept 2003 - present, Director, Elemental Analysis Facility at The Field Museum.  Installation of a trace element chemistry lab using LA-ICP-MS, XRF, and SEM-EDS for researching exchange systems in prehistory worldwide.

Artistic and Professional Performances and Exhibits


Death: Life’s Greatest Mystery (Field Museum national Tour 2022-2027)

Mummies: Images of the Afterlife (Field Museum national tour 2015-2019)

Opening the Vaults: Mummies (Field Museum 2012)

Maps: Finding our Place in the World (Field Museum 2007)

Ancient Americas: Wari / Nasca gallery (Field Museum 2007)