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Associate Professor

Email: bbillman(@)

Phone: (919) 962-9348

Fax: (919) 962-1613
Office: 401C Alumni Bldg.

Area of Interest:

Archaeology of Chiefdoms and States, Political Economy, Human Violence, the Evolution of Human Behavior, Heritage Preservation, Settlement Pattern Analysis, the prehistory of the Andes and the American Southwest


Ph.D. University of California Santa Barbara, 1996, Associate Professor; Research Associate of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology

Research & Activities:

Research Background

My research interest include the prehistory of Andean South America, evolution of complex political organizations (chiefdoms, states and empires), causes and consequences of warfare, origins of social stratification, cultural ecology, settlement pattern analysis, and the prehistory of southwestern North America.

I began working in Peru in 1985 and have participated in fieldwork on the north, central, and south coast on a wide range of time periods and site types. My dissertation research at the University of California, Santa Barbara focused on the origins of the Moche State, one of the largest and most complex indigenous political organizations to have developed in the New World. Fieldwork for my dissertation was conducted in 1990-91 and involved a systematic pedestrian survey of portions of the Moche Valley on the north coast of Peru. Eventually, through the analysis of settlement data on over 900 archaeological sites, I was able to reconstruct a sequence of political development in the Moche Valley from the formation of the first autonomous village in the Late Preceramic Period (2500-1800 B.C.) to the zenith of the Moche between A.D. 400 and 800. The ultimate goal of the dissertation was to evaluate general theories of state evolution in light of this sequence of development. I received my Ph.D. in 1996.

Although my primary regional specialty is Andean South America, I have many years of experience in several areas of western North America, including the southwest, central Rockies Mountains, Fremont culture area, northern and central Plains, Santa Barbara Channel, and southeast Alaska. Most of my experience in North America has been in the southwest. From 1993 to 1998, while working on my dissertation, I directed several large archaeological projects in the southwestern US for the Zuni Archaeology Program (ZAP) and Soil Systems, Inc (SSI). For SSI, I led the investigation of over 60 archaeological sites ranging in date from the Middle Archaic Period (4800-3000 B.C.) to the Historic Era.

The project addressed a wide range of issues including archaic period land use patterns, Puebloan agricultural strategies, community organization, and Puebloan cannibalism and warfare. The most surprising and controversial find during the project was the discovery of the disarticulated, butchered, and partial burned remains of seven people on the floors of two pithouses. Result of collaborative research with Dr. Patricia Lambert (Utah State University) and Banks Leonard (SSI) revealed a possible outbreak of cannibalism and warfare in the Mesa Verde region in the late A.D. 1100s.

Present Research

I am currently directing a multi-year interdisciplinary project in the Moche Valley in order to further investigate the organization and development of the Moche State. The goal of the Moche Origins Project (MOP) is to obtain more detailed data on social stratification, violence, highland-coastal interaction, and environmental perturbations in the Moche Valley prior to and during the formation of the Moche State. The project involves several lines of investigation including:

– The excavation of elite and commoner dwellings at pre-Moche and Moche sites. As of 1999, three field seasons of excavation have been completed and a fourth is planned for the summer of 2000.

– Geomorphological investigations of prehistoric El Niño events in the Moche Valley with Dr. Gary Huckleberry (Washington State University). This research is funded by a two-year National Science Foundation grant.

– The analysis of human remains and grave goods from the site of Cerro Oreja, a large pre-Moche urban center in the Moche Valley. I am conducting this research with Dr. Patricia Lambert (Project Co-Director, Utah State University), Celeste Gagnon (grad student, UNC-Chapel Hill), Carie Samll (grad student, UI-Urbana-Champaign), and Bonnie Yoshida (grad student, University of California, Santa Barbara). The Cerro Oreja collection consists of over 1200 individuals and spans much of the ceramic sequence of the Moche Valley.

As a part of the Moche Origins Project, in 1998, I developed a field school in household archaeology in the Moche Valley for undergrad and graduate students, which is offered on a regular basis through the UNC Summer Abroad Program (

To find out more, visit the Research Labs of Archaeology web site:

Courses Taught

ANTH 6E First Year Seminar: The Origins of Civilization and the State
ANTH 100 World Prehistory
ANTH 110 Principles of Archaeology
ANTH 131 Archaeology of South America
ANTH 153 Field School in South American Archaeology
ANTH 199 Seminar in Prehistoric New World States

Selected Publications:

“Cannibalism, Warfare, and Drought in the Mesa Verde Region in the Twelfth Century AD.” American Antiquity 65:1-34. January, 2000. (with P. Lambert and B. Leonard)

“Understanding the Timing and Tempo of the Evolution of Political Centralization on the Coastal Andean Coastline and Beyond.” In Leaders to Rulers: The Development of Political Centralization, edited by J. Haas. Plenum Publishing Corporation, New York. In press. 2000.

“Irrigation and the Origins of the Moche State.” Latin American Antiquity. In press. 2000

Settlement Pattern Studies in the Americas: Fifty Years Since Virú. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. 1999. (co-edited with Gary M. Feinman) View this book at

“Reconstructing Prehistoric Political Economies and Cycles of Political Power in the Moche Valley, Peru.” In Settlement Pattern Studies in the Americas: Fifty Years Since Virú, edited by B. R. Billman and G. M. Feinman, pp.131-159. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. 1999.

“Explaining Variability in Mutilated Human Bone Assemblages from the American Southwest: A Case Study from the Southern Piedmont of Sleeping Ute Mountain, Colorado.” With P. Lambert and B. Leonard. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. October-Novemebr, 1999.

“Floodwater Farming, Discontinuous Ephemeral Streams, and Puebloan Abandonment in Southwestern Colorado.” American Antiquity 63:595-616. 1998. (with G. Huckleberry)

“Population Pressure and the Origins of Warfare in the Moche Valley, Peru.” In Integrating Archaeological Demography: A Multidisciplinary Approaches to Prehistoric Population, edited by R. R. Paine, pp 285-310. Center for Archaeological Investigations, Occasional Papers 24, Carbondale, IL. 1997

The Origins of the Moche State: A Case Study in Pristine State Formation. Fundamental Issues in Archaeology Series, Plenum Publishing Corporation, New York. In prep.