Tamara Bray


Faculty Profile









1202 Old Main


I am a theoretically-oriented archaeologist specializing in the study of the Inca Empire and the late pre-Columbian societies of the northern Andes. I earned my doctoral degree from SUNY-Binghamton in the early 1990s and landed a job shortly thereafter at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History where I helped to establish the Office of Repatriation. In 1995, I joined the faculty at Wayne State University. In addition to teaching a wide array of undergraduate and graduate courses here, I also served as Director of the Grosscup Museum of Anthropology for 21 years, from 1995 to 2016. In 2013, I was named Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year by the President’s Council of State Universities of Michigan.

My research focuses on strategies of ancient imperialism through the study of craft production, foodways, and iconography; material agency and alternative ontologies; interregional interaction; and the politics and place of archaeology in the modern world. I have over 25 years of field and research experience in the highlands of Ecuador, where I began my professional career with an investigation of imperial Inca strategies of control in the Quito basin. Since then, I have directed several interdisciplinary projects focused on long-distance trade and Andean-Amazonian relations, imperial frontiers, Inca architecture, sacred landscapes, and Inca pottery in the countries of Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Peru. My new book, entitled Objects of Empire: The Ceramic Tradition of the Imperial Inca State, is currently under review.

I recently initiated a new archaeological field project in southern highland Ecuador that will explore the role of craft specialists, colonization, and technologies of ceramic production in the context of imperial Inca expansion. My analyses of archaeological materials recovered in excavations at the site of Copacabana in Bolivia are also on-going, as are my comparative studies of imperial Inca pottery from around the Empire and research into the ways in which imperial objects of various types aid in the construction of empires around the world. In addition to teaching and research, I also serve on several scientific advisory and editorial boards, including the new journal, The Archaeology of Food and Foodways; the journal Arqueología y Patrimonio published by the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH); and the journal Antropología: Cuadernos de Investigación published by the Catholic University of Ecuador (PUCE); I am also a member of the Advisory Board of Senior Fellows for the Pre-Columbian Studies Program at Dumbarton Oaks.

I am actively recruiting MA and PhD students who are interested in Andean archaeology, Inca studies, the archaeology of Ecuador, material culture theory, and museum anthropology. I am especially interested in recruiting students for archaeological fieldwork and potential dissertation research in Ecuador. Contact the department for more information about our graduate programs, or email me directly to discuss the possibility of coming to study with me at Wayne State.


Selected Publications

  • 2022 "The vital matter of food." In Food, Diet and Cuisine in the Ancient Andes, Marta Alfonso-Durrurty and Deborah Blom (eds.). Arizona University Press, Tucson.
  • 2021 La arqueología de los waka’s: exploraciones del sagrado en los Andes precolombinos. Ediciones el Lector S.R.L., Universidad Peru, Arequipa. (Spanish translation of 2015 volume).
  • 2020 "Imperial Inca-style pottery from Ecuador: Insights into provenance and production using INAA and ceramic petrography." Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 34(A):1-11. (co-authored with Leah Minc).
  • 2019 "Recientes excavaciones en Intinqala: un sitio de ocupacion incaica en Copacabana, Bolivia." Boletin de la Sociedad de Investigacion de Arte Rupestre de Bolivia 33:43-71.
  • 2019 "Temporal plurality and temporal transgressions: Time and things in an early colonial mortuary assemblage from northern highland Ecuador." International Journal of Historical Archaeology 23(4):816-831.
  • 2018 "Partnering with pots: The work of materials in the imperial Inca project." Cambridge Archaeological Journal 28(2): 243-257.
  • 2018 "The Inca centers of Caranqui and Tomebamba in northern Chinchaysuyu," in Oxford Handbook of the Inca, S. Alconini and A. Covey (eds.), pp. 159-178. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • 2018 "Al final del Tahuantinsuyu: avances imperiales en la frontera norte," en El imperio Inca, Izumi Shimada (ed.), pp. 679-712. Fondo Editorial, PUCP, Lima.
  • 2015 The Archaeology of Wak’as: Explorations of the Sacred in the Pre-Columbian Andes. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.
  • 2014 "Analytical applications of fine-scale terrestrial lidar at the imperial Inca site of Caranqui, northern highland Ecuador." World Archaeology 46(1):1-18. (co-authored with Boleslo E. Romero).
  • 2013 "Water, ritual and power in the Inca Empire." Latin American Antiquity 24(2):164-190.
  • 2012 "Ritual commensality between human and non-human persons: Investigating native ontologies in the late pre-Columbian Andean world." eTopoi:J ournal for Ancient Studies (Berlin), on-line journal.
  • 2009 "An archaeological perspective on the Andean concept of camaquen: Thinking through the objects of late pre-Columbian ofrendas and huacas." Cambridge Archaeological Journal 19(3):359-368.
  • 2003 "Inca pottery as culinary equipment: Food, feasting and gender in imperial state design." Latin American Antiquity 17(1):1-22.

For a complete listing of publications see: https://wayne.academia.edu/TBray

  • ANT 2200  Lost Cities & Ancient Civilizations
  • ANT 2500  Archaeology of the Great Lakes Region
  • ANT 3220  Inca and Their Ancestors
  • ANT 5270  Concepts and Techniques in Archaeology
  • ANT 5600  Museum Studies
  • ANT 6510  Inca and Their Ancestors
  • ANT 6555  Cultural Resource Management and Public Archaeology
  • ANT 6999  Grant writing for the Social Sciences
  • ANT 7620  Seminar: Archaeology of Religion
  • ANT 7625  Material Culture and the Meaning of Things
  • ANT 7630  Seminar: Indigenous Science

Research Description

Andean archaeology; complex societies; Inca; Ecuadorian archaeology; early imperialism & statecraft; food & feasting; iconography; museum anthropology; repatriation; theoretical approaches to material culture

Affiliated Departments