Director, Peabody Museum
Research and Teaching Interests: Andean South America, The Intermediate Area, and interactions between and shared culture among New World peoples. Social change and transformations. Ancient and Non-Western Art. The limits and potentials of archaeology in understanding the past.
Jeffrey Quilter was born and raised in New York City. He received his A.B. (Social Sciences) from The College, University of Chicago, and his M.A. and Ph.D. (Anthropology) from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Trained as an Anthropological archaeologist, Quilter’s early career was focused on questions on the origins of sedentism (Paloma Site) and complex societies (Media Luna, El Paraíso) in Peru. During the period of instability in Peru (late 1980s – 1990s), he shifted his research focus to examine the art and iconography of the Moche culture of Peru and began a long-term archaeological project in Costa Rica at the Rivas ceremonial and mortuary complex. He also developed an interest in the different discourses of art history, anthropology, and history in discussing the past. Recently, an early interest in issues of the origins and nature of complex societies has shifted to focus on viewing social and environmental changes over long periods of time.
Since 2002 he has been working in cooperation with Peruvian archaeologists at the El Brujo Archaeological Complex in the Chicama Valley. Currently he directs a multi-disciplinary study of a 16th-17th century colonial town and church complex, Sta. Magdalena de Cao, Viejo, at El Brujo (see: Magdalena de Cao Viejo Project). Plans are underway to expand this research to examine long-term human-environmental relations in the Chicama Valley.
Quilter has published on a number of topics in archaeology as well as edited numerous volumes. His monographs are Life and Death at Paloma, Society and Mortuary Practices in a Preceramic Peruvian Village. (1989, University of Iowa Press); Cobble Circles and Standing Stones: Archaeology at the Rivas Site, Costa Rica. (2004, University of Iowa Pres); and Treasures of the Andes (2005, Duncan Baird); and The Moche of Ancient Peru: Media and Messages (Peabody Museum).
Among his edited volumes are Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia (with John Hoopes; Dumbarton Oaks, 2003) and El Niño, Catastrophism, and Culture Change in Ancient America (with Danel H. Sandweiss, Dumbarton Oaks, 2008.)
Quilter has taught at Ripon College, Wisconsin (1981—1995) and served as the Director of Pre-Columbian Studies and Curator of the Pre-Columbian Collection at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. (1995—2005). Since 2005 he has served as Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Curator of Intermediate Area Archaeology at the Peabody Museum, and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University.
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