Matt Biwer

UCSB Graduate Student

Office Location

HSSB 1038


  • Andean Prehistory, Wari Empire
  • Complex societies, political economy, foodways
  • Paleoethnobotany
  • Subsistence, agriculture, plant domestication


Pursuing    Ph.D, Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara

2011           M.A., Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara

2009           B.A., Anthropology and History, Ripon College


My research focuses on states and empires of the Peruvian Andes, particularly the Middle Horizon (600-1000A.D.) Wari Empire.  I have worked with Dr. Donna Nash (UNCG) since 2009, primarily on the excavation and analysis of remains from the Wari colonial sites Cerro Mejia and Cerro Baul, along with a wide range of other sites located in the Upper Moquegua Valley, Peru.  I am interested in the politics and socio-economy of food and foodways, as well as issues related to consumption, power, performance, and colonialism.  My dissertation research addresses the spatial relationships of food consumption and foodways at Cerro Baul, considering the roles food played in the formation and maintenance of Wari power and identity at the colonial center. I have also focused my research efforts towards understanding the production and consumption of chicha, a fermented beverage made of maize and/or other fruits and seeds, at the site of Cerro Baul and the role chicha played in the Wari colonialism. My laboratory methods focus on the identification and analysis of macrobotanical plant remains address questions of prehistoric plant use.


Cerro Baul, Upper Moquegua Valley, Peru









   Cerro Baul, Upper Moquegua Valley, Peru

Analysis of Food, Politics, and Colonialism on the Wari Frontier at the Site of Cerro Baul in the Upper Moquegua Valley, Peru

Matthew Biwer has been assisting Dr. Donna Nash (UNCG) with archaeological excavations and paleoethnobotanical analysis from Middle Horizon Wari sites in the Moquegua Valley, Peru since 2009.  Using macrobotanical plant remains, his analysis focuses on the role food and foodways played in colonialism and the creation and maintenance of imperial identity the southern frontier of the Wari Empire (600-1000A.D.).  As group identity and membership is never more important than when on the frontier, Biwer argues that food and feasting at Cerro Baul, a Wari site located atop a local spiritual entity called an apu, were an essential means for Wari leaders to reaffirm and maintain a collective Wari identity and legitimize their colonial presence so far from the heartland.

Analysis of Late Woodland Plant Remains from the Myer-Dickson Site, Central Illinois River Valley

Matthew Biwer has been engaged in the analysis of Late Woodland (500-1000A.D.) paleoethnobotanical remains from the Myer-Dickson site, located in the Central Illinois River Valley of Western Illinois.  His project focuses on the cultivation of native starchy plants in the Illinois River and American Bottom regions including goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandderi), maygrass (Phalaris carolina), little barley (Hordeum pussilium), and erect knotweed (Polygonum erectum). Using macrobotanical analysis to compare Myer-Dickson to sites located in southern and west-central Illinois during the Middle to Late Woodland transition, he considers the environmental, evolutionary, and cultural selection processes that influenced the range and intensity of cultivation of these native domesticates.


Courses TA’d

ANTH 2: Intro to Cultural Anthropology (UCSB)

ANTH 3: Intro to Archaeology (UCSB)

ATY 488: Archaeological Field Methods (UNCG/UIC)

ATY 489: Archaeological Laboratory Methods (UNCG/UIC)