Ryan Williams

As department chair, I have primary responsibility for the administration of the department of Anthropology, including curatorial, collections, and conservation activities.

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 domination of the same cultures in order to obtain a comparative perspective on this relationship.Development of Sociopolitical Complexity in the South American Andes

How and why complex social systems develop, natural and social disasters and their effects on political development, interactions between prehistoric states, and the reasons for state collapse 

Ryan Williams has conducted archaeological field research in Southern Peru for the past decade. Williams has directed research on ancient agricultural hydraulics in the Peruvian Andes and has collaborated on projects at Tiwanaku,  on Inka mummies, and on the earliest peoples of the Americas at Quebrada Tacahuay. 

He currently leads excavations of the Wari administrative center of Cerro Baul (A. D. 600 - 1000), a mesa top  citadel in Tiwanaku territory. Funded first by the National Science Foundation and later by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the examination of political interaction is the primary theme of this research. 

Williams is also interested in the regional analysis of settlement systems and uses geographic information systems and remote sensing applications to study the interaction between ancient peoples and their environments. 

His focus on regional exchange networks also incorporates geochemical analyses of artifacts for characterizing provenience, production, and distribution of archaeological materials. To this end, he and museum colleagues acquired National Science Foundation funding to create and sustain an Elemental Analysis Facilityat The Field Museum.

Education and Work

Ph.D., Anthropology - GIS & Remote Sensing minor, University of Florida, 1997.

M. A., Anthropology, University of Florida, 1995.

B.A., Anthropology & Geography, Northwestern University, 1993.1997-2000 Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Florida

2000-2001 Assistant Professor, Boston University

2001- Assistant to Associate Curator, The Field Museum


Adjunct Professor of Anthropology

University of Illinois-Chicago

Northwestern University

University of Florida