Project Description


On the Sondor Bioarchaeology Project, participants will help investigate the enigmatic fate of a late prehistoric society known as the Chanka. Situated in a region of the southern Peruvian Andes called Apurimac, the Chanka began to coalesce in earnest around 1000 CE, establishing dozens of fortresses on precipitous hilltops and ridges. Until recently, much of what we knew about the Chanka was gleaned from written accounts authored by Spanish missionaries, conquistadors, and aristocrats. Recalling the testimonies of indigenous informants, Colonial authors vividly related the trials and tribulations of Chanka chiefs and tribesmen who were singularly motivated by an incurable desire to invade foreign lands and enslave the conquered masses. Yet these lofty aspirations were never realized. Around 1400 CE, the Chanka were decisively vanquished in a grisly battle with their bitter rivals, the illustrious Inca. However, for scholars of Andean history, a nagging question still remains: What became of Chanka after their spectacular defeat? This project, situated at Sondor, the premier Chanka-Inca settlement in Apurimac, addresses that perplexing issue by examining the biological and social consequences of “growing up Chanka” in the face of Inca imperial incursion. The upcoming 2018 field season will immerse participants in a full spectrum of bioarchaeological methods and anthropologically informed research–an approach which fosters the development of skills necessary to interpret multiple data sets and test working hypotheses. Project members will engage in field recovery operations, laboratory practicums, and museum conservation work to learn how archaeological data are collected, processed, and assessed.  At the conclusion of the field program, participants will be able to effectively excavate a mortuary unit as well as conduct comprehensive analyses of skeletonized and mummified human remains. For further details about this program, click here.

Download Syllabus

Course Details

  • Course Dates: July 21-August 18, 2018
  • Enrollment Status: OPEN
  • Total Cost: $3,491
  • Course Type: Biorchaeology
  • Payment Deadline: April 20, 2018
  • Instructors: Dr. Danielle Kurin
  • Online Orientation:  June 2, 2018, 4:00 PM
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The directors welcome emails and inquiries about the research elements of this project. More general information (tuition, health insurance, and payment schedule) can be found under the ‘Students’ tab above. Any further questions may be addressed to IFR staff. Additional details about research, course schedule, travel, accommodation, and safety can be found on the syllabus. Contacting the directors or the IFR office is encouraged and appreciated. It may help you determine if this field school is a good fit for you.

Dr. Danielle S. Kurin
Dr. Danielle S. Kurin
Dr. Kurin is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Anthropology and Director of Walker Bioarchaeology and Biogeochemistry Lab (BABL) at the University of California, Santa Barbara


Danielle is a superb and committed instructor. I had no previous archaeological experience before my arrival to Andahuaylas, but she taught me how to clean and identify bones, how to conduct basic osteological analysis, how to survey land for new archaeological sites, and how to conduct fieldwork, all while assisting four or five other members of my group. She also made sure to take our group to local festivals, archaeological sites, and tourist attractions, making each visit relevant and informative. Meanwhile, she encouraged and facilitated my personal research endeavors. When I decided to conduct research on evangelical missions in the central Andes, she introduced me to religious community leaders, helped me forge connections, and helped me to better interpret and understand my experiences. And no matter how much anyone of us complained about boredom, about the cold, about being discouraged, about the strikes, anything, she always had something positive to say, and encouraged us to move forward. I truly believe that my experience in Peru would have been significantly less engaging without Danielle’s skillful leadership.
Sarah Bechdel, Bryn Mawr College (2010)

Tuition Includes:

  • Costs of instruction
  • Costs of Academic Credit
  • Room & board
  • All local transportation
  • Health Insurance

Student Fees

A nonrefundable deposit of $500 is required to secure a seat in this program.  This program requires an application (no application fee is requested). Only accepted students should pay the deposit fee. Deposit fee is part of the program Tuition. The remaining tuition, minus the $500 deposit, must be paid prior to the tuition deadline (see above under “Course Details”).

Important Note: If you were accepted to this program but did not cancel your participation by the tuition payment deadline, you are legally responsible for the full tuition regardless of attendance in this program. Please read the IFR Cancellation Policy for further clarification.

  • A 2.5% Processing Fee is automatically assessed for all credit/debit card payments
  • A $100 Late Fee will be assessed if full tuition payment is not completed by the deadline.
  • Look at the field school syllabus above for room & board details.


Once in Andahuaylas, you will stay in our rustic Field Research Station in the town of Talavera (pop. 4,000). Conditions are basic and participants share accommodations. There is no central heat; it is always chilly indoors, so bring warm clothes. There is running water, but we do not guarantee that it will be plentiful, potable, or hot. Rolling blackouts may also occur. There are common areas for socializing and lab work. Modest amenities include electric showers, flush toilets, charcoal grill, guinea pig hutch, common kitchen, table games, fire pit, and lending library. Bedrooms are monastic and consist of bunks configured as doubles or triples. The project will provide you with a simple mattress and some warm llama wool and fleece blankets. Bring earplugs and a sleeping mask if you are a light sleeper. You should bring a towel, a bed sheet, a sleeping bag and a crash pad for added comfort and a combination lock to further secure any personal items. Nurse Olga’s mini-clinic is on the third floor.

We provide plenty of basic, but nutritious food Monday through Friday. Breakfast consists of coffee, tea, evaporated milk, fruit, cereal, fresh baked bread, jams, butter, and oatmeal. Lunch consists of sandwiches with cookies and fruit. Dinners are on a set schedule. The main course will rotate, but is drawn from Peruvian highland cuisine which is heavily based on rice, corn, potatoes, legumes, pasta, and some animal protein such as eggs and chicken. The project will provide an abundant supply of purified drinking water. Electric kettles are used to boil water. Soft drinks, ramen noodles, and snacks can be purchased at local bodegas. Fresh juice and produce is available at the market. Those with specialized diets will find their options very limited and should be prepared to bring their own food down, or purchase items locally to supplement their diet.

  • We can’t accommodate strict vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher or other specialty diets
  • You are responsible for all meals on Saturday and Sunday.

The Field Station charcoal grill and kitchen is available should you decide to cook at home. There is a stove, storage shelves, gadgets, and a small refrigerator available use. You are required to wash your own dishes, flatware, and coffee/tea mugs.

Travel Info

You are responsible for making your own travel arrangements. Students will be met by project staff at the Ayacucho airport (AYP) at 4:00pm on June 21. Students will be met at the arrival area – look for a project staff member holding the sign “IFR Field School”. Ayacucho is served daily by domestic flights from Lima. Students are encouraged to buy one ticket from their departure home airport to Ayacucho as this will be the cheapest ticket available. There are many buses between Lima to Ayacucho and the trip takes about 12 hours. However, most of the road is a winding single lane highway and prone to accidents. We encourage students not to take the bus to and from Ayacucho but use flights.

We will meet you outside the Ayacucho airport, immediately after you exit baggage claim. The airport is the designated meeting point. From there chartered mini-bus will depart for Andahuaylas Province, about 4-5 hours away. If you are at all prone to motion sickness, stock up on Dramamine (called gravol in Peru). At the end of your session, the mini-bus will return participants to Ayacucho.

In the unlikely event of an emergency, you will take a taxi from the Ayacucho airport to Hotel San Fransisco De Paula (Jiron Callao 290) [hee-rohn kah-yow dos-cientos-noventa], near the Plaza Mayor in Ayacucho. From there, contact Dr. Kurin. Please note that you will not be reimbursed for any expenses if you fail to reach the meeting place at the scheduled arrival time (excluding airline delays, which are fairly common), or otherwise fail to meet staff due to your own actions.

Student Safety

Student safety is paramount for the IFR. Unlike many universities who are self-insured, the IFR purchases a range of high end insurance policies from some of the largest insurers in the world. Students in all our international programs have a comprehensive health insurance policy. It covers sickness, and chronic and mental health conditions at 100% of the cost. We have a strong evacuation and extraction policy. We can remove students from any location anywhere in the world with one phone call – whether medical evacuation, political or natural disaster extraction and anything in between. We purchase intelligence services from a global private provider and monitor the world 24/7. We automatically enroll our students to the US State Department STEP program. All of our students receive safety orientations both before and on the first day of each program. Our faculty have all been working in the areas where we operate field schools for years. They are intimately familiar with local customs and traditions, know the landscape well and have deep relationships with local communities.

All our domestic programs are coordinated with local authorities which are informed of our operations. Students in domestic programs are covered by their own health insurance and evacuations are managed by local emergency services, as appropriate.

The IFR has strong, explicit and robust policy towards discrimination and harassment in the field (click here for a shortcut). If students feel they cannot discuss personal safety issues with the field school staff, the IFR operates an emergency hotline where students can contact IFR personnel directly.

Travel does involve risk, but we try to minimize this risk as much as possible. Call us at 877-839-4374 or email us at if you have questions about the safety of particular programs.