Alyssa Bolster

Research Interests Andean bioarchaeology, Diet, Foodways , Archaeological chemistry, GIS, Empire, Resistance, Locality, Identity, Verticality


Areas of Interest

I am training to be an anthropological bioarchaeologist, with regional interests in the Andes of South America. I recently completed my undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt University in Anthropology, with a focusĀ on the biocultural foundations of health, genetics, forensics, and ethics. My thesis utilized stable isotope analysis, a method of archaeological chemistry, to reconstruct individual diets on the outskirts of the Middle Horizon Andean empire: the Wari. I emphasized dietary changes and stabilities in C4 plant (namely, maize or corn) and protein consumption before and after the Wari fully incorporated this region, and focused on differences between groups that I could root out in the (bio)archaeological record, such as one's sex, age, locality, and cultural affiliation. This project was truly the brainchild of all of my anthropological interests, combining novel and traditional archaeological methods to better understand identity and lifeways in the distant past, and centering foodways and diet at both the community and individual level. For my other archaeological interests, I have excavated here in the continental United States at both prehistoric and historic sites, and will be working this summer on a forensic excavation in France for the U.S. Department of Defense. I also have worked with emerging bioarchaeological technologies, such as Transition Analysis 3, and geographic information systems for projects analyzing bioarchaeological, zooarchaeological, and archaeobotanical remains from Central America, Peru, and Arabia. I am ecstatic to be joining the program at Brown and its scholars. I aim to combine my myriad research interests and experiences with the expertise of professors across the university, and answer pertinent questions about the integral role of food in mitigating, resisting, or reimagining imperial state forces in one's everyday life (and hopefully accomplishing this within the often-limited archaeological record)!

Previous Degrees

B.A. in Anthropology with a focus in biocultural foundations of health, genetics, forensics, and ethics from Vanderbilt University (2022)