Sarah Baitzel

Sarah Baitzel

​Assistant Professor of Archaeology
PhD, University of California, San Diego
research interests:
  • Mortuary Archaeology
  • The Andes
  • Social Organization
  • Ritual
  • Complex Societies

contact info:

office hours:

  • Tuesday 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
    Thursday 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
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mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1114
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Sarah Baitzel's research focuses on how humans in ancient complex societies shaped and transformed their lifeways, bodies, and identities through interactions with their social and natural surroundings.

Baitzel's interest in the interplay of identity and ritual has caused her to focus on the meaning of mortuary ritual in early Andean state society, specifically how communities living on the periphery of the Tiwanaku state (A.D. 500–1000, south-central Andes) engaged with burial and ancestor veneration practices to recreate social boundaries and memories. Her methodological interests and approaches to these questions include mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology, as well as the analyses of textile and ceramic artifacts.
She is currently starting a new interdisciplinary research project in the coastal valley of Sama (Southern Peru) that explores social identity formation and interaction patterns on the margins of expansive Andean states, including the Tiwanaku and Inca. The Sama Valley presents an intriguing location to investigate how groups with distinct cultural and economic traditions (coastal, lowland and highland agricultural, and pastoral) interacted in this hyperarid-desert oasis.
Although her fieldwork has mostly focused on the southern Andes, she has conducted mortuary excavations on the North Coast of Peru, excavated monumental architecture in the southern Peruvian highlands.

recent courses

L48 Anthro 3095 The Incas and Their Ancestors: The Archaeology of the Ancient Andes

From the hyper-arid desert of the Pacific Coast to the high-mountain plateaus of the Andes more than 12,000 feet above sea level to the lush forested Amazonian lowlands, Western South America presents one of the most diverse natural and cultural environments in the world and one of the few places were social complexity first developed. Beginning with the earliest human occupations in the region more than 12,000 years ago, this course examines how domestication, urbanization, the rise of early states, and major technological inventions changed life in the Andes from small village societies to the largest territorial polity of the Americas — the Inca Empire. Students will become familiar with the major debates in the field of Andean archaeology. Together, we will examine archaeological evidence (architecture, art, ceramics, metals, textiles, plant and animal remains, etc.) from context of everyday life (households, food production, craft production) to the rituals and ceremonies (offerings, tombs) that took place in domestic and public spaces. We will also touch on the role of Andean archaeology in the context of national politics and heritage sustainability.

    L48 Anthro 4597 The Archaeology of Life and Death

    The study of human remains in archaeological contexts offers us a rich perspective on human life and society in the past. Our bodies are shaped by genetics, environmental factors, subsistence, disease, and physical activities over the life course. At the same time, social organization, inequality and ideologies also shape the human experience; they often become reflected in the built environments of tombs and cemeteries, the grave offerings, and interment styles that surround human remains in archaeological contexts. This course offers an introduction to bioarchaeology and mortuary archaeology as complementary approaches to the study of life in the past. The goal of the course is to understand how activities, norms and beliefs, and environments shaped bodies in life and death, and the different ways in which archaeologists can gain insight into the past through the study of human remains and burials. Course lectures and discussions focus on recent advances in research and ongoing debates in the two fields with examples from prehistory and history around the world, from North and South America, to Europe, Asia and Africa. Although this course will provide a basic overview of human skeletal anatomy, it is strongly recommended that students have taken an introductory course on the subject prior to enrolling in the class.

      Selected Publications

      Baitzel, Sarah I, and Paul S. Goldstein
      2014 More Than The Sum of its Parts: Dress and Social Identity in a Provincial Tiwanaku Child Burial. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 35:51–62.
      Somerville, Andrew D., Paul S. Goldstein, Sarah I. Baitzel, Karin L. Bruwelheide, Allisen C. Dahlstedt, Linda Yzurdiaga, Sarah Raubenheimer, Kelly J. Knudson, and Margaret J. Schoeninger
      2015 Diet and gender in the Tiwanaku colonies: Stable isotope analysis of human bone collagen and apatite from Moquegua, Peru. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 158(3):408–422.
      Baitzel, S. I., and P. S. Goldstein
      2016 No Country for Old People: A Paleodemographic Analysis of Migration Dynamics in Early Andean States. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology.