Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Public Affairs
August 26, 2004
DeKalb, Ill.—Northern Illinois University’s Winifred Creamer is spending the fall semester in Peru on a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship for Teaching and Research.
Creamer, a professor of anthropology whose archaeological discoveries in the South American country have captured headlines worldwide, began her Fulbright teaching assignment this month at Cayetano Heredia University in Lima. Fluent in Spanish, she is teaching an advanced course focusing on the ancient peoples and environment of Peru.
Creamer spent the summer with a team of researchers excavating at the remote Caballete archaeological site about 100 miles north of Lima. Team members included NIU student researchers, as well as Creamer’s husband, Jonathan Haas of Chicago’s Field Museum.
Located in a coastal region of river valleys known as Norte Chico, Caballete contains three large platform mounds, or pyramids, set around an ancient plaza. The site was occupied by ancient Peruvians from 3,000 to 1,800 B.C.
Creamer and Haas have been exploring the Norte Chico region for five years. In 2001, they were part of the research team announcing that six immense pyramids discovered in the region represented the oldest known man-made monuments in the Americas. Two years later, their discovery of a religious icon in the region pushed back the emergence of the oldest known Andean religion by more than 1,000 years.
Creamer and Haas now are investigating the diet of the ancient Peruvians through the analysis of preserved fruits, vegetables and seeds found in excavations of dwellings.
“Because the region is a desert, we’re able to retrieve preserved remains of foods,” Creamer said. “We’re also working with a botanist and have established a pollen laboratory. Traces of pollen left behind in the soil allow us to detect the presence of plants or crops that grew in this region thousands of years ago. We’re particularly interested in when people started to cultivate staple foods, such as corn and potatoes.”
Creamer will return home in December. She is one of about 800 U.S. faculty and professionals who are traveling abroad to some 140 countries for the 2004-2005 academic year through the Fulbright Scholars Program. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright is America’s flagship international educational exchange program.