Elizabeth Currie
Marie Sklodowska Curie Global Research Fellow



I have had an eclectic career variously pursuing interests in Archaeology and Anthropology, Health Sciences and the Creative Arts, but Archaeology is the discipline that has overall predominated across most of my life.

I obtained my BA in archaeology in 1975, and my PhD in 1989, both at University College London Institute of Archaeology.  My PhD was on work carried out in south coastal Ecuador on shell midden sites in El Oro province, entitled ‘Cultural relationships in southern Ecuador 300 BC - AD 300: excavations at the Guarumal and Punta Brava Sites’.  This research focused upon ceramic assemblages and their different inter-regional relationships and sequences, but also explored environmental changes wrought by local El Niño episodes on the prehistoric occupation of the region, and the exploitation of different shell fish species through time.

My association with the Department of Archaeology the University of York goes back to the 1990s, during which time I carried out much of my research work related to my specialist interests in the Americas, particularly Ecuador (the Lopez Viejo Project; The Impact of Europe on Ecuador in the 16th Century).

My latest work with the EU-funded project ‘MEDICINE’ has given me the opportunity of working closely with indigenous Andean communities, and I have developed a keen interest in global indigenous policy and affairs relating to equality, protection and promotion of indigenous culture and heritage. In the mature phase of the MEDICINE project (year 3: 2018-2019), I will be working more closely with EU organisations responsible for developing policy, as well as health practitioners’ ‘tools’ related to the on-going crisis management of Migrants and Refugees. My work is also expected to interface with the development of policy relating to First Nations and Aboriginal peoples globally and to raise awareness of key issues related to Indigenous peoples’ human rights and right to self-determination and respect for their alternative cosmologies and lifeways.


Selected publications

Currie, E.J, J. Schofield, F. Ortega P. and D. Quiroga .2018.  “Health beliefs, healing practices and medico-ritual frameworks in the Ecuadorian Andes: the continuity of an ancient tradition.” World Archaeology, DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2018.1474799. To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/00438243.2018.1474799

Currie, E.J., F. Ortega Perez. 2017. “Ethnic Andean Concepts of Health and Illness in the Post-Colombian World and Its Relevance Today”. International Journal of Medical, Health, Biomedical, Bioengineering and Pharmaceutical Engineering,11,5: 236-242

Wilson, C., I.A. Simpson and E.J. Currie. 2002. Soil Management in Pre-Hispanic Raised Field Systems: Micromoprhological Evidence from Hacienda Zuleta, Ecuador. Geoarchaeology 17 (3)

Currie, E.J. 2001. Manteño Ceremony and Symbolism. Mortuary Practices and Ritual Activities at López Viejo, Manabí, Ecuador. In Mortuary Practices and Ritual Associations. Shamanic Elements in Precolumbian Funerary Contexts in South America. Edited by John E. Staller and Elizabeth J. Currie. Archaeopress, BAR: Oxford.

Currie, E.J. 2001. A Late Period Caranqui Chiefdom in the Northern Highlands of Ecuador: Archaeological Investigations at Hacienda Zuleta. Internet Archaeology 10 http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue10/currie_index.html

Currie, E. J.  2000. Archaeological investigations at Hacienda Zuleta in the northern highlands of Ecuador. Antiquity 74:273-274.

Currie, E. J.  1995. Prehistory of the Southern Manabí Coast, Ecuador. López Viejo.  BAR (British Archaeological Reports) International Series 618. Tempus Reparatum, Oxford. 64 p

Currie, E. J.  1995. Archaeology, Ethnohistory and Exchange along the Coast of Ecuador. Antiquity 69: 511-526

Currie, E. J.  1992. A Late Formative period occupation in El Oro, Ecuador: a case for ecological catastrophe? Papers from the Institute of Archaeology Volume 3, March 1992. Pp: 30-43

Currie, E. J. 1992. Unpublished manuscript. New Evidence on the Late Formative Period in El Oro Province, Southwestern Ecuador. 61p.

Currie, E. J.  1989. Cultural Relationships in Southern Ecuador 300 BC - AD 300: Excavations at the Guarumal and Punta Brava Sites. PhD dissertation. University of London. 406 p.


Recent Conference Presentations

Edinburgh 17-19 May, 2018.  Elizabeth Currie, John Schofield (University of York), Diego Quiroga and Fernando Ortega P.  (USFQ, Ecuador). “Indigenous Concepts of Health and Healing In Andean Populations. How to Model Health Beliefs and Practices for the Development of Equitable Health Policies Relevant to Refugee, Migrant and First Nations Peoples.” Paper presented at the First World Congress on Migration, Ethnicity, Race and Health. Diversity and Health. Abstract In The European Journal of Public Health: https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/article-abstract/28/suppl_1/cky047.194/4973241?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Washington, 11-15 April, 2018. Elizabeth Currie and Diego Quiroga, USFQ, Quito, Ecuador. “How to invent your past. Cultural appropriation or adaptation of orphan cultural identity?  Paper presented at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.  Currie, E. J. & Quiroga, D., Apr 2018, (Unpublished) The Digital Archaeological Record tDAR id: 443202. Society for American Archaeology

Amsterdam, Naarden The Netherlands. 14-15 May, 2017. Elizabeth Currie and Fernando Ortega P. (USFQ, Ecuador). “Ethic Andean Concepts of Health and Illness in the Post-Colombian World and Its Relevance Today”. Paper presented at the 19th International Conference on Ethnomedicine and Traditional Medicine.

Vancouver, BC. Canada. 28 March – 2nd April, 2017. “The Antiquity and Persistence of Traditional Health Beliefs and Practices in the Northern Andes”. Paper presented at the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A. 9-12 November, 2016. The Shoreline: Conceptual boundaries between land and sea in pre-Colombian Andean cosmologies. Paper presented at the American Society for Ethnohistory: ‘Ethnohistories of Native Space’.



The focus of my research interests is the archaeology and ethnohistory of the Americas, including pre-Columbian, Spanish Conquest and early Colonial periods and I have carried out a number of projects dealing with the archaeology of Ecuador in particular.

I have also carried out historical research into the early colonial period of Latin America, working with original historical documents and chronicles.  Studies of these early texts led me to develop an interest in the impact of the Spanish Conquest and European culture on pre-Hispanic indigenous societies in the Andean region. 

My interests also include cognitive approaches to human behaviour and construction of identity as seen through material culture, and in expressions of indigenous cosmology, being and belief, especially with societies practising shamanistic religions.  The impact of imposed Christian religion upon indigenous pre Columbian cosmology, beliefs and rituals and how this is reflected in material culture is a particular interest.


Current Project

‘ MEDICINE. Indigenous concepts of health and healing in Andean populations. The relevance of traditional MEDICINE in a changing world’.


 ‘MEDICINE’ is a three-year project funded under the EC Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Marie-Sklodowska Curie Actions Global Fellowship, to determine concepts of health and healing from a culturally specific indigenous context, using a framework of interdisciplinary methods which integrates archaeological-historical, ethnographic and modern health sciences approaches. The study aims to generate new theoretical and methodological approaches to model how peoples survive and adapt their traditional belief systems in a context of alien cultural impacts. New conceptual models of Andean understandings of health, illness and healing, and the ways these have adapted and changed through time are being used to develop ‘bridging tools’ transferable to contemporary global policy scenarios relevant to marginalized, migrant and refugee peoples from different cultural backgrounds, and also to First Nations and other Indigenous groups, and provide a means through which their traditional health beliefs and current needs may be more appropriately understood and met.  Practitioners’ tools to assist health personnel working in front line situations with migrant and refugee groups from traditional cultural backgrounds are also being developed. The study offers novel perspectives and methods in the development policies sensitive to indigenous and minority people’s health needs.

I have now concluded the first two years of the project (2016-2018) on secondment to the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador as Research Adjunct, working with Dr Diego Quiroga  and others with expertise in Medical Anthropology, Traditional Medicine, Race and Ethnicity and Indigenous Public Health. As the project enters the third and final year (2018-2019), I will be working closely with the Department of Health Sciences in the University of York, analyzing data from the survey recently carried out of the continuity of ancestral health beliefs and practices in three Andean communities in Ecuador. I will also be working on the development of health beliefs models and policy/practitioners’ tools with health practitioners in other EU countries working with migrant and refugee peoples.

 Professor John Schofield, Head of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York is the Project PI and Supervisor.


Other and recent projects

‘Hacienda Zuleta Heritage and Visitor Centre Project’

Building on a long personal association and earlier archaeological research carried out at Hacienda Zuleta, I am currently working with the management as Advisor and Coordinator in the development of a new Heritage and Visitor Centre, and Folk Museum complex. This will adopt an integrated strategic approach to the region’s complex archaeological, historical and present day indigenous occupations to present a multi-dimensional diachronic trajectory of the human life experience here from the earliest pre-Columbian times to the present day.

‘The López Viejo Project’ is a programme of research into the nature of pre-Columbian maritime societies located on the coast of south west Ecuador, and their role in socio-political and economic developments of contemporary societies across a wider region from Mesoamerica to Peru In particular it has investigated evidence for the long distance exchange systems in spondylus ssp, thought to be controlled by local (Manteño) polities between coastal cultures of Western Mexico and the prehistoric kingdoms of north coastal Peru (Sípan, Moche, Chimú). Fieldwork for the project was carried out throughout the 1990s until 2000 and work is now progressing on publishing different aspects of the findings.


Contact details

Dr Elizabeth Currie
Marie Sklodowska Curie Global Research Fellow
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor