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Climate Change Institute

Dan Sandweiss

Professor, Climate Change Institute & Department of Anthropology; Cooperating Professor, School of Earth and Climate Sciences and School of Policy and International Affairs

Dan Sandweiss

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Anthropology Dept.
South Stevens Hall 
Orono, ME  04469


I am an archaeologist interested in climate change and cultural dynamics, use of the archaeological record as a climate proxy, and ancient maritime adaptations, particularly in western South America.

Research interests

I investigate prehistoric coastal adaptations, primarily in Peru. Topical interests include the effects on cultural development of climate change, particularly the prehistory of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, and environmental change, particularly rising sea level during the last deglaciation; also the development and organization of complex societies in the coastal setting. Methodological interests include the analysis of molluscan remains from archaeological sites. Current projects include Holocene upwelling patterns on the Peruvian coast; investigation of Terminal Pleistocene/Early Holocene maritime adaptations at sites in southern Peru; study of northern Peruvian beach ridge sequences and their relation to El Niño and tectonic activity; study of the sediment cycle and social change in north central Peru; and early monument building on the north coast of Peru.


  • Sandweiss, D.H. 2017. Zooarchaeology in the 21st Century: Comments on the Contributions. In Climate Change and Past Human Responses: An Archaeozoological Perspective, ed. by Gregory G. Monks, pp. 219-225. Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology Series. New York:
  • Reitz, E.J., H. McInnis, D.H. Sandweiss, and S.D. deFrance. 2017. Variations in Human Adaptations during the Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene at Quebrada Jaguay (QJ-280) and the Ring Site, Southern Perú. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 12:224-254.
  • Sandweiss, D.H., C.F.T. Andrus, F. Chai, A.R. Kelley, K.A. Maasch, and E.J. Reitz
    2016. Re: ENSO Variability and Archaeological Proxies (Comment on Rustic et al. 2015, Dynamical excitation of the tropical Pacific Ocean and ENSO variability by Little Ice Age cooling, Science 350:1537-1541). Science e-Letters.

    For more information: Read abstract

  • Sandweiss, D.H. 2016. Climate, Catastrophe and Culture in the Ancient Americas: the case of the Pacific Coast. In UNESCO HEADS 5: Human Origin Sites and the World Heritage Convention in the Americas, ed. by N. Sanz. World Heritage Papers 42:178-193.
  • Reitz, E.J., H. McInnis, D.H. Sandweiss, and S.D. deFrance. 2016. Terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene fishing strategies at Quebrada Jaguay and the Ring Site, southern Perú. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 8:447-453.
  • Sandweiss, D.H. 2015. Oscillations: What effect does the weather have on the development of human culture? Phi Kappa Phi Forum Winter 2015:8-13.
  • Belknap, D.F. and D.H. Sandweiss, 2014. The Effect of the Spanish Conquest on Coastal Change in Northwest Peru. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111:7986-7989.

    For more information: Read abstract

  • Perez-Huerta, A., M.F. Etayo-Cadavid, C.F.T. Andrus, T.E. Jeffries, C. Watkins, S.C. Street, and D.H. Sandweiss, 2013. El Niño Impact on Mollusk Biomineralization–Implications for Trace Element Proxy Reconstructions and the Paleo-Archeological Record. PLoS ONE 8(2): e54274. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054274

    For more information: Read abstract or Download file (PDF)

  • Etayo-Cadavid, M.F., C.F.T. Andrus, K.B. Jones, G.W.L. Hodgin., D.H. Sandweiss, S. Uceda-Castillo, and J. Quilter. 2013. Marine radiocarbon reservoir age variation in Donax obesulus shells from northern Peru: Late Holocene evidence for extended El Niño. Geology 41:599-602
  • Sandweiss, D.H. and J. Quilter, 2012. Collation, Correlation, and Causation in the Prehistory of Coastal Peru. In Surviving Sudden Environmental Change: Answers from Archaeology, ed. by P. Sheets and J. Cooper, pp. 117-141. Boulder: University of Colorado Press.
  • Sandweiss, D.H., A.R. Kelley, D.F. Belknap, J.T. Kelley, K. Rademaker, and D.A. Reid, 2010. GPR Identification of an Early Monument at Los Morteros on the Peruvian Coastal Desert. Quaternary Research 73:439-448.
  • Jones, K.B., G.W.L. Hodgins, M.F. Etayo-Cadavid, C.F.T. Andrus, and D.H. Sandweiss, 2010. Centuries of marine radiocarbon reservoir age variation within archaeological Mesodesma donacium shells from southern Peru. Radiocarbon 52:1207-1214.
  • Reitz, E.J., C.F.T. Andrus, and D.H. Sandweiss, 2008. Ancient Fisheries and Marine Ecology of Coastal Peru. In Human Impacts on Marine Environments, ed. by T. Rick and J. Erlandson, pp. 125-145. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Sandweiss, D.H. and J. Quilter, editors, 2008. El Niño, Catastrophism, and Culture Change in Ancient America. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks.
  • Sandweiss, D.H., K.A. Maasch, C.F.T. Andrus, E.J. Reitz, M. Riedinger-Whitmore, J.B. Richardson III, and H.B. Rollins, 2007. Mid-Holocene Climate and Culture Change in Coastal Peru. In Climatic Change and Cultural Dynamics: A Global Perspective on Mid-Holocene Transitions, ed. by D.G. Anderson, K.A. Maasch, and D.H. Sandweiss, pp. 25-50. San Diego: Academic Press.
  • Sandweiss, D.H. 2007. Small is Big: The Microfossil Perspective on Human–Plant Interaction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104:3021-3022.
  • Anderson, D.G., K.A. Maasch, D.H. Sandweiss, and P.A. Mayewski, 2007. Global Climate Change in the Mid-Holocene. In Climatic Change and Cultural Dynamics: A Global Perspective on Mid-Holocene Transitions, ed. by D.G. Anderson, K.A. Maasch, and D.H. Sandweiss, pp. 1-23. San Diego: Academic Press.
  • Andrus, C.F.T., G.W.L. Hodgins, D.H. Sandweiss, and D.E. Crowe. 2005. Molluscan Radiocarbon as a Proxy for El Niño-related Upwelling Variations in Peru. In "Isotopic and Elemental Tracers of Cenozoic Climate Change", ed. By Germán Mora and Donna Surge. Geological Society of America Special 395:13-20.

    For more information: Download file (PDF)

  • Sandweiss, D.H., K.A. Maasch, F. Chai, C.F.T. Andrus and E.J. Reitz. 2004. Geoarchaeological evidence for multidecadal natural climatic variability and ancient Peruvian fisheries. Quaternary Research 61: 330-334. doi:10.1016/j.yqres.2004.02.008
  • Shafer Rogers, S., D.H. Sandweiss, K.A. Maasch, D.F. Belknap, and P. Agouris, 2004. Coastal Change and Beach Ridges along the Northwest Coast of Peru: Image and GIS Analysis of the Chira, Piura, and Colán Beach-Ridge Plains. Journal of Coastal Research 20:1102-1125.
  • Sandweiss, D.H., 2003. Terminal Pleistocene through Mid-Holocene Archaeological Sites as Paleoclimatic Archives for the Peruvian coast. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 194:23-40. doi:10.1016/S0031-0182(03)00270-0
  • Andrus, C..F.T., D.E. Crowe, D.H. Sandweiss, E.J. Reitz and C.S. Romanek. 2002. Otolith d18O Record of Mid-Holocene Sea Surface Temperatures in Peru. Science 295: 1508-1511.

    For more information: Read abstract

  • Sandweiss, D.H., K.A. Maasch, R.L. Burger, J.B. Richardson III, H.B. Rollins, A. Clement, 2001. Variation in Holocene El Niño frequencies: Climate records and cultural consequences in ancient Peru. Geology 29(7): 603-606.

    For more information: Read abstract

  • Reitz, E.J. and D.H.Sandweiss, 2001. Environmental Change at Ostra Base Camp, A Peruvian Preceramic Site. Journal of Archaeological Science 28: 1085–1100.
  • Sandweiss, D.H., K.A. Maasch, and D.G. Anderson, 1999. Climate and Culture: Transitions in the Mid-Holocene. Science, 283, 499-500.

    For more information: Read abstract

  • Sandweiss, D.H., 1999. El Niño and the Archaeological Record in Northern Peru. Society for American Archaeology Bulletin 17(1): 1, 9-11.
  • Sandweiss, D.H., K.A. Maasch, D.F. Belknap, J.B. Richardson, and H.B. Rollins, 1998. Discussion of "The Santa Beach Ridge Complex," by Lisa E. Wells. Journal of Coastal Research, 14, 367-373.

    For more information: Read abstract

  • Sandweiss, D.H., J.B. Richardson, III, E.J. Reitz, H.B. Rollins, and K.A. Maasch, 1996. Geoarchaeological evidence from Peru for a 5,000 BP onset of El Niño. Science, 273,1531-1533.

    For more information: Read abstract

  • Sandweiss, D.H., 1996. Environmental change and its consequences for human society on the central Andean Coast: A malacological perspective. In: Case Studies in Environmental Archaeology, ed. by E.J. Reitz, L. Newsom, and S. Scudder, pp. 127-146. New York: Plenum Publishing.
  • Sandweiss, D.H., 1991. El Niño en la prehistoria andina. In Actas del XI Congreso Nacional de Arqueología Chilena, Tomo I, pp. 99-104, Santiago, Chile: Museo Nacional de Historia Natural/Sociedad Chilena de Arqueología.
  • Rollins, H.B., D.H. Sandweiss, and J.C. Rollins, 1990. Mollusks and Coastal Archaeology: A Review. In Decade of North American Geology, Centennial Special Volume 4, “Archaeological Geology of North America,” ed. by N.P. Lasca and J.D. Donahue, pp. 467-478. Boulder, CO: Geological Society of America.
  • Rollins, H.B., D.H. Sandweiss, U. Brand, and J.C. Rollins, 1987. Growth increment and stable isotope analysis of marine bivalves: Implications for the geoarchaeological record of El Niño. Geoarchaeology 2, 181-197. DOI: 10.1002/gea.3340020301
  • Sandweiss, D.H., 1986. The beach ridges at Santa, Peru: El Niño, uplift, and prehistory. Geoarchaeology 1, 17-28. DOI: 10.1002/gea.3340010103
  • Rollins, H.B., J.B. Richardson III, and D.H. Sandweiss, 1986. The birth of El Niño: Geoarchaeological evidence and implications. Geoarchaeology 1, 1-15. DOI: 10.1002/gea.3340010103
  • Rollins, H.B., D.H. Sandweiss, and J.C. Rollins, 1986. Effects of the 1982-1983 El Niño on Bivalve Mollusks. National Geographic Research 2(1): 106-112.
  • Sandweiss, D.H., H.B. Rollins, and J.B. Richardson III, 1983. Landscape Alteration and Prehistoric Human Occupation on the North Coast of Peru. Annals of Carnegie Museum 52: 277-298.
  • See my Anthropology page for archaeology publications.

    For more information: Read abstract


Community Service

  • 1986 to 2020 — Andean Past (Cornell Latin American Studies Program): Founding Editor
  • 1996 to 2002 — Scientific Committee, FERCO (Foundation for Exploration and Research on Cultural Origins): Member (1996-1998), President (1998-2002)
  • 2003 to 2009 — Committee on the Americas, Society for American Archaeology: Member (2003-2005, 2008-2009), Chair (2005-2008)
  • 2008 to 2019 — Latin American Antiquity: Editorial Advisory Board Member
  • 2009 to 2012 — Publications Committee, Society for American Archaeology: Member
  • 2010 to 2012 — Special Advisor to the Board, Society for American Archaeology, to organize the Conferencia Intercontinental in Panama, Jan 2012
  • 2010 to 2018 — RS Peabody Museum of Archaeology Advisory Committee: Member (2010-2013), Vice-chair/Chair Elect (2013-2014), Chair (2014-2016)
  • 2012 to 2014 — Selection Committee, Award for Excellence in Latin American and Caribbean Archaeology, Society for American Archaeology: Member
  • 2012 to 2014 — Society for American Archaeology International Government Affairs Committee: Chair
  • 2013 to 2018 — Chungará: Joint Editor for Archaeology and Patrimony
  • 2013 to 2018 — Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology Editorial Advisory Board
  • 2014 to 2017 — Board of Directors of the Society for American Archaeology: Elected Member
  • 2014 to 2016 — Northeast Regional Vice-President and Member, Board of Directors, Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society
  • 2015 to 2017 — Board of the Maine Chapter of the Fulbright Association: Vice President
  • 2016 to 2018 — Vice President for Chapter Development and Board Member, Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society

University Service

  • 2002 to 2005 — Climate Change Institute: Associate Director
  • 2005 to 2020 — Hudson Museum of Anthropology: Chief Cooperating Curator
  • 2005 to 2014 — Dean and Associate Provost for Graduate Studies
  • 2011 to 2015 — Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society: President of University of Maine Chapter (2011-2013), Past President (2013-2015)
  • 2016 to 2018 — Director, School of Policy and International Affairs


Ph.D. (1989), M.A. (1983) Anthropology, Cornell University; B.A. (1979) Archaeology, Yale University

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