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Martti Pärssinen

Born February 26, 1956, Kiikka (modern-day Saastamala)

Master of Arts 1984, Licentiate 1985, PhD 1992 (History), University of Turku
Master of Arts 1988 (anthropology), University of Rochester (NY)

Docent in Latin American history 2001, University of Turku
Professor of Latin American Studies 1999–, University of Helsinki
Director of the Finnish Institute in Madrid 1996–99, 2007–12
Researcher 1989–92, 1995–96, Department of History, University of Turku
Academy research fellow 1988–89, 1992–95, Academy of Finland
Archaeological research assistant 1985, University of Turku
Visiting professor:
Department of History, Higher University of San Andrés, La Paz (Bolivia) 2002–04
The Simon Bolivar Chair, University of Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle 2001
School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Paris 1996

Research themes:
The political, economic and religious systems of the Inka state (1400–1532)
Spanish political, economic and church bodies in the colonial era Andes.
Spanish and Portuguese archive sources and chronicles
The Inka’s quipu writing system and military expansion
Cultural development in the pre-Inka period, particularly the so-called Late Intermediate Period (1000–1450) of the Southern Central Andes
Tiwanakau culture (500–1050)
The ancient Amazonian civilisation found in Acre, Brazil 250 BC–1300 AD
Long-term cultural development in the West Amazon in the post-Ice-Age Holocene period
Environmental, geo and climate history in the South American Holocene period
Multi- and interdisciplinary research
The Columbian peace process in the 2000s

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Photo: Mika Federley
Written by Martti Pärssinen (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Researcher of the Andes and Amazon

Martti Pärssinen’s personal research interests are particularly connected with the cultures of the Andes and Amazon. His most internationally cited work remains his doctoral dissertation on the political organisation of the Inka state, Tawantinsuyu. The Inca State and Its Political Organization. Moreover, several editions have already been published of his work Caquiaviri y la Provincia de Pacasa, a treatment of South American local history, archaeology and multidisciplinary studies and Andes Orientales y Amazonía Occidental, co-authored with Ari Siiriäinen. The world’s first corpus of quipu texts, produced together with Jukka Kiviharju, is broadly cited in works dealing with the history of mathematics and writing systems.

The most cited of Professor Pärssinen’s co-authored articles is undoubtedly “Pre-Columbian geometric earthworks in the upper Purus: a complex society in western Amazonia” (Antiquity, 2009), which he wrote together with Denise Schaan and Alceu Ranzi. The article deals with the discovery of an Amazonian civilisation previously unknown to researchers.

Martti Pärssinen and Alceu Ranzi searching for a lost civilisation in Brazil.

The abovementioned works are the result of numerous fieldwork expeditions funded by the Academy of Finland and various foundations between 1985 and 2015. His last three projects have also received attention in the journal Science and in general, the books and articles stemming from his projects are referred to in such introductory works as The Cambridge World History, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Mathematics, and The Oxford Companion to Archaeology.

A Finnish-Brazilian research team found geometric patterns carved into the earth in the state of Acre, Brazil. They are signs of a 2000-year-old civilisation. The Brazilian government has now applied for them (geoglifos do Acre) to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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