Anthropology MA student Aja Palermo studies ancient Andean textiles while gaining first-hand field and lab experience

Aja is a second-year MA student in anthropology interested in archaeology, material culture, gender, food, and museum studies. Originally from Slidell, LA, Aja started their career at LSU as a TOPS student in anthropology, art history, and chemistry. After obtaining a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies (BIS) in May 2022, Aja joined the MA program in anthropology in August 2022 following a summer internship with LSU’s Coastal Sustainability Studio. The Department of Geography & Anthropology was happy to be in a position to offer Aja a graduate assistantship, a position that they continue to this day assisting professors in their teaching duties.

During their first year in the MA program, Aja began collaborating with the staff at the LSU Museum of Art in the analysis, preservation, and curation of Andean textiles. In May 2023, to further their knowledge of textile technology and conservation, Aja participated in the Penn Museum’s intensive summer course on Andean textile studies. During that rich and transformative experience, Aja visited an alpaca farm, learned how to spin and weave, as well as to preserve and analyze ancient textile objects.

Aja Palermo taking selfie with alpaca
Aja Palermo visiting an alpaca farm as part of the Penn Museum summer course on Andean textiles.


Aja Palermo measuring textiles
Aja Palermo measuring Andean textiles as part of the Penn Museum summer course on Andean textiles.


In July 2023, and parallel to their textile research, Aja broadened their first-hand field experience and skillset by participating in the Galway Archaeological Field School in Ireland. Over the course of a month, Aja excavated areas within the courtyard of Isert Kelly Castle, an Irish tower house located in County Galway. Isert Kelly Castle was built in the mid-15th century CE with later renovations that occurred in the early 17th century.

Aja Palermo drawing rock features at Isert Kelly Castle as part of the Galway Archaeological Field School in Ireland.
Aja Palermo drawing rock features at Isert Kelly Castle as part of the Galway Archaeological Field School in Ireland.


Under the direction of a committee composed of David Chicoine (Professor LSU Geography & Anthropology), Allison Young (Assistant Professor of Art History LSU School of Art), Michael Mamp (Director and Curator LSU Textile and Costume Museum, Associate Professor LSU Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising) and Marianna Luquette (LSU Museum of Art), Aja is currently writing a thesis examining Andean textile collections housed at the LSU Museum of Art.

Aja’s thesis research moves beyond stylistic and cultural historical classifications and deploys an object biography approach. Through a consideration of textiles as agents and art indexes, Aja explores their multiple lives and situated meanings as they passed through various hands over time. As Aja tries to make the “threads talk,” they dwell on their physical manifestations, visualities, and material conditions at various key moments in their past and current lives.

Aja is on track to defend their thesis in the Spring of 2024 and they plan on presenting the fruit of their research at the 89th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology to be held in New Orleans in April 2024. Following graduation, Aja plans on pursuing a career in museum settings and/or archaeology, working, researching, and bringing public attention to the social, intellectual, and emotional value of cultural heritage.

The Department of Geography & Anthropology is proud of Aja’s initiatives and academic achievements. It is the work of such driven and promising students that inspire us as we continue to foster a vibrant, collaborative, and interdisciplinary community.