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Thesis title: Archaeoseismological approach in the Heartland of the Incas (Cusco, Peru). Potentialities and limitations for the current seismic hazard assessment and the past earthquake risk perception.


Doctoral fellow - Thesis defense March 15th, 2022

Thesis defense information...

Fieldwork in Cusco (Peru)

"My name is Andy and I am from Chambéry (Savoie, France). Since my childhood, I have been interested in archaeology and historical studies and I get quickly involved in archaeological field schools. I attended university in Paris and I first obtained a double bachelor’s degree in Geology and History. I had the opportunity to spend my third year of bachelor abroad, in Peru (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú in Lima). I discover there a fascinating culture and country that convinced me to do a master’s degree in pre-Columbian archaeology. During these 2 years, I focused my research on the pre-Columbian management of hydraulic dams located in the Cordillera Negra, Peru. I obtained my master’s degree in 2018 in Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and I am now a PhD student at the Grenoble University in the CDP RISK program. This cross-disciplinary background allows me to interact with researchers from various fields of study and specialties. I speak English, Spanish fluently and I learned some basics of Quechua, the principal native language in Peru. I love hiking, traveling and I am, of course, passionate about the Andean region."


The main objective of the PhD was to demonstrate the relevance of studying monumental stone archaeological remains located in the region of Cusco (Peru) as complementary sources of information on the local past seismicity. To do that, we carried out the first large archaeoseismological survey in the Andes and visited no more than 17 Inca sites of the Cusco area. We also developed and designed a relational database to support the data collection and storing.

Documenting earthquake induced damage thanks to a Relational Database developed at the beginning of the PhD.


This work enables us to discuss the occurrence of earthquakes during the Inca period and address the impact of the local seismic hazard on the local populations and their behaviour (constructive culture, risk perception).


In short, this research aims at fostering and promoting new approaches on the characterization of crustal earthquakes and improvement of the seismic hazard assessment. This project proves, finally, the relevance of cross-disciplinary research (involving archaeology, architecture, seismology) to improve our knowledge on the relation between earthquakes and past societies.


  1. Cornou C., J.-P. Ampuero, C. Aubert, L. Audin, S. Baize, J. Billant, F. Brenguier, M. Causse, M. Chlieh, A. Combey, …& de Michele, M. (2020). Rapid response to the M_w 4.9 earthquake of November 11, 2019 in Le Teil, Lower Rhône Valley, France. Comptes Rendus Geosciences, 10.31219/

  2. Combey et al. (2020). Evidence of a large “prehistorical” earthquake during Inca times? New insights from an indigenous chronicle (Cusco, Peru). Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 34(B), 10.1016/j.jasrep.2020.102659.

  3. Combey et al., (2021) Documenting past seismic disasters and mitigating future earthquake hazard in the Andes: A database to support archaeoseismological investigations and Cultural Heritage preservation, Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 111, 10.1016/j.jsames.2021.103447.

  4. Combey et al., Post-seismic survey of a historic masonry tower and monitoring of its dynamic behaviour in the aftermath of Le Teil earthquake (Ardèche, France), BSSA,

  5. Combey et al. (in prep.), Reassessing the seismic hazard in the Cusco area: new contribution coming from an archaeoseismological survey. [To be submitted to Geoarchaeology].


•    21 October 2020: Talk (visioconference) to VII Congreso Nacional de Arqueología (Peru). “Un terremoto a la época incaica. Aportes de la arqueosismología y etnohistoria en el valle de Cusco.”
•    6-8 April 2021: Speed talking to Biennale du RAP (Réseau Accélérométrique Permanent) sur les mesures de bruit sismique dans la Tour de Viviers durant la crise sismique du Teil.
•    15-17 April 2021: Talk (visioconference) to SAA (Society of American Archaeology). “Inka dry ashlar masonry, a deliberate seismic-proof architecture? Reassessment through an archaeoseismological approach in the Cuzco area, Peru.


•    Archéosismologie à Cusco, mieux définir le risque sismique grâce aux sites archéologiques, IRMa (02/12/2020)
•    Aléas naturels et sociétés, une question de “RISK", The Conversation (29/10/2020)
•    Ces séismes qui ont façonné la ville de Cusco au Pérou, The Conversation (05/03/2020)

Major contributions

  • Updating the definition and scope of the archaeoseismology – renewing the discipline in France;
  • Providing visibility to the archaeoseismological field in South America. Thanks to this PhD project, we were able to carry out the first large archaeoseismological survey in the Andes. This research was also the opportunity to remind the need to reconsider the seismic hazard in this region;
  • Highlighting the relevance of Earth Sciences and Earthquake geology to the understanding and management of the pre-Columbian Heritage in Peru;
  • Presenting and promoting the research through oral and poster sessions in conferences and colloquies of different specialities (archaeology, geology, earthquake geology, architecture …). These events were the opportunity to explore new partnerships and collaborations (Vienne, Chauvet Cave, Le Teil …);
  • Fostering discussions and collaborations between several disciplines (seismology, archaeology, architecture), including building bridges between the doctoral schools in term of methodological tools;
  • “Leverage effect” on the development and funding of interdisciplinary/cross disciplinary programs (INSU MITI).


Contact mail
Andy Combey

Submitted on November 24, 2023

Updated on November 24, 2023