Zuidema, R. Tom (Reiner Tom) (1927-2016) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Zuidema, R. Tom (Reiner Tom) (1927-2016)

Historical Note:

Reiner Tom Zuidema (1927-2016) was professor of anthropology (1967-93) and professor emeritus (1993-2016) at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (UIUC). Zuidema was a globally renowned scholar of South American anthropology and ethnohistory, who made profound contributions to the study of Andean civilization and the Inca Empire.

Zuidema was born in Haarlem, Netherlands, on May 24, 1927, to parents Trijntje Zweers and Lambertus Ellerus Zuidema. He earned a PhD in Holland, where he initially specialized in Indonesian social sciences in order to work in the civil service. After Indonesia gained independence from the Netherlands in 1945, he changed his focus to South American anthropology and wrote his dissertation on the Inca's ceque system. His later book, The Ceque System of Cuzco (1964), was also published in Italian (1971) and Spanish (1995) translations. Zuidema's scholarship incorporated methodologies of structuralism and focused on Andean civilization, including areas such as mythology/folklore, kinship, and the Inca calendar. His research was largely based on the careful interpretation of early written records by Westerners (e.g., missionaries and conquistadors) that encountered the Incan empire firsthand.

Zuidema taught at the University of Ayacucho in Peru (1964-67) before accepting a professorship at UIUC's Department of Anthropology in 1967. As a professor and mentor, he "trained generations of students who went on to be leading scholars in the archaeology, ethnohistory, and ethnography of the [South American] region" (Arrowsmith). Zuidema published "The Inca Calendar" in Native American Astronomy in 1977. In 1984, he presented a series of lectures on Inca civilization at the prestigious Collège de France in Paris that contributed to his authoritative text, La Civilization Inca au Cuzco (1986), also published in Spanish (1990) and English (1990) editions. His later publications include El Calendario Inca: Tiempo y espacio en la organizacion ritual del Cuzco. La idea del pasado (2011) and "Chuquibamba Textiles and their Interacting Systems of Notation" in Their Way of Writing. Scripts, Signs, and Pictographs in Pre-Columbian America (2011).

Zuidema was widely recognized during his lifetime. In 1977, by appointment of Queen Juliana, he joined the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences as a corresponding member. He was awarded the Francois Premier Medal of the Collège de France. In addition, Zuidema was received an honorary doctorate from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Lima, Peru (1993); the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Peru (2003); the University Antonio Abad of Cuzco (2006); and the University of Cuzco, Peru (2006). He was also appointed a life member of the University of Bologna's Center of Advanced Studies. In 2008, the President of the Republic of Peru bestowed Zuidema with the rank of Comendador in the Order of The Sun of Perú in recognition of his distinguished academic contributions.

Zuidema married Louisette Wachter (d. 2013) in 1959, and they had three children. In 1993, he retired from UIUC as professor emeritus (1993-2016) and was appointed to the Center for Advanced Study. He remained active in academia until his death in Urbana, Illinois, on March 2, 2016.


Arrowsmith, Michael, "Tom Zuidema," [University of St. Andrews] News, March 30, 2016, accessed April 22, 2020, https://calacs.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2016/03/30/tom-zuidema-1927-2016/.

Fowks, Jacqueline, "Tom Zuidema, â??el Indiana Jonesâ?? del Imperio inca," El País, March 5, 2016, accessed April 21, 2020,  https://elpais.com/internacional/2016/03/05/actualidad/1457140702_640465.html.

"In Memorium, R. Tom Zuidema," CLACS Newsletter, February 7â??11, 2016, accessed April 21, 2020, http://clacs-uiuc.blogspot.com/2016/03/march-7-11-2016.html.

"R. Tom Zuidema," UIUC's Center for Advanced Study (CAS), accessed April 21, 2020, https://cas.illinois.edu/index.php/node/1777.

"Reiner 'Tom' Zuidema" [obituary], News Gazette, March 10, 2016, accessed April 21, 2020, https://www.news-gazette.com/obituaries/reiner-tom-zuidema/article_4c3fd416-670b-54db-b5f4-39079240e460.html.

Wikipedia, s.v. "R. Tom Zuidema," accessed April 21, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._Tom_Zuidema.

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