Heather Lechtman is an archaeologist who studies the technology and material culture of past societies from the perspective of materials science and materials engineering.
Her research emphasizes understanding the material culture of prehistoric societies as the product of technological activities. Lechtman has specialized in the culture of the Andes and has demonstrated that pre-Hispanic metallurgy flourished in two regions of South America: the north coast of Peru, and the high plateau extending from the Bolivia-Chile-Peru border to northwestern Argentina. She determined from her field and laboratory studies that Andean metallurgy is distinct from the early metallurgies of western Asia, Europe, and Africa.
She held positions at the Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research (1956-1960), the American Institute of Physics (1960-1962) and the Brookhaven National Laboratory (1963-1964), before becoming a research associate in archaeology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1967-1971). In 1974, Lechtman became a professor at MIT and holds a joint appointment in materials science and engineering. She has also been the director of the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology since 1977.
Lechtman received a B.A. (1956) from Vassar College, and an M.A. and a diploma in art and archaeological conservation (1966) from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.