Recent research has identified the long-distance exchange of vermilion pigment as beginning before 1,000 BC and spanning much of the Central Andes. Through the study of mercury isotopes, it is now possible for the first time to determine the geological sources of cinnabar (mercury sulphide) and to begin to reconstruct prehistoric networks that distributed this rare material. Complementary information from lake cores allow insights into the history of the mining of this substance and medical research has permitted the evaluation of the health consequences of cinnabar procurement and use. In this talk, archaeological contexts will be examined to explore the symbolism and use of cinnabar for three millennia. Sponsored by donors to the Jane Powell Dwyer Lecture Fund and the Friends of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology.