Archaeology and Education: Learning About The Past in Chavin de Huantar, Peru

2019-08-15T18:30:58Z (GMT) by Marcela Poirier

The objective of this dissertation is to highlight the way history is taught in Perú, more specifically in Chavín de Huántar. As well as bring to the light the complex dynamics that revolve around this teaching, including the education system and the archaeological, local, and national government policies. This study becomes important in a world where Indigenous Peoples and women continue to be excluded from historical narratives made for the public. The main motivation to conduct this work was the need to decolonize the way history is taught and transform it into an empowering topic that can potentially contribute to a more just world.

The aim of this research project was to answer the following research questions: (a) What do children in Chavín de Huántar, Perú know about their local past? (b) How do different institutions, organizations, and community members influence such teachings? and (c) How can archaeologists contribute to a more empowering and less oppressive teaching of the past? To accomplish this objective an ethnography of learning with a critical epistemology was conducted during August 2016 and August 2017. This ethnography included participant observation, semi-structured interviews, photo and drawing elicitation with children, and two outreach projects (a summer camp and a teacher workshop). This work also includes a large number of photographs to contextualize the reader and make her/him/they feel more present at Chavín during my research, while I describe the surroundings and circumstances in which learning occurred while I was there.

This dissertation is divided in seven chapters. Chapter one provides the reader with a literature and theoretical background, while in chapter two I provide a general discussion and context of Chavín de Huántar as a town and as the archaeological UNESCO world heritage site with the same name. Chapter three will be dedicated to describing the methods used throughout this ethnography and applied public archaeological outreach. In chapter four, I begin to answer the proposed research questions. While in Chapter seven I will provide final remarks and conclusions.

My research and analysis has brought to light that children in Chavín de Huántar have a basic understanding of Chavín as a “Golden-Age”. This time period is promoted by the local and national government to incentivize tourism as well as what most archaeological work is concentrated on. In addition, local and national institutions mostly concentrate on this time period ignoring over 3000 years of local history, with some exceptions, especially the National Museum of Chavín. In addition, the political and communication problems between the town and the archaeological project “Research and Conservation project in Chavín de Huántar” influence strongly the lack of knowledge children and other community members have about the archaeological site.

Although there is a constant blaming among the institutions of whose fault it is that children do not now too much about their history, my research provided evidence that in each one of these institutions there are people willing to work in collaboration in order to benefit children. In chapter six, I will provide details about two projects created and implemented in collaboration: a summer camp and a teachers’ workshop. These projects seemed to be well received in the community but more like them need to continue in order to have sustainable results. However, these projects proved that collaboration is possible and necessary. I conclude this dissertation providing recommendations for numerous stakeholders in Chavín de Huántar and in Perú, including the archaeological project, the municipality of Chavín, the Ministry of Culture, and the Ministry of Education.