About the project

How can project/site managers consider local categories and ideas of time when conceptualizing, managing, and protecting indigenous archaeological sites in the Andes? At a time when politicians and scholars give increasing importance to local perspectives, few models exist for addressing the conflicting temporalities of Andean indigenous heritage. My project engages this problem by undertaking an ethnographic inquiry into the Quechua category of muyuy with reference to how time is understood through the material world and use of space in the community of Chinchero, in the Cuzco region of Peru. Muyuy is an Andean long-standing, key organizing and dynamic principle of socio-political and ritual life that projects social relationships onto the landscape in different forms. Semantically, it is a concept charged with the temporalities of rotation, alternation, and circulation. As customary law and action, muyuy organises communal agricultural work and production by periodically rotating the plots allocated to families for their sustenance, ensuring rights to land. While muyuy has received some previous attention in the literature, my work will examine this idea in the most depth to date. My previous doctoral research on the topic has already laid the foundations for a more thorough and productive study. An emphasis on muyuy and other temporal categories is (relatively) new. By focusing on native temporalities my project intersects current anthropological debates on indigenous landscapes, as well as current indigenous efforts worldwide to regain control over their archaeological heritage.

State of the Art

Landscape and temporality are unifying themes for social anthropology and archaeology. Among archaeologists, time has been a recurrent concern, deeply ingrained in the very nature of the discipline. Debates have revolved around a) the temporal frameworks used to access and interpret the past; b) the relationship between the studied past and the present from which that past is studied; and c) how time is perceived and experienced in past societies. What these debates evince is the unresolved tension between the archaeological and the contemporary past. Recent trends in archaeology advocate archaeological ethnography to solve this conundrum. Postcolonial criticism has foregrounded the politics involved in the manipulation of time and the appropriation of the past by anthropologists and archaeologists. In this regard, decolonization theory has underscored the structures of power and subordination undergirding western academic practices and discourses, something that directly compromises indigenous archaeological heritage and conjures up issues of ownership. For its part, the anthropology of tourism has emphasized the role of cultural tourism in the artificial preservation of sites, landscapes and ethnic peoples, as well as its capacity for mastering the past. My project intersects with, and builds on, this important body of theory. By incorporating local categories of time in the conceptualization and management of heritage spaces, it seeks to move beyond current paradigms that prevent the organic reintegration of the past into the present. It also seeks to connect with alternative experiences worldwide regarding indigenous archaeological heritage more attuned to native views and understandings of the material past.


Main objectives (O):

1. To develop a model that addresses the conflicting temporalities of Andean indigenous heritage by studying muyuy and the ways in which this temporal category influences space, social relations, and engagements with the material past (O1).

2. To help, by means of an ethnographic and ethnohistoric inquiry of the concept of muyuy, to design heritage policies more respectful of local visions of temporality, spatiality, and uses of the ruins (O2).

Specific objectives (SO):

1. Study the temporalities of muyuy, as well as local ideas of time and values of heritage, in relation to the festival of linderaje (O1).

2. Analyse the impacts that aggressive cultural conservation regimes and official heritage discourses are having on indigenous cultural practices and landscapes (O1).

3. Engage a diversity of relevant actors in a dialogue on heritage policies (O2).

4. Design an alternative and viable proposal for the site’s management, informed by the results of my research (O1-O2).

5. Make this research available to decision-makers and other actors with a say in the implementation and enforcement of policies related to archaeological heritage (O2).

Originality and innovative aspects of the research programme

In the interface between indigenous ruins and heritage formation processes, indigenous temporalities have not been sufficiently considered as analytical tools with the potential to disrupt inadequate conservation paradigms and to affect policy-making positively. There is no ethnography of muyuy in the Andean literature. Studying muyuy and the ways in which this temporal category influences space, social relations, and engagements with the material past will be a contribution applicable to the management and protection of these heritage landscapes. So, I will be showing how muyuy holds the capacity to transcend current disjunctions between past and present, or between heritage and history, that characterize cultural conservation. This is a novel approach with the potential to open up new and productive venues in the field of indigenous heritage studies. Restoring vernacular temporal orders in these heritage sites will help achieving a difficult but desirable balance between maintaining the sites’ heritage status while allowing them to remain ruins, that is, relatively unregulated spaces open to interpretation and ongoing renovation as non-commodified, “desheritaged” landscapes where a diversity of historical experiences coexists. Picking up on the uneasy relationship between ‘western’ and indigenous knowledge, my proposal encourages the production of an ethnographic interpretation that incorporates local conceptions of the past. It does so by emphasizing a dialogue between official heritage conceptualizations and those held by the local populations regarding the management of the ruins, with a view to design more respectful and original management models. These will enable: 1) Restitution to the local people of their sense of ownership over the ruins. 2) Respect for Peruvian heritage values and legislation. 3) The possibility for the local population to benefit, should they wish to do so, from the insertion of their ruins in the tourist circuits, while being aware at the same time of the disruptive effects potentially contained in large-scale tourism infrastructure like the airport, as well as in an uncontrolled number of visitors to the site.

Impact so far and expected outcomes

The project has just completed the outgoing phase in Australia (first year). I have spent nine months in the Australian National University in Canberra, as a visiting fellow to the Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies (CHMS). Within the framework of a comparative approach between the Andes and Aboriginal Australia, I have been studying the issues affecting Aboriginal populations with regard to heritage management policies in the country. The outgoing phase in Australia included a 3-month fieldwork period in Peru, which was conducted between December 2022 and February 2023. While in Peru, I was able to communicate my research with heritage managers in my fieldwork site, as well as with representatives of the peasant communities. The way is paved for further discussion and collaboration between the different parties involved in the management of the town’s archaeological heritage. I am also closer now to come up with a publication that will be a significant contribution to the field of heritage studies and indigenous peoples. Besides this, I have already begun disseminating the results of my research to both academic and non-academic audiences. I have already done that in Australia and Peru and now, one the incoming phase in Santiago de Compostela (Spain) has just been initiated, I will engage with different institutions and grassroots organisations in communication activities.