At 11,000 feet above sea level in the Peruvian Andes, Beloiters are researching rivals to the ancient Inka empire and the negotiated identities of the Inkas’ descendants. Over summer break, two rising Beloit seniors and an alumna traveled to Cuzco, Peru, with Visiting Assistant Professor and Logan Museum Postdoctoral Fellow Kylie Quave. In collaboration with Peruvian and American colleagues, they conducted archaeological and anthropological research on local communities in past and present Cuzco, the capital of the Inka empire.
To illuminate the local dynamics of a powerful rival to the Inka empire over 500 years ago, Beloiters and Cuzqueños excavated ancient houses in the region of Maras. They found pottery, agricultural tools, stone kitchen tools, human remains, and llama and puma figurines. Beloit student Dana Olesch’16 continues to work with Professor Quave to analyze what the local people left behind.
The archaeological site of Yunkaray, Peru, where Beloiters spent the summer excavating the ancient houses of a rival to the Inka empire.
Beloit senior Dana Olesch reconstructs pottery from Yunkaray in Cuzco, Peru.
In addition to reconstructing the ancient past, Beloiters also worked this summer to understand the recent past and the formation of Cuzqueño identities through dance and dress. The Logan Museum already held a large collection of contemporary Cuzqueño clothing and this summer the museum continued its recent push to collect through fieldwork. Beloiters attended local festivals and dance performances to see how ethnic, racial, and class categories are negotiated in public spaces. Examples of “traditional” and derivative clothing items were acquired, as well as masks and costumes related to dances that narrate local views on identities. Old and new collections of Cuzqueño clothing and costume will be researched this year for an upcoming Logan Museum exhibit.
Ojotas (right) are shoes worn by rural Cuzqueños today and made from used tires, while the tennis shoes (left) are marketed to foreigners looking to take something “traditional” with them.
A chullu (right) worn during cold days and nights by rural Cuzqueños is juxtaposed with a winter hat (left) commissioned by a Mormon elder who wished to express his Peruvian and American identities.
Using the Cuzqueño items in the museum’s collection, we will examine issues of difference and assimilation. The Logan Museum object pairs in the photos provide examples of how outsiders may appropriate what is perceived to be “traditional” and how culture contact results in innovative new forms of self-expression. These themes are not unique to Cuzco today; they will be explored by integrating faculty and staff research with independent and collaborative student work that highlights issues relevant to our campus community. Bringing together the past and the present in Cuzco through archaeological and anthropological work will lead us to better understandings of the deeply historical roots of human difference.