Integrating Local Communities in an Archaeological Project: Experiences and Prospects in Bolivia
Developing cooperative, respectful relationships with local communities has been an increasingly important goal within the realm of archaeological resource management for the past two decades. Increasingly, descendant groups and local communities are insisting that they have a right to participate in the process for determining the disposition and management of archaeological and other cultural resources. This chapter describes our experiences as foreign archaeologists working in Bolivia, the lessons we learned about how to incorporate the local community into our research, and the long-term benefi ts that have resulted for both archaeology and community. Our involvement with Aymaraspeaking peoples on the Bolivian side of the Lake Titicaca Basin occurred at three levels: national, community, and individual. These tasks were accomplished with unifi ed efforts by the project directors including the late Karen L. Mohr Chávez, myself, and Eduardo Pareja Siñanis as a Bolivian co-investigator of our archaeological project. Our interdisciplinary project, ‘Archaeology of the Yaya-Mama Religious Tradition’, began in 1992 and deals with the identifi cation and study of a newly discovered circumlacustrine tradition (Figure 15.1) dated to ca 800 BCAD 200 (see Chávez 1988, 2004). Specifi cally, during an extended fi eld season in 1993 to 1994 and with support from a grant from the National Geographic Society, the entire perimeter of a 2,000-year-old temple site at Ch´isi was excavated, consolidated, reconstructed, and given to the local community for their care, protection, and incorporation into their own traditional ceremonies. During that time, many local people were trained and hired as workers, and additional head workers were selected and trained in the methods of fi eld and laboratory archaeology at our centre of operations in the city of Copacabana.