Community Archaeology

Archaeologists have recently begun to actively engage with descendant communities through their research, in line with the paradigm shift within the discipline away from exclusivity and colonialist modes of research and toward inclusivity and socially self-conscious models of investigation. Such an approach, which moves beyond simple attempts to disseminate findings to modern communities, is often called community archaeology and is a crucial aspect of my intellectual project as a scholar. My research is bottom-up in both theory and practice; I focus on ordinary people not represented in historical records in order to create narratives that do justice to their practices and histories, and I engage descendants in order to establish a politically and socially reflexive mode of archaeology. I view descendant education and engagement as a key component of ethically responsible archaeology, and I value the diversity of perspectives gained from the inclusion of descendants in the interpretive process. In the 2009-2010 PAX (Proyecto Arqueológico Xaltocan/Xaltocan Archaeological Project) I directed, the descendant community held a primary interpretive role. This more active role contrasts starkly with traditional practice in Mexico and Mesoamerica more broadly, where local people are often hired as laborers, but do not serve in an intellectual capacity in the design or execution of archaeological research. The collaboration on my project culminated in a symposium given on May 1, 2010, in which all excavation team members, including the local crew and Mexican and American archaeologists, chose a topic of interest, wrote their own interpretations of the archaeological data, and presented the results to the public. To facilitate this endeavor, all crewmembers were trained in archaeological epistemologies and were included in the ongoing interpretive process during excavation. The resulting symposium was well attended and resulted in novel ways of thinking about the archaeological remains. The experimental archaeology replica house museum project I subsequently directed was the next step in ensuring that archaeological research benefits the descendant community.

symposium announcement

The program of the symposium titled “Descubriendo Xaltocan Antiguo: Hallazgos y experiencias de las excavaciones arqueológicas de 2009-2010,” was as follows:

  • Lisa Overholtzer, “Espacios domésticos y prácticas cotidianas en el Xaltocan Posclásico”
  • Luis González Sánchez, “Nosotros los descendientes”
  • Andrés Zamorano Sánchez, “Metodos de excavación”
  • Juan Carlos Zamorano Sánchez, “La cerámica en la arqueología”
  • Isidro Sánchez Aldana, “Cerámica Azteca Negro Sobre Naranjo”
  • Nidia Archundia Sánchez, “La obsidiana en Xaltocan”
  • Juan Joel Viveros Sánchez, “Bezotes”
  • Juana Arenas Ramírez, “Artefactos de Cobre en Xaltocan”
  • Georgina Ibarra Arzave, “Casas del Posclásico en Xaltocan”
  • José Cruz Cobos, “Entierros Azteca 2”
  • Ibeth Robles Rizo, “Mis compañeros”
  • Imelda Palmas Martínez, “Mis experiencias en las excavaciones”
  • Aldo González Lobato, “Orgullo”

Video clip of one presenter’s talk: “Entierros Azteca 2” by José Cruz Cobos

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