Unearthing Collaboration: Community and Multivocal Archaeology in Highland Guatemala
University of Kansas
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The Proyecto Arqueológico Chocolá in Chocolá, Guatemala had been successful for three seasons until the perception of archaeology among the community residents changed. The tranquil community comprised primarily of K'iche' Maya people that had once welcomed the archaeology project now forbade all archaeologists to enter the town for fear archaeologists with government support would steal their lands. When their livelihood, land and coffee, became threatened due to the archaeology site beneath their town the people defended their rights. This breakdown in multivocality, communication, and understanding is crucial to practicing archaeology in the modern world. The Kaqchikel Maya of Tecpan, Guatemala are involved in their past and their future. The Organización del Consejo de Autoridades Ajq'ija' (Organization of Maya Priests) in Tecpan unites Maya priests to protect them, gain rights and respect in the government, and teach about battling discrimination. They are willing to work with archaeologists, as long as they are involved in every step of the project. The politically active Maya community has come together to form indigenous defense leagues and utilize the Kaqchikel and K'iche' languages to connect to a wider Maya and non-Maya context. The archaeology project at Chocolá and ethnographic study in Tecpan are examples of the changing conditions archaeologists must face and prepare for in highland Guatemala and world wide. Even an archaeology project that began with the best intentions can fail. Archaeologists can no longer only consider the excavation and material culture of the ancient past but now must consider the descendent communities and local communities living among and on the sites. Chocolá and Tecpan serve as a model for understanding multivocal and collaborative archaeology as well as the overall role of archaeology today. The overall aim is a collaborative project that incorporates indigenous, local, ethical, and archaeological voices to build a future with the local community. It is vital for archaeologists to understand and consistently utilize community archaeology in order to continue the profession of archaeology.
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