How to invent your past. Cultural appropriation or adaptation of orphan cultural identity?

Elizabeth Jean Currie, Diego Quiroga

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In January 2017, members of the indigenous Salasaka community of the central sierra region of Ecuador, discovered a cache of pre-Colombian pottery during routine ditch construction work which passed through a site of ritual significance. The government organisation responsible for managing antiquities removed the artefacts, promising that archaeological investigations would be carried out in due course. They never were.

The cache of artefacts was a strange mixture of authentic ceramic figurines and vessels of a wide geographical provenience, none of which were from the Salasaka area. In the absence of formal excavations, in is unclear how they came to have been deposited there in the first place.

The local community responded fervently, seeing the artefacts as an important connection with their lost ancestral past. Some believed they were mitmakuna – peoples translocated by Inca conquerors in the 15th century from an alternative geographic location to replace rebellious tribes recently conquered. They had some oral traditions, but no ancestral connection with the land they had been brought to, suggesting this cache of artefacts filled a lacuna in their sense of cultural identity.

This paper discusses the importance of archaeology and material cultural in the construction of collective cultural identity and ancestral legitimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Digital Archaeological Record tDAR id: 443202
PublisherSociety for American Archaeology
Publication statusUnpublished - Apr 2018


  • Cultural heritage, indigenous identity, Andean archaeology, Ecuador

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