The early republican perspectives of the ancient state: the hegemonic ideologies of the early explorers

As independent republic from 1821, Peru started to recognize their native histories. The political elite settled in the capital of the new republic began to take an interest in indigenous communities, although a racist and colonial vision still existed. Due to the long European naturalist tradition of explorers and travelers, and the possibility of disseminating their work in languages widely read in the world through international outlets in the richest countries, these naturalists explored the lands of the indigenous peoples and their predecessors throughout the Andes. As good heirs of the Enlightenment, they established their comparisons based on the European model. On that same model, they built public museums of natural history and shaped the overall modernist projects in cities like Lima, although with little success. In this way, the natives became objects of study and were frozen in time. Within that modernist vision, the “Indians” became different social groups that were increasingly separated from the Creole elites.

As we saw, there were no pre-Hispanic written sources. The proposals about the societies of the past were linked to those of the indigenous societies that still survived. Authors such as Alcide d’Orbigny (2002 [1835-1847]), Paul Marcoy (2001 [1840-1846]), and Antonio Raimondi (1874-1879), among others, offered brief explanations about the nature of the sociopolitical organization of Andean societies. However, their approach framed within natural history did not allow them to consider more powerful and culturally appropriate explanations about the political and economic nature of pre-Hispanic societies, although in fact they recognized that certain sites would have been the cradles of important “civilizations.” Later, other explorers not trained in natural history visited and registered key archaeological sites. Thus began the antiquarian tradition.

Ephraim George Squier epitomizes this new spirit, traveling and documenting throughout Peru and Bolivia (1877). Charles Wiener also made extensive explorations of the Andes. His monumental “Peru and Bolivia” describes his years of travel in these countries (Wiener 2015 [1880]). Illustrations of archaeological sites and objects were central to this new kind of travelogue-exploration tradition.

It is also at this time that the concepts of race and ethnicity began to appear in the stories about pre-Hispanic societies. The influence of Charles Darwin is increasingly evident in the interpretations of the builders of ancient Andean sites. It is in this period that civilizations of the past were viewed through the lens of Enlightenment “progress” and later through social Darwinist visions and historical materialist evolutionary frameworks (Harris 1996: 93). Lewis Morgan’s proposals soon became linked with past peoples and the existence of ancient civilizations (Morgan 1877). In this case, the material evidence was the ancient monuments and the ancient art of the Andean societies. Interestingly, a disciple of Morgan, Adolph Bandelier, also explored and excavated the Andes in places as remarkable as Pachacamac and Tiwanaku (Bandelier 1910; Lange and Riley 1996).

Other early excavations were carried out in Ancón between 1874 and 1875 by Wilhelm Reiss and Alphons Stiibel (1880-1887) and years later in 1891 by George Dorsey at the same cemetery. The collection that Dorsey made of Ancón would illustrate the lower echelons of the evolutionary scheme of Lewis Morgan exhibited publicly in the Anthropology Building of the Worlds Columbian Exposition of Chicago in 1893 (Heaney 2017).

Large and small archaeological and ethnographic collections scattered around the world began to be organized under that same evolutionary scheme. These collections generated explanations of the political structure of these societies, especially in the exhibitions of the great museums of Europe and the United States. Collecting, as we know, is the basis of the great systems of prehistoric stages in the museums of Europe (Trigger 2006). The same thing happened in Peru.

At the same time, the discipline of history started to address the ancient structure of pre-Hispanic societies, especially those that could be reconstructed from colonial documents. Already at this time one sees the use of these sources to understand the political organization of Pre-Hispanic Andean societies, especially of the Incas.

As we saw, archaeology developed at this time, although there are few projects that used explicitly scientific methods. The last decade of the nineteenth century witnessed the development of the first systematic archaeological excavations in pre-Hispanic sites in the Andes. Along with scientific field methods came the first scientific explanations of the development of the societies that created them.

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