Andean Afterlives: the Hemispheric Circulation of the Pre-Columbian Dead and Peruvianist Anthropology, 1780-1948

Christopher Heaney Harrington Doctoral Fellow, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin 2011-2012 Dissertation Research Fellow Andean Afterlives: the Hemispheric Circulation of the Pre-Columbian Dead and Peruvianist Anthropology, 1780-1948 My dissertation argues that the excavation, study, circulation, and display of ancient Andean burials from Peru from the late colonial to modern era shaped the anthropological study of the indigenous dead throughout the Americas. Following Peru’s independence from Spain in the 1820s, its millennia of complex societies, its dry coastal climate, and its long colonial traditions of anthropological study and legal grave-robbing – huaquerismo – made the country disproportionately important for North American collectors and scholars pursuing the pre-Columbian past. In the period that followed, Peruvian and North American scholars, looters, individual indigenous actors, and museums debated who could open, own and display an indigenous grave, and whether their contents were racial, cultural or national objects. Although the Peruvian state and its archaeologists ultimately asserted control over the pre-Columbian dead, decades of collaborative research upon the dead’s skulls, bones and flesh had entwined Peruvian and U.S. museums and collections, created spaces for indigenous Peruvian scientific contribution, and made the Incas and their predecessors of deep importance to the history of medicine, disease, and death in the Americas. To bring out the material details of this history, I organize my dissertation and research around specific “object biographies” of individual skulls and mummies. In July of 2012, I will travel to Peru for a ten-month IIE research fellowship, to work with archives related to collections and Peruvian scholars that stayed in South America. The groundwork for this longer leg was laid, however, by the first phase of my research, in which I focused on the archival and material traces of Peruvian remains that reached U.S. anthropological museums in Philadelphia and elsewhere. During the first seventy years of Peruvian independence, Philadelphia’s scholars were uniquely interested in anthropology, and many early collections of Peruvian skulls and mummies ended up in the city’s institutions. To that end, my PACHS fellowship facilitated a highly productive month of research in the material and archival collections of the American Philosophical Society, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the Princeton University Archives. My archival research in Philadelphia addressed three questions. First, was there a correspondence between Peru’s independence and the early 19th century development of anthropological collections in Philadelphia and the larger U.S.? I focused on the collecting interests of Samuel George Morton, Philadelphia’s skull scientist non pareil. His correspondence, housed between the American Philosophical Society (APS), the Academy of Natural Sciences (ANS), and the Library Company of Philadelphia, was particularly useful, as were his draft manuscripts and his annotated catalogues. By using the three archives together, I was able to trace how Morton’s interpretation of these Peruvian skulls changed over time. The letters of Marmaduke Burroughs, the American consul gave Morton one of his first Peruvian skulls, at Princeton University Archives helped me contextualize that early interest, as did the APS and ANS institutional archives. Accession books in the ANS and Penn’s University Museum also helped show what happened to Morton’s skulls from Peru after he died: shuffled from one institution to another, they nonetheless remained the collection’s core. Finally, I was lucky enough to study the material collection firsthand, observing the palimpsest of labels and measurements written on the skulls themselves, tracing their earlier itineraries. My second question was dedicated to the explosion of U.S. museum interest in Peruvian mummies in the late nineteenth century – how were the negotiations over the dry bodies of pre-Columbian dead felt both in museums and in the field, by collectors, anthropologists, and indigenous Andean residents? The University Museum’s archives contain the Expedition Records of Max Uhle, whose excavations and collecting trips in Bolivia and Peru in the 1890s generated correspondence with the museum, field notes, sketches, photos, and manuscripts. These papers detailed his collecting goals, the obstacles he ran up against, and his understanding of local Peruvians’ relationship to the burials he sought. As with the Morton skulls, I was able to follow his collection through the accession records and into the curatorial archives, which showed how the mummies he collected were classified and maintained. I was also able to consult the mummies themselves. The third and final question that my PACHS-funded research helped address was how the nineteenth century’s layered Peruvian-American systems of excavation, study and display changed as the Peruvian state forbade the export of antiquities and burial remains. At the College of Physicians, I used a Philadelphian syphilis expert’s correspondence with one of Peru’s most important archaeologists in the early 1910s to reconstruct how both scholars used easily accessible pre-Columbian skeletal remains to reconstruct the history of disease in the Americas. To get at Philadelphian scholars’ subsequent response to Peru’s dropped “curtain” on export, I used the curatorial records at the University Museum, which detailed waning collecting efforts after the ban. Finally, back at the American Philosophical Society, I accessed the archives of the Penn archaeologist John Alden Mason, and the Guggenheim foundation head Henry Allen Moe, whom in the 1940s and 1950s both interacted with and sometimes funded the community of Peruvian archaeologists that grew from the government’s new strictures. My time in Philadelphia was of immeasurable benefit to my dissertation; I am grateful to PACHS and its staff for making it possible. I was able to test hypotheses I had developed from other archives – those of the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History and other universities – and take on new questions, like that of the history of the study of syphilis in the New World. I was also able to interact with Philadelphia and PACHS’ terrific community of historians, find new collaborators and better understand my project’s importance to the history of American science. I am happily indebted to everyone that helped me improve my work, from institutional staff to scholars archivists, and librarians. I look forward to my next spell in Philadelphia immensely.