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Traditional Use and Scholarly Investigation: A Collaborative Project to Conserve the Khipu of San Cristobal de Rapaz

Peters, R; Salomon, F; Choque, R; Choque, R; (2008) Traditional Use and Scholarly Investigation: A Collaborative Project to Conserve the Khipu of San Cristobal de Rapaz. In: Dignard, C and Helwig, K and Mason, J and Nanowin, K and Stone, T, (eds.) (Proceedings) Preserving aboriginal heritage: technical and traditional approaches. Symposium 2007.. (pp. pp. 95-100). The Canadian Conservation Institute: Ottawa, Canada.

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Abstract

San Cristobal de Rapaz is a Peruvian highland Andean peasant community. It is home to the only known collection of khipu that is still used in rituals and housed in its original location, a historic building called Kaha Wayi. Khipu are rare cultural objects made from cords of cotton and wool. Their function is not yet completely understood but they were apparently used for bureaucratic recording and communication in the Inca Empire. Traditionally, the khipu in Rapaz are cared for by the Comuneros, local authorities who use the khipu in civil and religious ceremonies. Concerned about the poor physical condition of their khipu, the community of Rapaz allowed scientific investigation of their collection in exchange for in situ conservation. The project was carried out by a multi-disciplinary team who worked in close collaboration with the community. The community, descendants of the Inca and owners of the khipu, contributed to the understanding of the material and its use, and exercised full participation in the decision-making processes. The entire complex (consisting of the khipu, two buildings and the surrounding area) was studied and conserved throughout 2005 and handed back to the community in January 2006. Our main challenge was to devise a way to conserve these objects and buildings without disturbing their function in the community as tangible elements of self-knowledge and cultural continuity. This project is a good example of how the manner in which material culture is valued may provide a context for understanding the role of conservation in caring for heritage objects. It shows how conservation needs to be viewed as a social rather than primarily technical process, constructed from the values of individuals, institutions and communities. This paper will describe these processes and discuss responses to the challenges encountered.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: Traditional Use and Scholarly Investigation: A Collaborative Project to Conserve the Khipu of San Cristobal de Rapaz
Event: Preserving aboriginal heritage: technical and traditional approaches. Symposium 2007.
Dates: January 4006
Keywords: Conservation, communities, consultations, khipu
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/42515
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