Issue - October 2009

October 2009


In this fiftieth edition, we present Pinami Open Air Museum, researched by Dylan Rudloff & written by Justin Gouin; Petra Vissers' interview with Pirai Vaca; Justin Gouin tells us about Manuela Gandarillas and Tusoco Viajes; a tribute for Martha Estivariz by Ed Young, finally Luis Fernanado Terrazas tells us about Cochabamba's landscapes through Garcilaso de la Vega's more...

October 2009

Pinami Open Air Museum: A Hidden Gem in the Cochabamba Valley

“Piñami is currently trying to recreate the conditions that existed during the Tiwanaku period by planting a garden that emulates the subsistence farming that existed during the period in which the ruins flourished.

Dylan Rudloff
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Oregon - United States

Jusitn Gouin
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Vancouver - Canada

In 1980, one of the Cochabamba Valley’s most important archaeological sites was discovered quite by accident in Piñami, a neighbourhood located in the town of Quillacollo. While constructing a playground, workers unexpectedly unearthed the ruins of a civilization dating back nearly two millennia. Further excavation revealed that the Piñami site contained hundreds of thousands of fragments of ceramic pottery, agricultural tools, cooking utensils, arrowheads and spears, the remains of local flora and fauna, and nearly one hundred and fifty tombs with well preserved human remains. After over twenty years, archeologists began to conduct serious analysis and began to work with the local community with the eventual goal of opening the Piñami Archeological Site to the public as an open-air museum.

Showcasing the Cochabamba Valley´s rich cultural and historical heritage, Piñami shows the significant changes that have taken place in the Valley over the past two millennia by featuring artifacts from the respective civilizations and cultural groups that inhabited the region. Dating back to 100 AD, when the mound at Piñami was first inhabited by sparsely populated pre-Tiwanaku groups, the site provides an invaluable wealth of knowledge in unlocking the history of the Cochabamba Valley’s agricultural development from antiquity to the present day.

The multiplicity of artifacts at the site attracted international attention, particularly that of archaeologists Karen Anderson, Director of the Piñami Archaeological Project and a PhD candidate at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and Zulema Terceros, Co-Director of the Project and a graduate of the Univiersidad Mayor de San Andres. Leading a group of other archaeologists, they began the painstaking process of determining the origins and eras of Piñami´s artifacts. With precise archaeological analysis, the group determined that the ceramics uncovered at Piñami had Pre-Tiwanaku, Tiwanaku, Inca, and even brief Colonial influences in their styles, spanning over 1500 years.

The Piñami tombs have allowed archeologists to make fascinating insights into the cultural practices of the Tiwanaku, who inhabited the site between 600 and 1100 AD, allowing hypotheses to be made into the belief system that governed Tiwanaku life. Made of stones stacked over small holes in the ground, the sepulchers contain well-preserved human remains wrapped in the fetal position. According to Bonnie Yoshida and Corina Kellner, two physical anthropologists who specialize in categorizing body types and health practices, this positioning was done in order to represent the cycle of life, in which the soul of the dead is born and journeys through the cycle of life, until being relinquished back to the earth.

In many of the tombs, the dead are buried with offerings, such as baskets, pots, and gems, which the soul is meant to carry with them into the afterlife. Also, the positioning of the bodies in the graves have provided the archaeologists with some data that may allow them to pinpoint the moment of transition between local groups and the Tiwanaku civilization.

By studying the bones and teeth that were unearthed at Piñami, Yoshia and Kellner concluded that the Piñami´s occupants likely had a particularly healthy lifestyle, likely due to their access to a wide variety of produce and livestock. Indicators of infectious diseases such as influenza, smallpox, and tuberculosis are absent from these civilizations, at least until the time of the Conquistador. Using these analytical techniques, the pair has concluded that the average lifespan of the Tiwanaku was about fifty years, longer than nearly any other civilization of the time. Although some indicators of grinding were present, likely due to a heavy reliance of maize and a large amount of coca leaves, the members of the civilization were thought to have good teeth.

Further excavation revealed that the deeper layers of soil had both a different consistency and a different colour. Lower layers indicate that millennia ago the Cochabamba Valley was underwater, explaining why the valley has provided such incredible agricultural land for years.

The staff at Piñami is currently trying to recreate the conditions that existed during the Tiwanaku period by planting a garden that emulates the subsistence farming that existed during the period in which the ruins flourished. The garden includes corn, potatoes, beans, quinoa, amaranth, oca, and olluco. Unfortunately, these projects have run into a number of problems due to a small operating budget and a lack of funding. In order to accomplish the important task of recreating the conditions under which these civilizations flourished, the organization will either need to increase its revenues through the volume of visitors or receive a grant from the government, the latter scenario being highly unlikely. The difficultly is that to attract more viewers. To do so, the Museum intends to obtain the funding to complete new projects, such as a new building to display important artifacts in recreated domestic settings, an interactive exhibit for children to learn about the history of the Cochabamba Valley, and an extended awning so that archeologists can excavate an area, twelve meters deep, that was a subterranean living quarters during the winter. With the new projects, the staff hopes that the public will begin to show a greater interest in the Piñami Site.

The Piñami Museum is located ten and a half kilometers down avenue Blanco Galindo, then one km north to the neighborhood of Quechisla. The cost of entrance is 1 Boliviano for students, 2 Bs for university students, 3 Bs for Bolivians, and 5 Bs for foreigners.

Passion is the language of the soul

Pending the start of Piraí Vaca´s concert, the theatre is filled with an almost serene atmosphere. A chair, a microphone, and his instrument are all the gifted guitarist needs to bring his music to life. And indeed, he is gifted. He has the kind of confidence only possed by those who know they are blessed with a unique talent. It is not only his flawless technique that moves some in the audience to tears, but also his immense presence on the stage, which can only be described as impressive. As he likes to explain it: ¨what moves people the most is the wonder of life, the wonder of creation that the music expresses¨.

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