Liana Ivette Jimenez Osorio
PhD candidate / Guest Staff Member
'Time' as a concept in the Mixtec landscape
This study is part of prof. dr. Maarten Jansen's research project "Time in intercultural context: the indigenous calendars of Mexico and Guatemala". It focusses on the inhabitants of the Mixteca Alta and their perception of time in relation to their surrounding landscape. Additionally, it addresses the cultural continuity in this region: to better understand the precolonial societies, the knowledge and current activities of the local people are used in the analysis of the historical, archaeological and pictographic sources.
The research will be conducted in the Mixteca Alta region of Mexico, especially in the villages around Chalcatongo (municipalities belonging to Tlaxiaco, San Miguel el Grande, Yosondua, Itundujia and Yosonotu) and in the villages around Yutanduchi de Guerrero (municipalities belonging to Teozacoalco and San Miguel Piedras Sindihui).
This study is a collaboration with my colleague Emmanuel Posselt Santoyo, and it focusses on the perception of time in the Mixteca Alta in relation to the various interrelated activities that are carried out in the surrounding landscape. For me, the indicators of time are: economic activity (working with palm leaves and agriculture), religious holidays (rain rituals, requests and ceremonies in precolonial home altars and the ancestor cult), astronomical events (positions and names of the sun, stars and constellations) and oral traditions that relate to various ndosos (rockformations which are former chiefs or gods).
This study is especially significant because of the following aspects: 1) its focus on landscape study, 2) its contribution to the archaeological practice, and 3) its focus on the perception of time in the Mixteca Alta:
- The focus on a landscape study is important because it clearly envisions integratedness and continuity, and because it hypothesizes that the cultural landscape is created from various elements such cycles, natural phenomena and activities. In this respect, it is not only focused on human-human relationships, but also on human-environment interactions. This conceptual approach allows us to observe the interaction of Mixtec people with their environment, and therefore bring us closer to their knowledge and way of life, so we can eventually make adequate interpretations of the past.
- In this way, this research attempts to bridge the gap between anthropology and archeology to generate a better interpretation of the precolonial societies. This is in contrast with most archaeological studies concerning the Mixteca Alta, as they focus solely on the study of precolonial materials, which are analyzed on the basis of the relationships between materials within a purely archaeological context. This means that the people who today inhabit the region are overlooked, while their knowledge and experiences could enrich this archaeological fragmented image of the past.
- The perspective on the concept of time that is proposed in this research - which is basically seen as a sequence of interrelated activities performed in a cultural landscape - is important, because we have observed that in some of the villages, different perceptions of time are applied, on which different concepts and activities are set, which determines the rhythm and the social, religious and economic life in these villages. Considering the increasing influential factors like (labor) migration and globalization, it is important to document this rapidly changing and sometimes disappearing knowledge.