Temporal Plurality and Temporal Transgressions: Time and Things in an Early Colonial Period Mortuary Assemblage from Northern Highland Ecuador

Abstract

The power of archaeology as an arm of postcolonial studies lies with its focus on the material dimensions of colonialism and its ability to interrogate the role of things in negotiating the terrain of cultural dissonance. This paper contributes to the postcolonial critique by taking up the matter of temporality and historicity from an indigeno-centric perspective, offering an analysis of the notion of temporal plurality via a focus on the “time of materials.” The context of the study is a specific mortuary assemblage from a shaft tomb in the northern Andean highlands of Ecuador dating to the early Colonial period. This example is used to illustrate the way objects, as elements of heterogeneous assemblages, can create distinct temporalities that work to contravene or resist assimilation to the regime of historicity. The assemblage analyzed here conveys an ontology of temporal plurality that encompassed both radical continuity and radical change. As one example among many, it serves to challenge taken-for-granted assumptions about the universality of historical time, the “natural” segregation of past, present, and future, and the significance of European artifacts in indigenous contexts.

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Correspondence to Tamara L. Bray.

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Bray, T.L. Temporal Plurality and Temporal Transgressions: Time and Things in an Early Colonial Period Mortuary Assemblage from Northern Highland Ecuador. Int J Histor Archaeol 23, 816–831 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10761-018-0487-9

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Keywords

  • Temporality
  • Historicity
  • Ecuador
  • Colonialism