Students Explore Remnants of Incan Architecture in Peru
An Alma College class recently traveled to Peru to study the ties between the country’s populations and their Incan ancestors.
The “Inca Archaeology and Cultural Ecology: Community Engagement in the Andes” Spring Term class also focused on how cultures adapt to the challenges and opportunities of their local environments. Meanwhile, living and traveling in a country with many cultural variations challenged Alma students, says Mary Theresa Bonhage-Freund, who taught the class.
“Wherever you go in Peru, there are numerous and close connections between past and present people and cultures,” she says. “Students were charged to consider the factors which influenced the development of so many unique Peruvian lifestyles, as well as the factors that cause them to share common traits.”
Overlooking Machu Picchu
Though Spanish conquistadors destroyed numerous structures, buildings constructed by the Incas are still in use, says Bonhage-Freund, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology. Pre-Incan and Incan terraces also are still farmed.
“Remnants of Incan architecture are everywhere, and often these ancient buildings are still used as residences, shops and churches,” she says. “Incan walls, terraces and roads are maintained and used while Incan rulers are still honored in monuments, art and historical recitations.”
While in Peru, Alma students had the opportunity to explore fortresses, architecture, astronomical observatories and spiritual centers, as well as famous sites such as Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu. The latter was Aaron Hollenberg’s favorite part of the trip.
“I was amazed at how beautiful the area around Machu Picchu was,” he says. “It is still in great condition after 600 years. The class helped me appreciate the civilizations that flourished in the Americas.”
Experiencing new cultures
Alma students also gained a culturally relevant perspective regarding the strength of Incan traditions by staying with a host family. Bonhage-Freund says she hopes that the class opened “windows to the world” for students in ways they never would have otherwise experienced.
“I hope that students now realize that every freely lived and developed culture is valuable and ‘best’ for its own people in their geographic and historic context,” she says. “If the trip dispelled some of their ethnocentrism and instilled in them a desire to learn more about other cultures, then this course will have been a success.”
For Hollenberg, an Indiana senior, that’s exactly what this Spring Term experience did.
“I learned that cultures change over time and adapt,” he says. “When in Peru, I saw how the indigenous people adapted to tourists visiting the country while at the same time hold on to their traditional beliefs and values.”
Posted: Thu, July 5th, 2012 at 1:33PM