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Trent Archaeologist Receives Highest Honour from Peruvian Community


Professor John Topic Named to the Order of Jose Faustino Sanchez Carrion by City of Huamachuco

Tuesday, September 18, 2007, Peterborough

Dr. John TopicThe people of the Peruvian city of Huamachuco have bestowed Trent University Professor John Topic with their highest award, the Order of Jose Faustino Sanchez Carrion, in honour of his extraordinary contribution to their cultural heritage.

On August 15 in a special session of Huamachuco’s city council, the community passed a resolution proclaiming Prof. Topic and his wife, fellow archaeologist Theresa Topic, to be members of the order and presented him with an ornate citation, ceremonial medal, a clock and ceramic sculpture. “I was very pleased and surprised. It happened so quickly, and came completely out of the blue,” commented Prof. Topic.

Renowned in the field of anthropology for his extensive research into Andean cultures, Prof. Topic has been studying the people of Huamachuco for more than 25 years with the support of Trent graduate and undergraduate students. His archaeological fieldwork is considered instrumental by the community in helping them develop a clear sense of their cultural identity and unique history. “When I first started working in the area, the people would ask me, ‘Are we Incas or Mochicas?’, referring to two well-known pre-Columbian cultures, one based in the Andean highlands and the other in the coastal lowlands. I would explain that they were neither – they were Huamachuquinos,” noted Prof. Topic.

Dr. John TopicUsing documentary sources from the 1560s and archaeological artifacts, Prof. Topic helped the community establish their own museum called Museo Municipal de Huamachuco in 2002. As the people of Huamachuco gained a stronger sense of their history and cultural identity, they began mounting huge theatrical pageants during the annual fiesta in August to celebrate their own myths of creation. Prof. Topic was also able to demonstrate that one of the central ceremonies associated with the annual fiesta, the raising of a huge flag pole, is a traditional practice that had its origins in religious rituals dating to pre-Incaic times.

“John Topic is respected and appreciated by his students for his expansive knowledge of the peoples and cultures of the Andean region, past and present,” said Professor Julia Harrison, chair of the Anthropology Department at Trent. “But what adds particular depth and richness to his teaching is his strong personal commitment to the people whose lives today are influenced by the traditions and cultures brought to life through the work of archaeologists such as himself.”

Professor Topic earned his anthropology degrees at Harvard University and joined Trent in 1974. His primary interest is in the Andes of South America where he has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Peru and Ecuador for more than 35 years. His research also includes the ethnohistory of South America, and he has conducted archival research in Spain, Ecuador, and Peru. He is a member of the Institute of Andean Studies (Berkeley) and also serves on the Executive Committee of the Institute of Andean Research (New York) as Treasurer. In past years, he has served as Chair of the Department of Anthropology, Graduate Director of the M.A. program in Anthropology and was the former Associate Editor (Reviews) of Latin American Antiquity. In 2003, he received the Trent University Distinguished Research Award.


For further information, please contact:

Professor John Topic, Department of Anthropology, (705) 748-1011, ext. 7793