The MEDICINE project

What can the archaeological and ethnohistorical records tell us about the way people adapt their health beliefs and attitudes to illness in the face of war, dislocation and persecution?

‘MEDICINE’ is a new project funded under the EC Horizon 2020 Marie-Sklodowska Curie Actions, to determine concepts of health and healing from a culturally specific indigenous context, using a framework of interdisciplinary methods which integrates archaeological-historical, ethnographic and modern health sciences approaches. The study will generate new theoretical and methodological approaches to model how peoples survive and adapt their traditional belief systems in a context of alien cultural impacts.

New conceptual models of Andean understandings of health, illness and healing, and the ways these have adapted and changed through time, will be used to develop a ‘bridging tool’ transferable to contemporary global policy scenarios relevant to marginalised and migrant peoples and provide a means through which their traditional health beliefs and current needs may be more appropriately understood and met. The study offers a novel perspective and methods in the development policies sensitive to indigenous and minority people’s health needs.

About the Project

The idea of ‘MEDICINE’ evolved from the alignment of two principal sources:

  1. The Experienced Researcher Elizabeth Currie’s lifelong interest and work in pre-Colombian and early colonial period archaeology and ethnohistory of South America, and traditional indigenous Amerindian culture in particular, and the PI John Scofield’s interest in Traditional Medicine as a part of the developing global agenda in recognising and protecting Intangible Cultural Heritage.
  2. The contemporary global refugee and migrant peoples’ humanitarian crisis.

The MEDICINE project

MEDICINE will develop a conceptual ‘bridge’ from the study population to generate a trans-cultural model for use with peoples from migrant or marginalised backgrounds in contemporary global scenarios that informs best practice for the integration of their traditional beliefs into modern health and social care provision.

The development of this conceptual bridge will eventually lead via the development of a Transferable Policy Tool” into the global policy setting arena.

About the Project Region

The Andean landscape

In the Andean region, the mosaic of indigenous communities is complex. The different ethnic groups are descendants of pre-Columbian Amerindian peoples who experienced the cultural trauma of the conquest by Spain in the 16th century, and of a series of subsequent major impacts of disease, miscegenation, and religious persecution. They have an historical experience of marginalisation, exploitation, social and health inequalities which is still manifest in their present lifeways.

In Ecuador, the indigenous population is about 7% of the total population and half are classified as ‘poor’, with inadequate access to modern health care. Many are still dependent upon traditional forms of healing. Despite concerted attempts at eradication by the Catholic Church, many Andean peoples retain substantial relicts of an ancestral belief system and understandings of the world, of the nature of illness and its manner of treatment. Specialists in techniques of magical healing - curanderos or shamans - still provide their communities with a holistic approach to the treatment of illness, and shamanic healing rites actively sustain the myths central to the society’s culture.

Latest blog posts

Wasalata, Salasaka
Monday 30th July 2018
Un Refugee Agency, Geneva
Friday 27th July 2018
Salasaka Yachak
Friday 16th February 2018