Photo of the Week: Túcume Archaeological Site

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Photo of the Week: Tucumé Archaeological Site

This week we bring you a photo from a recent trip made by a group of Harvard students to the Tucumé Archaeological Site in Northern Peru. Led by Solsiré Cusicanqui and Carlos Wester, the students learned about the traditional craft methods used by weavers to sustain local economic development and visited sites such as the above along the way. Part of the Lambayeque Valley, this region is home to thousands of monumental sites similar to Tucumé.

Watch this space next week for more photos and find out exactly what the group got up to on the trip!

Unlisted 3 Now Listed

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In case you missed it last Spring, the videos for the Third Annual Unlisted Conference are available for viewing online! Check them out at the AIRC’s page here on YouTube.

Run by the American Institute for Roman Culture, each year the conference brings together a range of stakeholders to discuss new ways to preserve global cultural heritage sites that are not named on the UNESCO World Site List.

The First Annual Unlisted Conference in 2011 was centred on the sustainable preservation of cultural heritage where, unsurprisingly, SPI’s Executive Director Larry Coben spoke. In 2012 the second sitting of Unlisted offered the theme of ‘Enhancing Visibility’ of the past leading nicely onto this year’s theme:

Cultural Heritage in Digital Media: Conversation for Conservation, Sustaining Global Storytelling Online”

Unlisted 3 focused on ‘’the sustainability of conservation through wider engagement with a more diverse community and with a broader spectrum of resources including digital and social media, digital resources and ‘edutainment’.’’ This year’s conference had an extra dimension of live streaming, ensuring that the conference organisers practised what they preach by making the day-long conference sessions available in real time to anyone unable to attend.

At SPI we use a range of digital media to spread information about our work. Throughout our 2013 crowd-funding campaign we utilised these media to spread the word, raise funds and find others with a similar mission to our own. We know there is no limit to the amount of people who believe that ending poverty and protecting the world’s cultural heritage is important. Luckily, through digital media we can connect with them!

Conference speakers were recruited from the world of global storytelling featuring photographers, documentary film makers, journalists and social media aficionados. Some speakers, such as Sam Horine categorised as a ‘visual storytellers’, even had their personal Instagram follower number listed in the programme.

Click here to read the reaction of AIRC Director Darius Arya to the success of this year’s conference.

Summer in Peru: Reflections from Student Volunteers on the San José de Moro Archaeological Program

By Alex Parody, Sarah Martini and Solsiré Cusicanqui

For the past three years, the Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI) has partnered with the San José de Moro Archaeological Program (PASJM), among others around the world, to help connect and involve communities in their local archaeological projects. These community projects benefit both the archaeologists and the local populations by encouraging interaction and discourse between groups that are often set at odds. 

During the summer months of June, July and August, the San José de Moro Archaeological Program (PASJM) brings students, professors, and researchers from all over the world together to learn about archaeological investigation in Peru. The site employs local workers to aid archaeologists and students with uncovering the prehistoric artifacts, architecture, and tombs.This year over 25 student volunteers from PASJM, including Alex Parody and Sarah Martini, had the opportunity to observe and participate in an SPI-directed program. 

A Peruvian Perspective

My name is Alex Parody and I am an undergraduate studying history and anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C.  I have had no previous experience in archaeology but have always had a deep interest in the past. This trip was my first foray into the field, and I have loved every aspect of it.  Because my mother is Peruvian I had the opportunity to travel to Peru twice before, but this trip has by far been the best. Although I grew up knowing Peruvian cuisine and customs, during the last five weeks I have come to appreciate the sheer kindness and welcoming attitudes of the people of San José de Moro, not to mention their terrific local cooking! They were always open to conversation and loved talking about their town, culture, and listening to what you had to say. Because of this, as well as being able to speak Spanish, I felt very connected to the workers at the site. I know that I am going to miss every single one of them like they were my best friend. They essentially “raised” the archaeologist in me – having taught me how to do everything from basic tasks like brushing and digging to measuring, surveying and identifying features in soils. They even helped me learn how to differentiate one kind of soil from another. I loved seeing every side of this town during the past five weeks, and because of this trip I am more confident than ever that I want to get involved in archaeology.

A New Experience

Hi! My name is Sarah Martini and I am a second year undergraduate concentrating in archaeology at Harvard University. Moro was my first chance to both come to South America and to see what being a field archaeologist entails. Having only traveled in European countries before, Peru was a completely new experience. While things were not always as I expected them to be, over the last five weeks I have fallen in love with the many faces of the Peruvian countryside, the Peruvian cuisine (I love Lomo Saltado!), and the local communities that opened up their homes to us. The people here were certainly more welcoming than many others that I have encountered in previous travels. Although I came to Peru having only taken a semester of Spanish, I found that my speaking skills quickly improved through attempting to maintain conversations with workmen from the town as I enjoyed learning about their home country from them. Over all, my experience at Moro has made me want to become an archaeologist, one involved with local communities, even more than before and has made me want to return to Peru.

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Sarah Martini, Second Year Archaeology Undergraduate at Harvard University 

The Field

The archaeology at San José de Moro provides a hands-on approach for any field school student. Conditions in the field could sometimes be hard under the hot Peruvian sun, since every day was different, it made every moment exciting as you never knew what could happen next.  The great thing about Moro is that it teaches students the basics of archaeology; skills that we could take anywhere is the world. But we would say that best of all were the valuable opportunities to excavate rich tombs – which for most archaeologists are only the stuff of dreams.  In addition, Moro facilitates daily interactions with the locals through the opening of their homes for home-cooked meals.  The women who cooked were very friendly and sometimes had their children bring out food for us.  We got to know the women’s personalities (and cooking!) in this way.  Because the site is right inside the community, it was very common for people to walk by the excavation units, and people always liked to look at what we were doing and often stopped to talk with us. There were plenty of times in the field when the local children came into the pits and helped (with permission of course) excavate features with us. There were endless opportunities for us to interact with the community, and the community loved to interact with us!

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A Mural Competition

This year, SPI contributed to community-field school interactions through a mural design competition at the local elementary school.  In collaboration with the children we created some fantastic artwork.  The children were very welcoming and loved to draw!  It was fun to compare favorite games, movies and music.  It was also interesting to see the depth of knowledge and pride the children had in their cultural heritage as descendants of the Moche.  They seemed to love having us there, and we hope that in the end we helped to encourage them to follow their dreams.  Working with them made us both want to get more involved with community projects – in Peru and elsewhere – and also offered us the clearest view of the types of influences the children of San José de Moro come into contact with as they grow up.  From movies to music to games, they are not much different from the children back home!  It is interesting to see, however, how important their local history is to them.  On the 28th of July, Peru’s Independence Day, some children put on a small show celebrating their country’s rich history, and others orated poems expressing love for their town of San José de Moro – from its vivid history and culture to its modern people and cuisine, there was nothing they couldn’t love more about their home!

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SPI Projects on the Northern Coast

Moro has another SPI-initiated project, where local ceramicist Julio Ibarrola produces replicas of Moche and Lambayeque pottery that have been found at the site itself.  He is currently apprenticing a few local teenagers and in this way hopes to continue the tradition of ceramic reproduction, as well as create a sustainable economy for the town. His replicas are found not only in Moro but also in the gift shops of museums all around Peru and through an online vendor, he gives his industry the potential to be a great source of income for those who become involved.

Before reaching Moro, we visited another SPI site which was the Chotuna and Chornancap Archaeological Complex. While this site has been recently made famous for its priestess burial found last year, the SPI has brought local women back in touch with their cultural roots through a weaving program.  It allows the community to connect with the archaeological site, provides potential revenue through sales at the gift shop, and provides the opportunity to learn about traditional methods of cloth production. During the last week of the field school, we had the opportunity to work with Moro´s weavers, who have also become involved with the help of SPI. The women were happy to answer any questions we had about the weaving process when they came to the field school at Moro.  They even allowed students to try their hand at setting up a back-strap loom. All of the students tried, but the women were much faster than any of us! Even so, they were very patient in explaining the process numerous times to the different students.

It is an unfortunate truth that throughout history many archaeologists have not involved themselves with local communities, maintaining a distance between their familiar group of colleagues and the residents who live among the site.  Even when they have made an effort to improve the economy of the community, such as building a museum, many projects have focused on increasing tourism without encouraging local involvement in the site. This tourism fails to help communities when gift shops lack locally-made artisan goods – it is important to include local artisan crafts (such as Julio’s ceramics or the weavers’ textiles) because without them, the money spent at the museum by tourists does not always stay with the community. This idea would not get far if interactions between archaeologists and locals are hampered by an invisible wall created by many differences ranging from socioeconomic to cultural, as well as by the absence of some great impetus for interaction.  Part of SPI’s mission is to provide that impetus.  Its efforts to increase local involvement in archaeological projects, by allowing locals to learn about their cultural heritage and how it can be preserved, are the first steps in bridging the gap between archaeologists and the local communities in which they work.

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San Jose de Moro Archaeological Program Wins First International “Tourism Cares” Award!

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San Jose de Moro Archaeological Program is the winner of the first International Turismo Cuida/Tourism Cares Contest!

SPI’s San Jose de Moro, Peru project was awarded recently the First International Tourism Cares/Turismo Cuida award. Sponsored by the world’s leading travel and tourism companies, the award is given for outstanding work in sustainability and preservation, both of which are critical to SPI’s mission. The award recognizes both the job creation (22 new permanent jobs!) from tourist development and the resultant end to looting at the site. The accompanying $15,000 grant will aid our continued work on sustainable tourism and economic, social and cultural development at Moro.

Congratulations to all of those involved on their hard work.

Photo of the Week: The Newest Generation of Artisans

Women WeaversThis week’s photo shows the participants of our artisan training centre recently inaugurated at Chotuna. In his own words, archaeologist and researcher Carlos Wester updates us on how the local women of Chotuna are working towards a branding process reflecting the remains of the ancient monumental palace complex located here.

“Women from the areas surrounding the Chotuna-Chornancap Complex in Lambayeque – Perú have come together to receive training in an artisan textile workshop built by SPI with the aim to promote sustainable activities in the local community.”

“Currently there are 10 weavers participating who show a surprising enthusiasm guaranteeing the success of this process that with the Chotuna-Chornancap Site Museum and the Brüning National Museum of Archaeology, hopes to create a brand identity for the local weavers inspired by the images of the Priestess of Chornancap’s Tomb.”

Watch this space for more updates on Chotuna’s project and the latest developments from our other most recent project site, Bandurria, coming soon!

Spotlight: The SPI Team

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In our second post in a series introducing you to the SPI Team, we’re asking our intern Yasmin Hamed how she developed an interest in cultural heritage preservation, what she has done so far as a member of our ranks and what’s next on the agenda.

Were you always interested in archaeology and cultural heritage?

“Definitely! I love finding out about the origins of things and archaeology always seemed like the obvious solution for someone interested in that. I’ve always wanted to know ‘the story’ of how we got to where we are now, so when it came to apply for a university course there was never any doubt as to what I wanted to study. I did my undergraduate degree in Trinity College, Dublin majoring in Ancient History and Archaeology. I stayed on an extra year and completed my masters in Classics and Archaeology and loved every minute of it!”

“In the past few years in particular since I’ve been studying archaeology and cultural heritage I’ve been drawn towards the relationships we have now with our past, how we use this link, and even more significantly at times how we misuse it.”

How did you first get involved with SPI?

“Well like I’ve said I’ve always been interested in archaeology, but it was only when I was working as a volunteer excavator on a site in the south of France that my really interest area came to the forefront that eventually led me to SPI. Some of the archaeologists at our site had realised that some zones were being looted during the night. After speaking to some of my classmates, I was really surprised at how many of them had excavated at sites during the summer months and witnessed similar examples of sites being looted, often by locals. It really struck me and from that point on I tried to focus my research in university on how cultural heritage is misused and abused, particularly by the nation from which it derives.”

“Last summer, coming to the end of my masters I was taking part in a postgraduate Latin epigraphy course at the British School of Rome when I met Rebekah Junkermeier, SPI’s Program and Development Associate at the time. After a long walk back from the Vatican one day we realised we had some really similar research interests and she told me about SPI’s work. I loved that their mission was linked to the personal side of archaeological preservation. I had studied examples and theories related to preservation, but found it always steeped in the formality of academia. I was really impressed with how SPI managed to promote and link a cultural heritage site with the well-being of people today. Having kept in contact with her after we left the eternal city, I become more and more interested in what SPI did so decided to apply for an internship with them. Six months later, here I am!”

What have you been working on so far as an intern with SPI?

“I think I’m pretty lucky I’ve been involved in quite a wide range of things with SPI so far. I’ve been redeveloping the website, working on SPI’s social media outlets, creating blog posts and newsletters and most recently on our People Not Stones 2013 crowd funding campaign.”

Your favourite SPI moment to date?

“Without a doubt the crowd funding campaign. I had never been involved in any crowd-funding before and to be honest only had a very brief knowledge of what it was! But I liked this in a way, I knew that I was going to be challenged. I loved having a deadline and a goal and working as hard as possible to get our word out there and our voices heard. Getting such positive feedback from the overwhelming number of contributors, the support from other organisations and the various press the campaign got really made it feel like people were listening. The best moment by far was when we found out that the campaign was featured on the Team Indiegogo Blog: we had managed to impress people who see thousands of campaigns on a daily basis.”

What are your plans for the future?

“Who knows! I know I want to continue working within the cultural heritage sphere, specifically with regard to the protection of antiquities. Earning my PhD was always a goal of mine too, regardless whether I continue down an academic route or not. As we speak I’m attending the ARCA Postgraduate Certificate Programme in Italy as a student-intern and learning about crimes against art and antiquities. After that, I’ll see where my interests take me!”

Photo of the Week: Throwing Some Shapes

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Photo of the Week: Throwing Some Shapes

This week’s snapshot shows the lighter side to cultural heritage preservation!

Taken at the SPI project site of San Jose de Moro, Peru, a group taking part in the annual field school enjoy the Peruvian sunset.

Registration is still open for the 2013 field season – spread the word!