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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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

SPI Team Photo

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!”

Catching Up With an Artisan

You may be familiar with Julio Ibarrola who was featured during our crowd-funding campaign in the Huffington Post. Well we’re catching up with him again to get some insight into what it’s like living in a community with a local SPI project site.

What was your community like before SPI’s project began?

“Before SPI, my community didn’t know a thing about pottery. They didn’t know anything about archaeology either and would only devote their time to farming and raising their livestock. My actual students were part of that but now some of them are even coming from outside the community.”

What was your relationship with your local cultural heritage site then?

“It was always around me but I didn’t really know about it, I didn’t relate to it. I thought they were just some Inca mounds, I had no idea there was a local culture I could relate to. When I was a kid I used to enjoy watching the looters do their thing around here, they caught my attention, back then I didn’t know they were destroying my heritage. It was the common thing to see in the 80′s, especially during drought season, farmers used to loot so they could get some money after selling the looted vessels to people who would only come for that. If the central area of San Jose de Moro got preserved it is because it used to be the soccer field.”

Tell us about the new artisan centre in your local community?

“It was the year of 1991 when the San Jose de Moro Archaeological Program started and changed my life. I got to work with them and they taught about what they were doing, their findings. Then it was Fredy Galvez, my teacher, the one who helped me perfect my skills on pottery production. Now I have this workshop and I devote all my time to it, I have become a little known, I feel like a professional and sometimes popular (he laughs). I have my own students and I can pass my knowledge and expertise but also respect for the heritage, an important thing to learn for the younger minds.”

Has your relationship with your local cultural heritage site changed since SPI has been involved with San Jose de Moro? 

“I think SPI has helped my community more than my own. Now, people protect and understand why it is important to do so. We all have learned and improved at different levels. A key thing SPI did was to get the community involved through workshops and others that people have happily attended.”

How do you see your community’s future?

“I view it favorably, here we all are thrilled by the idea of having a museum so tourists will come and we can show our products. The community is really looking forward to it and more than eager to get involved. I hope that someday I can pass my knowledge like I do now but at other sites. Also, I dream of the day when San Jose de Moro is world famous.”

“I want to take this as a chance to thank SPI, my teacher Fredy Galvez and SJM director: Dr. Castillo who introduced to me this wonderful world that archaeology is.”

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Julio Ibarrola demonstrating one of his handcrafted Moche pieces in San Jose de Moro, Peru.

Photo of the Week: Bandurria Celebrates!

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Bandurria Celebrates!

As April 18th is International Day of Monuments and Sites we just had to post our Photo of the Week a day early!

This week’s photo shows the community of Bandurria celebrateing as work is now full steam ahead! Following our People Not Stones 2013 crowd funding campaign, we are well on our way to the construction of a communal artisan training and production centre  a local store and an “artisans’ quarter” in the form of a number of house-workshops, one for each family in the community. These workshops will be located adjacent to the archaeological site where four pyramids almost 5,500 years old are located.

Thank You from SPI

Following the success of our recent People Not Stones 2013 crowd funding campaign, we would like to thank the following generous contributors. With your support, work is now under way to save the rich cultural heritage and empower the local communities of Bandurria and Chotuna-Chornancap, Peru.

 

Gerald Luterman

Meg Lambert

Daniel Sandweiss

Leslie Urdang

Jeffrey Junkermeier

Molly Stern

Michelle Young

Meagan Baco

Carla Silva

Teresa Lintner

Ari Caramanica

Chelsea Duran

Tamara Junkermeier

Bridget Siegel

Robert Mark

Nicola Savageau

Lace Thornberg

Julia Dye

Ana Escobedo

Nathaniel Van Valkenburg

Dougald O’Reilly

Christina Conlee

Greta Isac

Ulrike Green

Diane Englander

Jerry Blackwill

Alison Brower

Jonit Bookheim

Stephen Black

Emily Jackman

Taylor Krauss

Ruth Lewis

Rebekah Junkermeier

Hamish Berry

Cynthia Frederick

Dawn Kikel

Jane Stone

Gregory Urban

George R. Newall

Daniel Julien

Geoffrey Cunnar

Maria Bruno

Michelle Miller

Risa Goldstein

William Glaser

Peter M. Hosinski

Dana Delany

John Crary

Michael Dreibelbis

Brigitte Vosse

Thomas King

Astrid Hasse

Tanya Lervik

Jonathan Dubois

Lucas Kellett

Abby Lublin

Cliff Laughlin

Lawrence Pratt

Felice V. Hubbard

Jack Ho

Eric Schoenberg

Johanna Vanden Hoek

Robin Urdang

Max Meyer

Ralph Drybrough

Kamsheed Siyar

Peter Fagan

Peter Gallagher

Casey Hackney

Deborah Blom

Dany Santos

Willemina Wendrich

Nadia Papponi

Spotlight: The SPI Team

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In the first of a series of posts, we are introducing the people who make up our organization and our team. Today we’re speaking to Solsiré Cusicanqui, archaeologist and researcher for Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú involved with the SPI project site of San Jose de Moro, Peru.

You obviously have a keen interest in archaeology! Were you always interested in cultural heritage?

“Living in a country like Peru, with such rich cultural heritage, I grew up surrounded by archaeological sites and a strong cultural tradition. But it was through my father’s job that I was fortunate to travel around my country and learn about the rich culture we had, but also the poverty that existed especially in the most remote towns.”

“In Peru we have clear examples of how the appreciation of this heritage can become a source of income and an important identity builder. Starting with important archaeological discoveries, followed by an investment aimed at conservation, preservation and exhibition of them there has been a significant increase in tourism that promotes massive job creation, to name just one aspect, as it is in the case of cities in Lambayeque, Trujillo, and Cusco.”

Where have you trained and how has your career developed until now?

“I got a B.A. in Archaeology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) where I met Dr. Castillo who was my professor and now boss. I did diverse specializations in my career working on different projects in Peru. I am currently a researcher at PUCP as part of the San José de Moro Archaeological Program, and in charge of the Social Responsibility Project. I have also been working for the SPI organization for the last 3 years.”

How, and most importantly, why did you first get involved with SPI?

“Around three years ago, while working in PASJM, I met the CEO of SPI Larry Coben. We were the first project in Peru to work with SPI and the results were pretty good, so he asked me to join the team. Obviously, I agreed as I believed from the start in this new paradigm.”

What has been your favorite moment working for SPI so far?

“It is hard to think of a single good moment, because my work for SPI has too many. Generally, I like get totally involved in the projects, meet the local people and understand their needs and strengths. It is always great to see these projects begin and grow, watch how the excitement of people gets bigger, turning them into entrepreneurs and learning more about their traditions, which strengthens their identity and turns them into the leading advocates of heritage around them and their heritage.”

“The ability to improve the quality of life of people of my country is the best reward I can get from this job.”

Last but not least, what are your plans for the future?

“I would like to continue training myself in Cultural Management, combining the two things I love the most: archaeology and cultural heritage. I believe that in countries like mine, where more people increasingly value their heritage, we need different development proposals, both economic and social and cultural. I think the SPI paradigm should expand throughout Latin America, and I would like to be part of this process.”

Photo of the Week: Crowdfunding Successfully Completed and Work Begins at Chotuna!

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Support and Success

Our crowd funding campaign, People Not Stones 2013 has been an overwhelming success and raised a total of $49,203 surpassing our goal! We had over 100 generous contributors to our campaign to help us alleviate poverty and preserve the cultural heritage sites of Bandurria, Peru and Chotuna-Chornancap, Peru.

The SPI Team would like to extend a huge Thank You to everyone involved throughout the campaign for your contributions, sharing, tweeting and support. As a result of all of your generous contributions, work at both of these amazing cultural heritage sites is now underway. For all who contributed, your perks will be winging their way to you soon.

People Not Stones

Throughout our campaign we have tried to highlight SPI’s ‘People Not Stones’ mission by emphasizing those personally affected by SPI’s work in poverty-stricken communities to date. One such example, Julio Ibarrola, a campesino turned entrepreneur with SPI’s help in San Jose de Moro, Peru. We know that Julio’s success story will be replicated numerous times in Bandurria and Chotuna.

Press Coverage

The success of our campaign would also not have been possible without the recent press coverage our campaign has been getting. Read about SPI’s work and People Not Stones 2013 on Newsweek, in an article by Reuter’s financial columnist Felix Salmon and at the Huffington Post.  We were also honoured to be chosen among thousands of other Indiegogo campaigns and featured on the Team Indiegogo Blog.

From all of us at SPI, thank you again for your support throughout this campaign. We will be updating you soon with news from these two new project sites – watch this space!

Photo of the Week

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Photo of the Week

We know why this guy seems so happy! He’s just as excited as us about SPI’s upcoming project crowd funding campaign which goes live next week! Our campaign will raise money for our two new project sites; Bandurria and Chotuna-Chornancap. All contributions will help alleviate poverty in these two communities and sustainably preserve the stunning cultural heritage that remains there. With less than a week to Valentine’s Day, why not make a contribution to this worthy cause in the name of a loved one? He already has…!