Photo of the Week

SPI Board Members ascend a 1,500-foot-high mountain in northern Peru to view the  ruins of Cerro Chepen, an archaeological site over a thousand years older than Machu Picchu in southern Peru.

SPI works to alleviate poverty in communities by creating jobs around such local cultural heritage sites.

Many thanks to John Crary for the beautiful photograph.

SPI One-Year Anniversary Contest Winners!

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of SPI’s official blog, ‘People Not Stones,’ we held a contest, asking all of you to answer the question “Why does the preservation of cultural heritage matter to YOU?” in 140 characters or less.

After tweeting out our favorites over the past week, we have chosen three winners, who will receive an official SPI hat!

SPI One-Year Anniversary Contest Winners

Matt Wakeham

To Take the Past Forward.

Claude Gaudin

Doing so we continue the long and slow path to the ultimate quest of harmony between human beings, nature, this planet and the universe

Leila Amineddoleh

Preservation of cultural heritage is essential for all of humanity because it tells the story of our shared past and accomplishments.

Thank you to all who submitted entries!

Photo of the Week

La Marinera Nortena. During a recent visit to the SPI-sponsored site of San Jose de Moro, SPI Board members saw this traditional dance of northern Peru. This dance is a beautiful reminder of why SPI is committed to bettering the economic circumstances of communities that are living around endangered cultural heritage sites.
Photo compliments of John Crary.

Measuring Results: Larry Coben Challenges the Cultural Heritage Community at UCL Conference

“Changing lives locally,” “economic development,” “safeguarding sites in the developing world,” “community-based”—all of these phrases are tossed around in the discussion of how to best preserve our shared cultural heritage today. All are important concepts, but who is applying them, how are they doing it, and, most importantly, do they actually work?

At University College London’s recent “Archaeology and Economic Development” Conference, held from September 21-22, Dr. Larry Coben of the Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI) challenged conference attendees with the following (not-so-radical) radical statement: Preservation organizations need to measure the results of their work.

The conference focused on the, at times, tumultuous relationship between archaeology and economic development. Indeed, precious cultural heritage sites and local communities in impoverished areas have often been at odds. To provide themselves and their families with basics, local residents in some areas use the sites for other purposes—whether looting excavated artifacts or planting crops on the site and grazing animals at the site. In other regions, sites have been flattened to make way for commercial centers or new homes that promise greater economic development. Recently, however, the dichotomy of site vs. local community has been exposed as false and replaced with the following question: How can the archaeological site itself contribute to the economic development of a community?

This is one of the central tenets of SPI, chief sponsor of the UCL Conference. A new non-profit, SPI has invested in locally-created and –owned artisanal workshops whose sales are dependent on tourists visiting the local archaeological site. Without the site, business stops, so the preservation of cultural heritage becomes imperative to a community that wants sustainable income.

To date, SPI has supported local entrepreneurs at two endangered archaeological sites in northern Peru with several more about to start. As hinted at above, SPI is concerned with results. Is our cultural heritage actually being preserved, and is it being preserved for the long-term?

Coben’s answer: Let’s collect data. “Most organizations, to the extent they have disclosed any information at all, have published broad vague missives about economic potential and community benefit rather than providing meaningful measures of their results, both positive and negative,” stated Coben. By measuring results at preservation projects, we can figure out what works and what doesn’t. We can know why a certain project succeeded or why it failed. Without data collection, the important concepts we talk so much about remain just that, concepts. And while concepts and theories are important, testing those concepts in the form of real projects with real metrics is vital.

SPI looks forward to the time when measuring results for preservation projects becomes common practice and when data comparison across projects from various organizations is the focus, rather than clarion call, of conferences regarding our shared cultural heritage.

Photo (and Fantastic News) of the Week

Great news! A large university in Peru recently ordered 100 of the ceramic featured above, hand-crafted by SPI-supported master ceramicist Julio Ibarrola at San Jose de Moro, Peru! The sales of these works of art bring sustainable income to the impoverished community there and are fueled by visitors to the archaeological site.

Purchase and/or explore more of Julio’s works here on NOVICA.

‘People Not Stones’ One-Year Anniversary Contest!

One year and counting! This week marked the one-year anniversary of ‘People Not Stones,’ the official blog of the Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI), and we are celebrating with a contest for our supporters and followers (and/or random viewers). We want the best and cleverest responses to the following question:

“Why is the preservation of cultural heritage important to YOU?”

in 140 characters or less.

That’s right, we will be tweeting out the best responses from our Twitter handle, SPInitiative, beginning next Wednesday, October 17th. In addition, the top 3 responses will receive a Sustainable Preservation Initiative baseball hat!

So put your thinking caps on, be genuine, be creative (puns encouraged :)) and tell us what you love about cultural heritage and why you want to preserve it. Email your response to, subject line: One-Year Anniversary Contest. The contest ends Wednesday, October 24th!

Looking forward to reading your entries!

Photo of the Week

Ancient Moche mural decoration from the archaeological complex of El Brujo, Peru! Located just north of Trujillo, Huaca El Brujo and Huaca Cao Viejo (both part of the complex) were constructed by the Moche culture during the first six centuries of the common era. (Excavations also revealed the burial of the “Señora de Cao,” the first known Governess in Peru.) SPI’s question: How can we utilize cultural heritage sites like these to help local communities in need?

Many thanks to John Crary for the photograph!