Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Protecting Peru's ancient past

The return to Peru of the bones of 177 people taken a century ago from the Inca city of Machu Picchu has marked another important milestone in the repatriation of Peruvian antiquities.

The country is the birthplace of many ancient civilisations.

archaeology excavations

The most famous, the Incas, ruled the area for centuries until the arrival of the Spanish colonisers in the 1500s.

Every year, more than a million visitors marvel at the site which has become synonymous with Inca culture: the ancient city of Machu Picchu.

Perched high on a mountain top in the Andes, it is Peru's most important tourist destination.

But the almost 50,000 pieces found there between 1911 and 1915 had not been seen in Peru until recently.

They had been housed at Yale University in the United States.

The university is only now beginning to return them, after Peru waged a long diplomatic and legal campaign to recover the artifacts, which it said had only been loaned to Yale.

In March, Yale shipped a large number of ceramics taken from the site back to Peru.

It is a move some had come to doubt would happen. One of them is Blanca Alba, who is in charge of repatriations at Peru's ministry of culture.

"I never thought I would see the return of the pieces," she says, her eyes getting teary as she remembers the arrival of the ceramics nine months ago.

"There were people waiting at the airport, they began singing the national anthem, I cried because it was very emotional."

Some of the ceramics are now being shown at a temporary exhibition space in Cuzco, while a new museum is being built to house the pieces once their return is complete.

The Peruvian government estimates that there are around 100,000 archaeological sites in Peru, of which only little more than a 10th have been uncovered.

When they do come to public notice, it is often because treasure hunters and professional looters have already been there.

People who are caught looting can expect a jail sentence of up to eight years.

But Director of Archaeology at the Peruvian ministry of culture Luis Caceres believes this is not enough.

"The reality is that, because of lack of funds and resources, we can't defend our heritage," he says.

He says it is impossible to provide security at all of the archaeological sites, especially with police busy fighting street crime.

For more interesting topics related to archaeology, visit archaeology excavations.

1 comment:

viventura said...

Exciting and amazing. Few things even the hidden mythical peru