BU academic’s work on display at UNESCO site in Peru

Posted on Friday, November 30 2012

Discoveries from an excavation, including the work of a Bournemouth University academic, are being featured at an exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Chavín in Huaraz, Peru. The museum is associated with a UNESCO World Heritage site – with the display on loan from the Regional Museum in Huaraz.

BU’s Karina Gerdau–Radonic, who is from Peru, is one of the experts involved in the excavation of an archaeological site at the foot of a glacier 4,000 metres above sea level. A biological anthropologist in the School of Applied Sciences, Karina, has been working on the project, tasked with excavating and analysing the human remains found amongst the relics.

The project has been vital in helping to understand the history and prehistory of Peru, as there are no pre–Columbian written records in existence (that is, before 16th century). Ceremonial, domestic and funerary architecture, together with lithic and pottery remains were discovered at the site along an intricate water irrigation system, 3000 years old, some of which is still being used today.

Among the surprising finds was the discovery of some very large shells, pututos, which would have been brought inland from the Pacific coast, 60 miles away or beyond, used for making music. This helps to prove that these people were not isolated and had contact with a wide–reaching area.

Due to strict heritage regulations in Peru the actual artefacts cannot be displayed, but a range of informative panels have been created, showing pictures of the artefacts along with a description of how they were discovered and what their purpose would have been.

The area has been significantly looted since the Spanish settled in Peru so there were concerns about what would be left when the project began, but through thorough excavation a number of artefacts were recovered.

Karina said, “We are very pleased that our work is being displayed in the region, as it helps illustrate the importance of safe–guarding and studying our material past. It’s a step forward in the fight against looting.”

The Project, led by Dr. Alexander Herrera (Universidad de los Andes, Colombia) and started in 2006, is a collaboration between academics and researchers from Colombia (Universidad de los Andes), Peru (the communities of Cruz de Mayo and Unidos Venceremos, Museo de Arqueología y Antropología of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Museo Nacional de Arqueología Antropología e Historia del Perú, Ministerio de Cultura–Ancash, Town Councils of Huaylas and Ranrahirca), and the United Kingdom (Bournemouth University and Manchester University).

Plans are in place for further archaeological digs in similar locations in Peru, as only one site has been excavated so far – but more funding is required to continue the great success of this project.