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Archaeological Excavation Alca, Peru
Dan Sandweiss (CCI), Kurt Rademaker (CCI)
James Hagerman (University of Maine), Ben Morris (University of Maine)
Michael Malpass (Ithaca College), Louis Fortin (University of Maine)
Adan Umire, Oswaldo Chozo
May 10, 2004 to June 19, 2004
Monday May 10 - Most of the team left Bangor early this morning and arrived here in Lima, the capital and largest city (pop. 8 million) in Peru. Over the next few days we will meet up with our Peruvian colleagues, obtain our work permit, and assemble field equipment for the upcoming archaeological excavation near the town of Alca in the highland Cotahuasi valley. To ready ourselves for work at Alca's relatively high elevation we will be spending a few days acclimatizing in Arequipa, a beautiful highland city ringed by volcanoes.
Saturday May 15 - Today we traveled in a van across the Andean highlands, an arid, high altitude zone called the "puna." Much of the region is underlain by bedrock of Tertiary and Quaternary volcanics. The highest elevations are rocky, glacially modified horns, some with icecaps. The puna is a fascinating environment, with glacial moraines and associated landforms, volcanic features, and easily visible archaeological sites, including segments of the Inca Road. After a 15 hour day of driving on a dirt road through spectacular scenery, in places over 4,900 meters (16,300 ft) above sea level, we arrived at the edge of the Cotahausi valley, the world's deepest canyon.
Tuesday May 18 - We are now in the small village of Alca and have spent the last few days relocating three preceramic archaeological sites previously discovered in 1999 by Justin Jennings of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Much of the first site, Purkaya, has been recently destroyed by bulldozers constructing a soccer field. A second site named Aycano occupies the opposite side of the Cotahuasi River. To access the site you have to cross a narrow and treacherous log bridge with the rushing waters of the river just a few meters below! Due to safety concerns we will not be able to work at Aycano. Luckily, the third site Waynuna (located at about 3,650 m/11,975 ft elevation) is intact and accessible, and it is there that we will concentrate excavations.
In exchange for a few truck parts, our friends on the local police force transport us each day in their small pickup to the tiny village of Huillac from our home base in the Hostal Alcala. We often stop to make road repairs, fixing deep ruts in the narrow dirt road with our shovels and buckets of gravel we gather from the roadside. Although we have to pack our field equipment up a steep hour-long hike from Huillac to the site every morning, the view from Waynuna is worth it! Occasionally, massive condors with two meter wingspans glide past the site to check us out, or we catch a glimpse of the elusive viscacha, a large, long-tailed rabbit that lives at the higher elevations. The weather here is incredible - bright, sunny, cloudless days and clear, chilly nights. Each night the team meets in the restaurant below the Hostal to enjoy traditional highland Peruvian cuisine - delicious noodle soup, rice, potatoes, and occasionally a bit of chicken or thin steak with aji, a spicy chili paste.