Our first week of survey has been incredibly productive. We have discovered dozens of new sites in the coastal and lomas ecozones. The sites in the coastal zone are all shell middens, many of which contain artifacts made of Alca obsidian and petrified wood from higher elevations. These sites are either small camps or processing locales up to 400 m elevation. Lomas sites have locally occurring lithic artifacts, as well as ground stone tools, likely used to process seeds, roots, or other plant materials. The many sites in the lomas zone between 400 and 1,100 m elevation suggests that this ecozone was much more productive in the past than it is today. Recent deforestation and overgrazing by livestock has sadly resulted in a profound degradation of this environment. Protected examples of lomas vegetation can be found in the Lachay reserve north of Lima, and perhaps this area once looked like Lachay. Beyond the upper elevation limit of the lomas along the canyon rim is absolute desert. Not a stick of vegetation or a single animal can be found, except for vultures that circle me while I am walking through this moonscape. Not surprisingly, there are no archaeological sites up here on the canyon rim.
Six hundred meters below within the canyon are small springs and riparian zones. We follow the quebrada north as far as we can, but eventually it becomes a slot canyon with steep, high bedrock ledges and deep pools, impassable without technical canyoneering equipment. Travel along the canyon floor to the highlands is impossible, and although travel is much easier along the canyon rims, there are no sources of water or plant or animal resources, and the terrain is rugged.
To continue our survey work northward to Chuquibamba, David and I cross to a neighboring canyon and then descend back to the Quebrada Manga at the Chagenoc oasis, thrilled to break into our first cache of goodies. In the next few days we discover and map the extent of petrified wood deposits accessed by the inhabitants of Quebrada Jaguay. Not bad for the first half of the survey - over the next week and a half we will explore another 50 km of beautiful canyon country.
The past few days we’ve seen dark ominous clouds roll over us seeking higher elevations. The night before leaving Chagenoc, we were told by the old man who lodged at the orchard not to camp so close to the dry river bed; that the smoothed cobbles and boulders would soon awake with rushing water so strong it would carry us off with all our gear.
When we left the settlement, setting off for our camp 15 km away we understood. I was walking alone in the middle of the river bed when I looked up and in the daze of the desert sun saw a mass of brown coming straight at me. At first in complete surprise, I realized this was the outcome of the dark clouds, the head of the reawakened river. For part of the next week we had to wade through the reactivated river, crisscrossing to newer terraces, camping out of reach of the flowing waters that will regenerate the canyon vegetation and the small orchard of fruit trees the old man resides in.