The volunteers will help archaeologists and workers to restore and clean the walls, making bricks respecting the ancestral procedure.

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A total of 13 national and international volunteers from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization are carrying out conservation and restorations works at the archaeological zone of Chan Chan, in Peru’s northern region of La Libertad.

Volunteer Program “Supporting conservation of the archaeological zone of Chan Chan” began last Friday with a special ceremony which was attended by local authorities and representatives of the National Institute of Culture and public education officials, according to Henry Gayoso, head of the Special Project for the Chan Chan Archaeological Complex (PECHAC).

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The young volunteers will perform three specific actions: Conservation, Protection and Defense, and Educational. The volunteers will help archaeologists and workers to restore and clean the walls, making bricks respecting the ancestral procedure. They will also clean and remove garbage dumps and wooded places.



Awareness raising activities about the protection of heritage will be also run by the volunteers to reach the local communities with a special focus on pupils and students. There will be schools visits to talk about the protection of heritage. Students will visit the archaeological site.

According to Gayoso, most of these volunteers come from Korea, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Poland, United States, France, and Peru, and will stay in the area for 20 days.

Aerial View of Chan Chan




According to UNESCO, 54 projects at 53 World Heritage sites in 33 countries have been selected to be part of “World Heritage Volunteers (WHV) 2014 – Action for Sustainability”.

Chan Chan Archaeological Complex, one of the largest and most important prehispanic monuments built in America, is a city of mud-brick built by the Chimú culture in the 9th Century. It covers an area of approximately 20 km² and was constructed by the Chimor, the kingdom of the Chimú and lasted until its conquest by the Inca Empire in the year 1470.


At its height, estimates place the population at 30,000. Chan Chan was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. Currently, there are several efforts from governmental and civil society groups trying to preserve the archaeological site, as well as the history of this culture.



The conversation fluctuates between a legendary Tunki coffee and a brand new pisco, Larroca, served up cold, in accordance with the tastes of its creator: Bernardo Roca Rey, architect of the Novoandino cuisine, exquisite epicure, president of the Peruvian Society of Gastronomy (APEGA), and the current promoter of the rescue and rehabilitation of Peru’s millions of acres of agricultural terraces.

How was this project born?
In the Ministry of Culture, during my time as Viceminster for Cultural Heritage, I had the the opportunity to be close to the issue of the terraces. Conserving the walls of the terraces is what the ministry must do with its archaeologists, and it works, but it is expensive. The other way is that the farms work them, and in so doing, they will also provide maintenance. If there are a million hectares of terraces, 700,000 of those are abandoned.

Up until 1999, there were programs to map the Andean terraces, but they have been abandoned. Days ago, in Mistura, we managed to gather together seven ministers to talk about the Andean diet, and one of them was Trivelli (Minister of Development), who has done studies of the terraces. APEGA goes hand-in-hand with two ideas: nutrition and social inclusion. In both cases, the Andean terraces are important to recuperate. If there are a million hectares, that’s a little bit more than 10% of all the arable land used for cultivation in Peru, and it’s a shame that that land isn’t being used.

What is the Ministry of Culture doing about it?
They have abandoned all of the projects that existed. There isn’t even a complete map of the terraces in Peru, where they are and which they are. They’ve identified barely 50% of them.

Is mapping the first step for their recuperation?
The first step is a pilot project: take 500 hectares and adopt them. The objective is that these lands, which are the most productive in Peru, offer the Peruvian restaurants of the world the Andean grains that are so fashionable. For years, I have been promoting the Novoandina cuisine, and among those crops are quinoa, oca, mashua, products which will soon be fashionable. We started with quinoa twenty years ago, and it’s a success today.

What is the idea? To give value added through the denomination of origin; having products that are introduced with the gastronomic boom and also grown on Andean terraces, some of which are three thousand years old. That a restaurant in Paris, for example, adopts a terrace and once a year offers roasted, glazed mashua. What you will have then is a cultural phenomenon which will allow for value to be added to the product, and the farmer will be well-paid.

Additionally, if they are crops from the VRAE, where there are many terraces, it can be another type of assistance. For example, the U.S. government and restaurants in the U.S. could receive those crops, which are also organic. Everything goes hand-in-hand: biodiversity, ancestral crops, new cuisine, boutique agriculture, all of those go together and break the inertia. And that the state puts in $500 million to save a certain number of terraces.

Where will you realize the pilot project?

The closer to Lima, the easier. In APEGA, we have a project with the Interamerican Development Bank, which has given us $3 million as a nonrefundable amount for supply chains, and with part of that we could begin to work on this subject.

I firmly believe that the Andean diet is related to the terraces, so that all of the ministry portfolios are related to this: Tourism, Agriculture, Social Inclusion and Health. The issue is in the hands of the state. I have calculated that it takes an average of $5,800 to recover one hectare. In APEGA, we can recover 100, but with the state or help from abroad, we could recover thousands. Some villagers in Ayacucho are already willing, and the corn that they haven’t grown for a while could be cultivated there. There is a fungus, which in Mexico they eat and call huitlacoche, which contaminates the corn crops, and in Cusco, the infected corn are just tossed out. It would be interesting to grow the infected corn, in order to sell the fungus, which elsewhere is worth much more than the corn itself. The same monks cress plant that I am growing in my garden can be used to produce “Incapers,” in place of regular capers.

Going back in time, what was your first contact with the Peruvian terraces?
I was a boy, because my family led me to this and traveled a lot. I remember being very young and lying down on a terrace in Machu Picchu and looking at the stars, thinking that this was the best thing you could ever do. Who would have guessed that I would end up having to care for them myself…

If we develop them, Peru, instead of having 1.2 million kilometers, would have 2 million. That is, we would be as big as a flat country like Mexico.


By Maribel de Paz  (“Caretas” magazine from PERU). 

Translated and adapted by Nick Rosen, October 4, 2012


In a mountainous kingdom in what is now southeastern Turkey, there lived in the eighth century B.C. a royal official, Kuttamuwa, who oversaw the completion of an inscribed stone monument, or stele, to be erected upon his death. The words instructed mourners to commemorate his life and afterlife with feasts “for my soul that is in this stele.”

University of Chicago archaeologists who made the discovery last summer in ruins of a walled city near the Syrian border said the stele provided the first written evidence that the people in this region held to the religious concept of the soul apart from the body. By contrast, Semitic contemporaries, including the Israelites, believed that the body and soul were inseparable, which for them made cremation unthinkable, as noted in the Bible.
Circumstantial evidence, archaeologists said, indicated that the people at Sam’al, the ancient city, practiced cremation. The site is known today as Zincirli (pronounced ZIN-jeer-lee).
Other scholars said the find could lead to important insights into the dynamics of cultural contact and exchange in the borderlands of antiquity where Indo-European and Semitic people interacted in the Iron Age.

The official’s name, for example, is Indo-European: no surprise, as previous investigations there had turned up names and writing in the Luwian language from the north. But the stele also bears southern influences. The writing is in a script derived from the Phoenician alphabet and a Semitic language that appears to be an archaic variant of Aramaic.

The discovery and its implications were described last week in interviews with archaeologists and a linguist at the University of Chicago, who excavated and translated the inscription.
“Normally, in the Semitic cultures, the soul of a person, their vital essence, adheres to the bones of the deceased,” said David Schloen, an archaeologist at the university’s Oriental Institute and director of the excavations. “But here we have a culture that believed the soul is not in the corpse but has been transferred to the mortuary stone.”

A translation of the inscription by Dennis Pardee, a professor of Near Eastern languages and civilization at Chicago, reads in part: “I, Kuttamuwa, servant of [the king] Panamuwa, am the one who oversaw the production of this stele for myself while still living. I placed it in an eternal chamber [?] and established a feast at this chamber: a bull for [the god] Hadad, a ram for [the god] Shamash and a ram for my soul that is in this stele.”


Dr. Pardee said the word used for soul, nabsh, was Aramaic, a language spoken throughout northern Syria and parts of Mesopotamia in the eighth century. But the inscription seemed to be a previously unrecognized dialect. In Hebrew, a related language, the word for soul is nefesh.
In addition to the writing, a pictorial scene chiseled into the well-preserved stele depicts the culture’s view of the afterlife. A bearded man wearing a tasseled cap, presumably Kuttamuwa, raises a cup of wine and sits before a table laden with food, bread and roast duck in a stone bowl.
In other societies of the region, scholars say, this was an invitation to bring customary offerings of food and drink to the tomb of the deceased. Here family and descendants supposedly feasted before a stone slab in a kind of chapel. Archaeologists have found no traces there of a tomb or bodily remains.
Joseph Wegner, an Egyptologist at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the research, said cult offerings to the dead were common in the Middle East, but not the idea of a soul separate from the body — except in Egypt.
In ancient Egypt, Dr. Wegner noted, the human entity has separate components. The body is important, and the elite went to great expense to mummify and entomb it for eternity. In death, though, a life force or spirit known as ka was immortal, and a soul known as ba, which was linked to personal attributes, fled the body after death.
Dr. Wegner said the concept of a soul held by the people at Sam’al “sounds vaguely Egyptian in its nature.” But there was nothing in history or archaeology, he added, to suggest that the Egyptian civilization had a direct influence on this border kingdom.
Other scholars are expected to weigh in after Dr. Schloen and Dr. Pardee describe their findings later this week in Boston at meetings of the American Schools of Oriental Research and the Society of Biblical Literature.
Lawrence E. Stager, an archaeologist at Harvard who excavates in Israel, said that from what he had learned so far the stele illustrated “to a great degree the mixed cultural heritage in the region at that time” and was likely to prompt “new and exciting discoveries in years to come.”
Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute, said the stele was a “rare and most informative discovery in having written evidence together with artistic and archaeological evidence from the Iron Age.”
The 800-pound basalt stele, three feet tall and two feet wide, was found in the third season of excavations at Zincirli by the Neubauer Expedition of the Oriental Institute. The work is expected to continue for seven more years, supported in large part by the Neubauer Family Foundation of Chicago.
The site, near the town of Islahiye in Gaziantep province, was controlled at one time by the Hittite Empire in central Turkey, then became the capital of a small independent kingdom. In the eighth century, the city was still the seat of kings, including Panamuwa, but they were by then apparently subservient to the Assyrian Empire. After that empire’s collapse, the city’s fortunes declined, and the place was abandoned late in the seventh century.
A German expedition, from 1888 to 1902, was the first to explore the city’s past. It uncovered thick city walls of stone and mud brick and monumental gates lined with sculpture and inscriptions. These provided the first direct evidence of Indo-European influence on the kingdom.
After the Germans suspended operations, the ruins lay unworked until the Chicago team began digging in 2006, concentrating on the city beyond the central citadel, which had been the focus of the German research. Much of the 100-acre site has now been mapped by remote-sensing magnetic technology capable of detecting buried structures.
This summer, on July 21, workers excavating what appeared to be a large dwelling came upon the rounded top of the stele and saw the first line of the inscription. Dr. Schloen and Amir Fink, a doctoral student in archaeology at Tel Aviv University, bent over to read.
Almost immediately, they and others on the team recognized that the words were Semitic and the name of the king was familiar; it had appeared in the inscriptions found by the Germans. As the entire stele was exposed, Dr. Schloen said, the team made a rough translation, and this was later completed and refined by Dr. Pardee.
Then the archaeologists examined more closely every aspect of the small, square room in which the stele stood in a corner by a stone wall. Fragments of offering bowls to the type depicted in the stele were on the floor. Remains of two bread ovens were found.
“Our best guess is that this was originally a kitchen annexed to a larger dwelling,” Dr. Schloen said. “The room was remodeled as a shrine or chapel — a mortuary chapel for Kuttamuwa, probably in his own home.”
They found no signs of a burial in the city’s ruins. At other ancient sites on the Turkish-Syrian border, cremation urns have been dated to the same period. So the archaeologists surmised that cremation was also practiced at Sam’al.
Dr. Stager of Harvard said the evidence so far, the spread of languages and especially the writing on stone about a royal official’s soul reflected the give-and-take of mixed cultures, part Indo-European, part Semitic, at a borderland in antiquity.

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD (NYT, November 18, 2008)