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"Historic Conservation Project Begins at 'Machu Picchu of the North'", e-conservation magazine 22 (2011) pp. 14-17,

Historic Conservation Project Begins
at 'Machu Picchu of the North'



GHF has announced its newest conservation project at Marcahuamachuco, a site of Pre-Incan ruins often referred to by archaeologists as “Machu Picchu of the North” and the “Jewel of La Libertad”. Marcahuamachuco is set atop the nexus of three mountain valleys at over 10,000 feet (3,200 meters), overlooking the land and rivers below. Celebrated for its massive castillos (castles) and unique circular double-walled archaeological structures that predate the imperial expansion of the Incas and the Huari, Marcahuamachuco was constructed between 400-800 AD and became northern Peru’s most important political, economic and military center.

Located at an altitude of approximately 3,200 meters, Marcahuamachuco is one of the largest and most complex archaeological sites in the northern highlands of Peru. With its massive walls and impressive stone architecture that predates the imperial expansion of the Incas and the Huari, the site has intrigued and attracted travelers and researchers since Colonial times. Its construction dates back to around 400 AD, and before being conquered by the Incas, it became northern Peru’s most important political, economic and military center. Over many centuries, it has been damaged by natural factors and a lack of surveillance, but it remains one of the country’s most important archaeological sites.

From left to right:
Wall shoring at Marcahuamachuco.
Historic wall ruins at Marcahuamachuco. Photo by Johan Reinhard.
View from Marcahuamachuco. Photo by Johan Reinhard.
West side of the Marcahuamachuco  ruins. Photo by Johan Reinhard.

Global Heritage Fund (GHF), an international conservancy dedicated to saving endangered heritage sites in developing countries, is launching this newest conservation project at a special event to be held in the city of Trujillo on November 2nd, 2011. Following this event, the GHF team will journey from Trujillo to Huamachuco, passing through the most important archaeological sites from Moche culture (predating the Incas) to Chimu culture, until they reach the site of Marcahuamachuco.

GHF’s technical expertise will support its local partner, the Unidad Ejecutora Marcahuamachuco (UEM), in scientific planning, GIS and mapping, and archaeological conservation. In addition, GHF’s Preservation by Design® methodology will be applied to community development to promote employment of local conservation workers, training guides and artisan works to ensure long-term sustainability. Since March 2011, the UEM has been performing emergency actions at the site, including clearing vegetation and provisionally repairing the most damaged walls in advance of large-scale conservation. Currently, the UEM team includes 24 local workers from the town of Huamachuco.

Alejandra Figueroa, who has worked on many archaeological missions across Peru, serves as project director for GHF Marcahuamachuco, and is working closely with the UEM to ensure the best preservation practices and community development. “The GHF project represents a unique opportunity to use the latest technology to protect and preserve Marcahuamachuco, and to create a new management model in Peru combining public and private efforts to protect archaeological heritage”, said Figueroa.

“My personal stake in the preservation of Marcahuamachuco is twofold: as an archaeologist, I want to see the site protected and prepared to survive for many generations. As a Peruvian citizen, I cannot ignore the many needs of my country’s population, and the desire for improving their quality of life. Marcahuamachuco has great potential to become a major tourist attraction, and also to strengthen the bond between people from Huamachuco and their cultural heritage and Peru’s past — a process that hopefully will allow us to better understand our present and shape our future.”

With excellent potential to become one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the northern highlands of Peru, Marcahuamachuco will provide a major focus for economic development in an area with few opportunities for local communities. The heritage site of Marcahuamachuco is considered endangered and faces accelerating threats as the ruins degrade from grazing of livestock, lack of conservation, weathering, plant growth and the continued unchecked effects of natural elements on the ancient structures.

Marcahuamachuco is GHF’s second project in Peru, joining Chavín de Huántar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the high mountains of the Andes. Since 2004, GHF has been working in partnership with Stanford University’s Dr. John Rick and the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC) to preserve Chavín. GHF’s multistage methodology, called Preservation by Design®, has ensured Chavín de Huántar has the highest-caliber science, planning and training for archaeological conservation and community development.

“As our work at Chavín de Huántar has shown, GHF understands not only the need for responsible planning and development, but the sustainable economic potential of cultural heritage sites — not just in Peru, but in developing countries all over the world”, says Jeff Morgan, Executive Director of GHF.  In 2010, GHF funded the cataloging and conservation of thousands of Chavin artifacts which are now displayed in the new $4 million National Museum of Chavín and 60,000 people have already visited the site over the last year.

Much of Marcahuamachuco's history still remains a mystery - with the engagement of archaeologists, historians and the local community, the project will shed light on this important Peruvian treasure. Like so many of the country’s top heritage sites, it has suffered in the shadow of Machu Picchu for too long.

Visit GHF online and on Twitter to follow the trip to Marcahuamachuco @Global_Heritage.

About Marcahuamachuco, Peru [pdf]

Visit Marcahuamachuco on the Global Heritage Network (GHN)

About Chavin de Huantar, Peru [pdf]


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