I visited Huaricanga for the first time in 2 years yesterday in order to evaluate the state of the site’s preservation. To my surprise, the measures taken by PANC in 2007 had held up and the blue plastic and retaining walls were intact. Thus, I have hope that the beautifully plastered adobe walls and floors buried beneath are unharmed. Unfortunately, the same can not be said of the site itself. Although Huaricanga is protected by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture (the “proof” is seen here on the right), the community allows mining companies to pay for the rights to remove material (e.g. gravel, rocks, and dirt) for road construction. Although they have left the main mound intact, there are gaping holes in the middle of the plaza that threaten the stability of the huancas standing in the center of the site. While I sympathize with the community’s desire to support itself, at what risk? Furthermore, if such dealings are “above the board,” why does the mining ONLY occur in the dead of the night?
My other objective in visiting the site was to create a high resolution map of the surface. I used a Leica TPS1200–a fancy piece of surveying equipment like you see road crews using back in the U.S.–to take points on the surface of the area targeted for excavation. Each point provides a X, Y, and Z coordinate. For all of its bells and whistles, the machine is notoriously difficult to balance (think a woodworking level with a bubble that is precise at the sub-millimeter level) and you need to know at least two points already before you can survey. These known points have been marked with large nails hammered into the ground 5 years ago. Needless to say, it is like finding a nail in a rock stack that is 500 acres. After a miraculously quick setup I spent the day taking over 4,400 points. Each point is taken remotely with a stadia rod topped with a prism that the Total Station machine follows automatically. I will put together the 3D map using the ArcGIS program and post the map soon, but I have already posted pictures from the survey in the Photo page of this website.
The most adorable surprise of the day, however, had to have been the huaqueros, or looters, who had been “plundering” the site. These baby swallows, known as Santa Rosa here in Peru, have burrowed under a few rocks in the canal profile. It is really amazing how they are able to simply perch on the side of a rock face and not fall. Fortunately, they do look grown enough to leave the nest before we actually start digging in July. Speaking of which, July is nearly here and I hope to have news of a permit soon, so stay tuned!