Museum Blog

Teen Science Scholars Peru Update - August 3rd

Posted 8/3/2013 12:08 AM by Michele Koons | Comments
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By Kimi McBryde, 2013 Teen Science Scholar

 

August 3rd, 2013

We got up at about 7:30 am to go to an archaeological site called San Jose de Moro.  The same van from last night came to pick us up this morning.  It was about an hour and a half drive to the site, which was really cool because they had been working on uncovering a priestess and sacrifice victims in a burial ground.  There were 8 sacrifice victims buried with the priestess-2 adults and 6 children. The priestess is interesting because it's only the 8th skeleton of a preiestess to be found here, but the scientists are unsure of whether or not the skeleton is actually female or if it is a male dressed as a woman.  The skeleton is unusually tall for that time period, but the scientists can't make any determinations yet because of the placement of the bones and the manner in which they have to go about uncovering them.  This was a super cool experience and we were really lucky to be there and see what they were doing-Michele says she's only seen something like this once before and she's been working down here for years.  There was a fair amount of sitting around because Luis Jaime (the professor who has been working in this area for 23 years and who made it possible for Michele to do her dissertation research) was being interviewed by a bunch of different people and Ari and Michele had to talk to him after everything was settled.  The press was at Moro today because of the priestess skeleton, and they kept interviewing him.  We watched as they pulled out some of the copper pieces that had laid on her tomb and some of the pots that were with the sacrifice victims.  There were a lot of copper pieces surrounding the body, many illustrating oceans.  They pulled two big copper pieces out of the tomb today, a sea eagle and a mask.  There were apparently a lot of birds represented throughout the tomb.  Alongside the chamber there were many niches carved into the walls and they were filled with a big pot, that had been filled with many smaller pots.  There were a lot of pots that had faces on them and were a little creepy looking.  Airielle pointed out a couple of the workers who were originally looters of burial grounds, but who are now paid to do the excavations because they are so knowledgeable and careful with the artifacts.  It was interesting how the culture decides to use the looters to their advantage, rather than punishing them when their expertise is unmatched. 

Throughout the burial site, there were outlines of places that looked like they had been dug under, and Michele said that they were old excavation sites.  Once a site has been completely surveyed and all of the artifacts have been removed, the excavation site is filled in.  Throughout the same grounds, there were large pots where beer had been made.  Luis Jaime said that the presence of the pots and beer traces portrayed the idea that not only were the burial grounds sacred, they were places of celebration that people returned to.

On the Moro site, there is a clay shop.  Julio is an artist who is also a worker with Luis Jaime's team in the excavation.  Julio creates replicas of artifacts pulled up from the site using clay, paint, and techniques that would've been used when the originals were made.  We got to see his studio space and a beautiful piece he had been working on.  The detail on his artwork was exquisite, and you could tell how much time and energy went into each piece.  We even got to hold an original pot that had been brought up from the excavation-from the Moche time, around 700-900 A.D. 

There was a very sweet, sticky, smoky smell that Lauren and I noticed while we were waiting around at Moro and Ari later told us that it is the sugar cane being burned for harvest.  There is a huge amount of sugar cane here and Ari said that sugar cane, rice, and corn are the predominant agricultural goods here, but that there is a severe lack of water in areas because Peru is technically a desert.  On the way to the Moro site, we drove through a massive desert, where sugar cane was growing (in some places), and where archaeologists have done work on a foot road through the desert-people walked through that area and trace evidence had been found on, under, and around the road.  It's interesting to see that the no-man's-land that is the desert had actually been used to join people together, and that people had chosen to walk through the desert to meet up rather than walk through the mountains or walk through the coast. 

At around 2 pm, we went to lunch at a restaurant called Los Patos and it really sunk in how different the cultures are.  We all finished lunch early, while the Peruvians took their time and it seemed like food was always coming to their table. 

After lunch, we went to the hostal where Luis Jaime and his team are staying.  Part of his research is creating 3D computer models using photography-both of landscapes and of artifacts.  He uses a remote-control helicopter with a camera attached to take overlapping pictures of the sites so that the computer program can create a mesh of the images and therefore pull stratigraphy, detail, texture, location, color, etc., from the photographs and create an accurate 3D model that can be "flown through".  It was amazing to see the model of the burial ground where we were today and see all of the details that we missed-in a model.  Michele is super hyped about the model program because she wants to use those images in her talks and create one for Dr. Kachun to use in a planetarium show at the museum. 

On the way home from Luis Jaime's hostal, the driver was going crazy fast like usual.  There was a speed sign on the side of the road saying maximum speed was 60 km/h, and he was going 130 km/h at that point.  One thing I've noticed about Peru is that there is an excessive number of speed bumps everywhere-which is good considering how fast and crazy people drive here, but slightly uncomfortable to drive over as well.  Driving down the road, we encountered a roadblock of sorts and thought there was a bad crash due to the amount of traffic piled up and the people surrounding the trucks.  As we drove past the accident, we realized that it was a truck carrying rice that had turned over (the trailer had flipped, the cab was fine) and no one was hurt.  All of the people gathered around the accident were picking the rice up off of the ground and putting it in containers-bags and buckets mostly-and taking it home.  It was really shocking to see people doing that.  I didn't realize how poor this area is and how desperate people are for food. 

Today was just an amazing day.  I can't believe how lucky we were to see the priestess and watch the excavation of the Moro site.  It's only our second full day here and already it's been incredible.  The technology that Luis Jaime uses to further his research and the tools that those models open up to everyone is 100% incredible.  It really is amazing what technology enables us to do, and how it enables us to further our knowledge in ways that simply weren't possible just a few years ago.

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