Sunday, August 31, 2008
Stanford in Peru
I just got back from Peru this week, where I had an amazing experience excavating at the archaeological site of Chavín de Huántar. Seeing as it was Stanford-funded and headed by a Stanford professor, I thought I'd give a rundown of what we were up to (in case any of you would like to apply next year).
The site itself consists of the ruins of several large stone temples, many beautifully constructed labyrinthine galleries, the Square and the Circular Plazas, and Rocas, the extensive underground network of a stone canal drainage system. Site dating is a contested subject, but it was probably in its height around three thousand years ago. It's located in the Andean highlands, about a bumpy ten hour bus ride outside of Lima. For over a decade, Professor John Rick has been taking students to live in the small nearby town of Chavín for a summer and work at the site.
Our excavations this year were severely postponed due to a late approval by the Peruvian government, but once we got started, we worked in two areas: the North Atrium, an area near the Circular Plaza, and under the Circular Plaza in Rocas, the drainage canal. I worked in Rocas, which I absolutely loved and explored to the utmost extent: tiny, dark, humid, stone passages (but in an area without bats, thank goodness). And I mean tiny--we excavated in as little as 24cm of space.
Typical finds were ceramic sherds, animal bone fragments, and crude stone tools. Things got really interesting in Rocas right before we had to stop excavations--we found seven human skulls (probably from about 500BCE) within one meter of muddy sediment.
I highly recommend anyone vaguely interested in archaeology to check it out--let me know if you want more info. And the VPUE grants mean that it's a completely free trip to Peru (minus the shopping). I know there are a handful of other sites where Stanford goes, including Turkey and Italy, so it's worth a look.
P.S. You can check out my Peru pictures on Facebook...