Earthwatch expedition, Chankillo, Casma Valley, Peru, 2001

Location Chankillo: pre-Inca ruins in the desert of Casma Valley. Casma is 400 km north of Lima, Peru. Casma is a city with 40,000 along the pacific coast. The main economic activities are agriculture and tourism owing to archaeological sites nearby.
Members 11 Peruvian (1 leader, 6 archaeologists, 4 manual workers), 7 Americans (3 archaeologists, 4 volunteers) and 1 Japanese. Other local workers are also hired during daytime. The leader organized the project, and the results obtained here will be incorporated into his research. He is assistant Professor in Peru, and Ph.D. candidate at Yale, USA.
Languages Spanish and English. Though some people on Earthwatch say the language is not the primary factor, I think anybody must be fluent enough in Spanish or English since we have to communicate, interact, learn, teach, and appreciate. By the way, many local people can speak Quechua, which is the language of Inca.
Life We stayed in a hotel ON the beach. The refreshing wave sound is always there. 4-6 people lived in one bungalow, with private/shared rooms, depending on the luck. The hotel served dinner. Every bungalow is equipped with oil lumps, water showers and easily-broken toilets. Easier to pee in the sea.... Electricity and phone are unavailable, and water supply is very limited. The neighborhood is quiet since there are no structures nearby.
Work 6:45 a.m. -- 3:30 p.m. with lunch break for 45 mins. Excavation at pre-Inca structures. Stone-made structures such as palaces, plazas and towers remain although many of them have collapsed. The site is in the desert, but pretty close to the green area irrigated by a river. Every day begins from the chilly weather, and the sun comes up late in the morning to bring us strong sunshines and hotness. Harsh wind sometimes blows in the afternoon to make up a hard working condition; we are working WITH sand. Our archaeological work goes on repeating the following procedures
1.measurement, sketch, photos of the site
2.taking out big rocks which are collapses from walls or other structures
3.archaeologists define sites/sub-sites to work in
4.measurement, sketch, photos of the site (see photo)
5.dig down to find ground structures such as pillars and hearth. So called excavation (see photo)
6.In this stage, a lot of specimens like canes, woods, bones and shells are found. They are screened and preserved.
7.Brush up the site to prepare for photos.
If the site should be excavated more, go back to 3.
As a result of repeating procedures 3--7, the focused area is frequently renewed, and measurement, sketch and photos are taken very often even though they are time-consuming. The rational for this is excavation can never be repeated by its definition. The volunteers have to take notes about whatever they notice, in order to record this on-going but never-repeating process. Of course, newly discovered structures (e.g. pillars, terrace, hearth, walls, staircases) and specimens provide a lot of information for speculating on the society and the life of Pre-inca people.
Volunteer 2-3 volunteers joined one excavation team (called operation) lead by archaeologists. The archaeologists and manual workers taught us how to work. Our work was ..... very hard. Most of the time, we devoted ourselves to picking up rocks, collecting sand, and carrying them out of the excavation cite, and brushing for photos. Though hard, we had a lot of archaeologically important findings in two weeks. The volunteers are also expected to learn something from this project, provide any skills and ideas, and distribute our experiences after going back home. Particularly, the last point is important; if many people get interested in this research, or in Peruvian archaeology in general, it will help promote archaeology and tourism in Peru, directly/indirectly improving Peruvian living standards.
Other Activities Visit to Casma city, beach soccer, parties, swimming in the sea.
Foods Breakfast was at a trucker restaurant; bread with delicious fillings such as eggs, potatoes and tuna. Lunch was brief with fruits and biscuits which we carried to the site. The hotel provided monotonous but tasty Peruvian dinner such as corn soup, rice, chicken, beef, scrambled beans, purple corn juice (Chicha). On weekends, we went out to Casma for lunch to supply nutrition!?

Left: Measurement of the site (procedure 4). Right: When excavating, we sometimes find poisonous scorpions under big rocks (procedure 5)

Lunch in the ruins. Splendid view, isn't it?

Excavation in Peru

June 30
Move from Lima to Casma. Fortunately, the volunteers and staffs are friendly. Delicious Seviche, marinated seafood, was on lunch. Both Peruvians and Japanese eat raw fish. We wasted a lot of time by frequent stops requested by the police. They are checking transportation of drugs and arms, but in fact, they are not so serious in it. The brother of the hotel owner, who was together with us, talked with every police officer tacitly to escape from ridiculous inspections. Finally, we finally arrived at the hotel which literally faces the pacific ocean.

July 2
The first day of work. We started loading tools at six in the dark. After the short tour to give volunteers information about the project, we began excavation. Local workers and archaeologists kindly taught us how. Our work is not just to dig. We must follow the decision of archaeologists about what to dig, what to keep intact, where, how deep, or how neatly we should work. As a team, we must work efficiently, and must avoid destructing too many. Consequently, archaeological talents include more than field experiences and knowledge from books. Good archaeologists should be able to decide properly what area and what subject to work on, assign appropriate number of coworkers to each site, ask workers/volunteers to dig/brush how deep/neat, and conduct to everybody the meaning of current work logically and clearly. Of course, they must bear dirtiness and long stay out of home, too. Our leader definitely has it!

July 4
The first guy who falls on the ground is supposed to buy beer for everybody. I joined the bet since I never fall. Moreover, it is not likely that someone notices me to fall during the hard work even if I did. We went to work on the Independence Day, carrying tools and food. Hups! Somebody fell on the sand. Everyone is looking at me. No, it's an illusion! I am getting used to the work and schedule. Everyday passes fast although we work very hard. They prepared a surprise dinner party for Americans. We celebrated the Independence day with decorated flags, beer, special dinner with hamburgers, fireworks and songs! I pretended to be an American to enjoy the special dinner. It is amusing that hamburgers which the hotel specially prepared are the worst dish during the camp. That means Peruvian food is so good.

July 7
Dancing night in Casma city. A lot of local youngs are there in the dark disco. Disco is one of the main entertainment in Peru.

Playing football, a national sport in Peru. I had not played it for seven years though.

July 10
Excavation continues. We are trying to find walls, floors, and pillars buried under fillings and collapses of rocks and bunch of sand. Dig powerfully, and brush carefully. We also make friends with salamanders and scorpions living under big rocks. They look cute, but they are very ..... poisonous. It's so windy that I totally got dirty with sand. According to what they say, I am an alien machine armed with eyemask and work gloves. Oh, no!

An alien machine after working in a hard condition. Of course, I just pretended to be exhausted for a fun!

July 12
On the last day of work, we found out a few more pillars and a remain of hearth. Two weeks have passed so fast. Now, I don't mind dirty clothes, poor lunch, water shower etc... Everything is fitting me in two weeks. I have done a lot of things more than merely archaeology and sightseeing. I have experienced wild life styles, have known good people, and have seen a lot of Peruvian and American manners. In general, the members of a research project are often regarded as a minor factor, especially in science projects. But, it's not the case here. The leader organizes the project with great insight and prospect. At the same time, he wants to share experiences not only with other professionals but also with many others. And then, good archaeologists sympathize and cooperate him. A good team is constructed this way, the volunteers bringing in fresh flavor and different points of view. In relaxed moods, everyone is highly motivated to work for his/her own role, to result in high research performance as a whole. Science researchers like me should learn a lot from here.

Great members in Operation 4. The leader of the whole project (right), two archaeologists, four workers, and three volunteers.
Peru is the country which had president Fujimori. Though he is under criticism now, Peruvians as well as Americans have strong interests in Japan. Of course, they have only limited opportunities to meet Japanese. What I missed during the camp (during the whole travel also) is that I could not explain Japanese culture very well, not only because of my sucking English/Spanish skill, but because of the lack of knowledge about Japan. In particular, politics, religion, history and traditional culture such as tea ceremony or Haiku were beyond my scope. However, I can be proud of Japanese cultures, and they characterize Japan which underlie my background. By next time, I will get ready for telling them Japan, to exchange and to know Japan and myself.


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