How Archaeologists and Locals Are Protecting Ancient Ruins in Peru

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Around 30 miles outside Lima, Peru sits Pachacámac, an important pre-Columbian archaeological complex filled with palaces, temples, plazas, and pyramids. It’s named after Pacha Kamaq, the ancient Peruvian "Earth Maker" creator, and was first settled around 200 CE. During the pre-Inca and Inca periods, Pachacámac was an important political, cultural, and religious center. But today, thanks to overcrowding and a lack of public services, impoverished shantytowns in the outskirts of Lima threaten to swallow the historic site.

“Like many archaeological sites in Peru, urban growth has encroached on the area,” writes Carolyn Barnwell for National Geographic’s Explorers Journal. “The site’s perimeter walls create a drastic line between utter spaciousness in the sanctuary and crowded development. Opportunistic land developers periodically organize mobs to knock down the walls protecting the site and claim ownership of the land. The developers then sell the land to those looking to escape the Lima crowds.”

To help save Pachacámac, the site’s museum formed a partnership with the Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI), a nonprofit that connects traditional communities with business and work opportunities at archaeological sites. Together, they helped organize a group of local women into an autonomous organization called Sisan (which means “flowering” in the Quechua language). They make and sell artisanal products inspired by Pachacámac’s history and design. According to organizers, this collaboration helps the women financially, and allows them to develop a newfound interest in the site's preservation.

Watch the women of Sisan in action in the National Geographic video below.

[h/t National Geographic]