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Archaeology and Community Outreach in Coastal Peru

Archaeology and Community Outreach in Coastal Peru


From June to August 2017, a team of Peruvian and American archaeologists led by PhD student Elizabeth Cruzado and Adjunct Associate Professor Dr. Robert Connolly launched the first field season of the Nivín Archaeological Research Project. Nivín is located in coastal Ancash, in the middle branch of the Casma Valley, about 350km north of Lima, at an elevation of 250 MASL.

 This project aims to clarify the cultural affiliations of the ancient groups that occupied the middle Casma branch, in the Nivín area. The team of archaeologists carried out mapping and excavation operations, architectural mapping, surface collection, and analysis of associated materials. A priority of this season was to create a digital map of the Pan de Azúcar de Nivín site and document the extent of cultural remains. This is especially important and timely considering that the archaeological complex is under threat from modern agricultural expansion.

 The results of the excavations and the surface collection demonstrate that there were multiple stylistic influences in the ceramics at the Pan de Azúcar de Nivín, including cross-cultural influence of the transition from the Middle Horizon (600-1000 CE) to the Late Intermediate Period (1000-1450 CE) in the Casma Valley. Further analysis of the material culture will provide evidence for the role of the Pan de Azúcar de Nivín site in the cultural transformation of the Casma Valley.

 In addition to the archaeological fieldwork, the team assisted with improvements to the local museum and developed co-creative projects for the preservation of the local heritage. Some of these activities included:

  • Robert Connolly (LSU) coordinated the development of sustainable and co-creative projects for the preservation and promotion of the cultural heritage in Nivín.
  • Mary Avila (Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima) completed the inventory, classification and exhibition of modern faunal materials at the museum.
  • Natalie Kramm (LSU) conducted interviews with local residents as the basis to develop a strategic plan for the preservation of the cultural heritage of Nivín.
  • Dominique Giosa (LSU) brought her art skills to co-create a mural for the school that depicts the natural and cultural environment of Nivín.
  • Bryan Nuñez (Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima) led the photogrammetry of 26 complete vessels in the museum.
  • Jacob Warner (LSU) completed the identification, analysis and inventory of the shell remains at the museum.

 Besides the excavations and other fieldwork, the project aims promoting the role of archaeology in making the past relevant to area residents, preserve the cultural heritage for future generations, and strengthen local identities. After all, the cultural heritage belongs not just to the researchers, but to all.

 The 2017 fieldwork was funded by the Robert C. West Graduate Student Research Award from the Department of Geography and Anthropology at LSU, and the Curtiss T. and Mary G. Brennan Foundation. Excavations and community outreach work in Nivín will continue for the next two years.

 Special thanks to: students and teachers of the school No. 88104 “María Parado de Bellido”, community members of Nivín, Dr. David Chicoine, Gustavo Valencia, Monica Honores, Alicia Elliot, David Miller, and Benton Walters.