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The End of Another Exciting Season in Peru!

Sarah Kennedy is a zooarchaeologist investigating the lives of native Peruvians under Spanish rule in their colonial period. By analyzing the remains of animals in past settlements, she is able to piece together a mosaic of knowledge about how ancient people lived.

A sunset reflecting the waters of the Zaña River, near Zaña, Peru. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
A sunset reflecting the waters of the Zaña River, near Zaña, Peru. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)

The winding down of summer vacation here in the United States marks the end of our field season in Northern Peru. It will be hard to say goodbye to those beautiful Zaña sunsets! The excavations ended a few weeks ago and we’ve been working on finishing the analysis of all of our artifacts. Some of the exciting finds of the last few weeks include an almost-complete ceramic vessel, penguin bones, fish vertebrae with pathologies, fosslized animal feces (coprolites), and human hair!

An almost complete ceramic vessel found during excavations. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
An almost-complete ceramic vessel found during excavations. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
Peruvian archaeologists Karina Rubles and Sarita Fuentes use graduate soil seives to screen and separate soil found inside a ceramic vessel collected at the site. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
Peruvian archaeologists Karina Rubles and Sarita Fuentes use graduate soil seives to screen and separate soil found inside a ceramic vessel collected at the site. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
Fish vertebrae with the pathological condition hyperostosis. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
Fish vertebrae with the pathological condition hyperostosis. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
A coprolite (fossilized feces), most likely of a horse or pig, found in the Colonial sector of the site. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
A coprolite (fossilized feces), most likely of a horse or pig, found in the colonial sector of the site. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)

The last few weeks of our project were also filled with micro-archaeology, where we searched for small artifacts from soil samples collected at the site. We built a flotation machine to process the soil samples, and Peruvian student volunteers were in charge of pouring the soil samples into the machine and agitating the water so that the light materials would float to the top and the heavier artifacts would fall to the bottom. Then, the students bagged and collected the light material (mostly plant food remains) and the heavy material (stone tool fragments, small bones, ceramic fragments) separately to be analyzed later. The only problem that we ran into was the lack of water during our flotation processing! We would didn’t realize we used up all of our house’s water supply until it was too late—it sure made showers and dish washing difficult for a while!

Peruvian archaeologist Monica Sanchez pours a soil sample taken from the excavation into the project's flotation machine. Floating the soil samples helps recover small micro artifacts that might have been lost during regular screening in the field. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
Peruvian archaeologist Monica Sanchez pours a soil sample taken from the excavation into the project’s flotation machine. Floating the soil samples helps recover small micro-artifacts that might have been lost during regular screening in the field. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
Peruvian archaeologist Monica Sanchez agitates the water in the flotation machine, separating light fraction (botanical remains) from the heavy fraction (bone, ceramics, lithic remains) from a soil sample taken during excavation. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
Peruvian archaeologist Monica Sanchez agitates the water in the flotation machine, separating light fraction (botanical remains) from the heavy fraction (bone, ceramics, lithic remains) in a soil sample taken during excavation. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)

During my last few days in Zaña and northern Peru, I decided to climb the largest mountain near the town—Cerro Corbacho. The path to Corbacho was lined with corn field and fruit trees, and the view from the top was well worth the two-hour climb. I could see the entire Zaña Valley, with the small town of Zaña amounting to not much more than a few white dots below. The mountain has a lot of archaeological remains scattered around its base, though sadly it has been heavily looted and sacked by locals for centuries. The view of  thousands of looters’ holes, dotting the hillside like Swiss cheese, put me in a sad mood for part of the hike. Peru has a huge problem with site preservation and looting, and I hope to one day help educate the public about cultural heritage and proper site care and preservation!

Overall, the 2014 field season for the Zaña Colonial Archaeology Project has been very successful and we are really looking forward to upcoming seasons of work. Personally, through my research funded by National Geographic, I’ve learned a lot more about past human diet and food consumption at Carrizales and I am most excited by my findings that indicate human consumption of penguin, whale, and sea lion during the Colonial Period! I am also excited to take my data and conduct further statistical studies to better understand the human/animal relationship of the past in ancient Peru!!

Morning sunrise over Cerro Corbacho, near Zaña, Peru. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
Morning sunrise over Cerro Corbacho near Zaña, Peru. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
View of archaeological sites surrounding Cerro Corbacho. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
A view of archaeological sites surrounding Cerro Corbacho. The small holes that resemble Swiss cheese across the site are looters’ holes. Looting and archaeological site destruction remain a huge problem throughout Peru. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
Archaeologist Sarah Kennedy poses from Cerro Corbacho, with the town of Zana in the background. (Photo by Luis Segura).
Archaeologist Sarah Kennedy poses from Cerro Corbacho, with the town of Zaña in the background. (Photo by Luis Segura)
A view from Cerro Corbacho overlooking the Zana Valley. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy).
A view from Cerro Corbacho overlooking the Zaña Valley. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy).
Martin Segura points out some archaeological features from the top of Cerro Corbacho outside of Zana, Peru. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
Martin Segura points out some archaeological features from the top of Cerro Corbacho outside of Zaña, Peru. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
A beautifful sunset near Zana, Peru, illuminated the ruins of an early Colonial church. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)
A beautifful sunset near Zaña, Peru, illuminating the ruins of an early colonial church. (Photo by Sarah Kennedy)

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