The Aftermath…

Thanks for everyone’s patience as the team took a much-needed rest after three weeks in the field. We’re still in the process of reviewing the thousands of photos and hours of drone footage, and over the coming weeks we’ll be making more posts about how the expedition unfolded day by day and week by week. This will include information on our discoveries, photos and some of the incredible aerial drone footage captured by our self-taught drone aviation expert, Kevin Floerke. The team will also be busy creating the requisite technical report for the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, and analyzing ceramics and other cultural material discovered.

To whet your appetite in the meanwhile, here’s a summary of some of the expedition highlights and some photos to accompany them:

When we last left the team, they were saying goodbye to Leo in Santa Maria. Afterwards, they drove the scary, rugged highway leading from there up the Santa Teresa valley below the snows of Salcantay, to the remote town of Yanama. Fortunately, Peter has many years of experience driving terrifying mountain roads.
Along the way, Kevin jumped out at the 4,600m Yanama Pass and took the first of many impressive drone videos. This one was of the La Cangreja, his 1986 Toyota Land Cruiser, coupled to a borrowed trailer.

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The Cangreja about to descend from the Yanama Pass

When the team finally arrived in Yanama at the end of a long and exhausting day’s drive, they found head mule wrangler Tiburcio Huarancca, his family, and some of the other mule wranglers waiting there to greet them. Also greeting them was the unnerving discovery that the welds attaching the Cangreja’s newly installed tow-bar and its trailer were hanging by a thread, foreshadowing certain difficulties for the return journey…

20160716-DSC_1747Kevin Floerke

Chet, Kevin and Americo peer into the small ceramic jug.

As the first week progressed, we began to explore and clear the thick brush off the platform we located during the 2013 Expedition. We realized that there were more structures than we had previously identified and also found copious surface ceramics, including an intact miniature jug of the kind used in ceremonial offerings. The passage of years had plugged it with dirt.

We began to put aerial drone through its paces at the same platform, and Kevin soon proved that he could fly it safely in the turbulent and unpredictable mountain air that initially had us worried.

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The drone that Kevin so capably flew

Later in the expedition, we realized that in the heavily forested area where we had expected to find more structures, such as buildings and platforms, we found a vast sweep of ancient farming terraces, whose full extent we never actually uncovered during the expedition. We counted 35 terraces without ever reaching the outer limit of the terraced area.

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A fish that one of our arrieros caught in the Yanama River

Our preliminary findings suggest that the Yanama river was a sharp frontier between Inca-dominated and non-Inca regions. On previous expeditions we found abundant evidence of Inca domination east of the river, where the Incas were apparently the overlords of a population from the same ethnic group whose remains we were now uncovering on the west side. Yet we saw no evidence at all that these same people to the west of the Yanama had Incas living in their midst. It became clear that for some reason the Incas had not directly taken over the west bank of the Yanama, even though it had been heavily farmed and populated. Why? is a mystery to be solved.

We undertook a brutally steep climb up to the Wiracochan ridgeline to investigate the platform and series of structures there. At the summit platform we found a deep looter’s pit that had not been there in 2013.  Fortunately it had missed the mark: the main part of the platform where we intended to excavate had escaped the looters’ notice.

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Kevin investigating the looters’ hole on the Wiracochan ridgeline

During the coming days and weeks we’ll try to fill in the gaps in this random series of events and highlights, to make some sort of sense of the extraordinary environment, landscape and history that we are in the process of uncovering.

That’s all for now!

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