They were given 5,000-year-old ruins to squatters supposedly belonging to the family claim site in the 1970s.
The ruins of the oldest city in the Americas have been invaded by illegal squatters, making death threats against Ruth Shady, the celebrated Peruvian archaeologist who discovered the 5,000-year-old civilization.
The threats came to different staff at the archaeological site at the height of Peru’s Covid 19 pandemic through phone calls and messages. They followed the news of the invasions of the ancient ruins of Caral to the police and prosecutors.
“They called the site’s lawyer and said if he continued to protect me, they would kill him and me and bury us five meters underground,”They called the site’s lawyer and said that if he kept defending me, they’d kill him and me and bury us five meters underground.
She said, “Then they killed our dog as a warning. They poisoned her as if to say, look what’s going to happen to you,”
This is not the first time that Shady has been targeted or threatened.
In 2003, during an attack on the 626-hectare archaeological complex, which was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2009, she was shot in the chest.
Shady and her team repeatedly called on the authorities to intervene after nine raids on the holy city during the pandemic era.
There is a sense that there is no authority working to safeguard our heritage and defend it.
That is a great concern,’ she said.
Squatters used a heavy excavator in July to knock down mud walls and break up the ground, damaging ancient ceramics, mummy-containing tombs, textiles and household objects before they could be stopped by police and site workers.
A police van now patrols the archaeological site day and night, as a result of Shady’s pleas, but little has been done to prosecute or expel the squatters.
As part of Peru’s divisive agrarian reform enforced by a leftist military dictatorship, the squatters are assumed to belong to a single extended family and claim the land was granted to them in the 1970s.
The assertion is contested by Shady: “They don’t have a single land title. The owner of the land is the Peruvian state.”
In December, a proposed eviction of one of the squatters was halted when a local prosecutor and official, despite having the help of police officers, refused to issue the order to proceed, Shady said.
As outsiders scramble to purchase land around the prestigious archaeological site, which is surrounded by a 56-square-mile buffer zone, land prices in the area have increased from about $5,000 per acre to as much as $50,000 per acre.
In 1978, Shady, who this year was named to the BBC’s 100 Women list, first visited Caral.
But it was not until 1994 that the ancient city was discovered and the site, which sits on an arid desert terrace overlooking the Supe River valley nearly 200 kilometers north of Lima, started to be excavated properly.
What she discovered was the “oldest center of civilization in the Americas,” identified by Unesco as “exceptionally well preserved,” with a complex architectural design featuring “monumental stone and earthen platforms and sunken circular courtyards.” 2627 BC was dated to organic material discovered at the site.
Shady and her team continue to investigate and excavate a dozen former settlements that were part of the Caral-Supe culture, half of the 24 found in the Supe Valley. Musical instruments such as flutes made from animal and bird bones and evidence of the production of multicolored cotton used for textiles have been brought to light by their findings.
We can’t allow it to continue to raid and ruin archaeological sites because it’s unwritten history and through our investigations we’re recovering that history,”We can’t allow archaeological sites to continue to be raided and destroyed because it’s unwritten history and we’re recovering that history through our investigations,” “If we can’t do that, it’s like burning a book that no one will ever read.”
I hope, because it has such an interesting message, we will continue to investigate and recover our past,”I hope we can continue to investigate and recover our history because it has such an interesting message,” “It was a very, very peaceful society. We didn’t even find a single walled settlement.”
“There’s a message there that we humans should live in harmony with nature,”There is a message that we humans should live in harmony with nature. “We are experiencing this pandemic in part because we are treating nature badly.”