How Archaeologists and Locals Are Protecting Ancient Ruins in Peru

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…

Space archaeologists need your help to protect ancient treasures

Machu Piccu
Machu Piccu

Peru’s most famous ancient site is Machu Picchu, which was founded by the Incas in the 15th century. Archaeologists are reaching out to the public to find other sites — and protect them from looting.

Thieves are stealing ancient artifacts in Peru and the country needs your help to stop them. You can join the adventure without even leaving home. Just put on your best Indiana Jones hat and log on to GlobalXplorer°.

This new website trains people to hunt for ancient ruins in satellite images. Maybe they will find a temple hidden in the jungle. Or pits dug by robbers trying to plunder that temple.

“This is just as much about protecting sites as it is about finding new sites,” says Sarah Parcak. She works at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. As an archaeologist, she studies human history and prehistory. Her work may involve using artifacts and other physical remains to learn about the past. Last year she won a $1 million prize. It’s given each year by the TED organization to support some big idea. Parcak used her money to create GlobalXplorer°. It turns regular people into “space archaeologists.”

Satellites look down on Earth from hundreds of kilometers (miles) above. They cannot see below the ground. But they can reveal clues on the surface that hint at what lies beneath. Space archaeologists use satellite images to scout for sites worth exploring.

Parcak and her team have already found thousands of interesting locations using space imagery. They discovered buried pyramids in Egypt and settlements the Vikings may have built in North America. But the team also has found signs of trouble. Last year, Parcak warned the world about thousands of holes dug in Egypt by looters. Looting is the stealing of valuable objects, and it often occurs during war or other times of social upheaval. Looting…

Power may have passed via women in ancient Chaco Canyon society

Pueblo Bonito
DYNASTIC CENTER Recovered DNA suggests that nine people buried in a huge structure called Pueblo Bonito (shown), located in northwestern New Mexico, belonged to a maternal dynasty that lasted for 330 years during the heyday of ancient Chaco society.

A maternal dynasty ruled one of the earliest and most mysterious civilizations in the Americas, centered in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, for more than three centuries, researchers say.

DNA extracted from the bones of individuals buried inside a massive Chaco stone pueblo or great house, along with new radiocarbon dates for interred bones, indicate that royal status ran through a particular maternal lineage from 800 to 1130, say Penn State archaeologist Douglas Kennett and colleagues. Chaco society flourished in what’s now the U.S. Southwest during that stretch (SN Online: 3/17/11). Recovered DNA provides the first direct evidence that Chaco civilization started out with stratified social classes in a system that had surprising staying power, the scientists conclude February 21 in Nature Communications.

Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the remains of nine people buried in Room 33 at Pueblo Bonito, the…

Are These the Skeletons of the First European Colonists in the U.S.?

When Hurricane Matthew roared through St. Augustine, Florida, in October 2016, many of the town’s historic buildings were damaged. But it wasn’t until a building owner decided to tear up a flooded floor to mitigate water damage that an historic discovery was made—what may be the skeletons of the earliest European colonists in the United States.

The city of St. Augustine was founded by admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who had sailed from Spain and spotted land in what is now Florida on August 28, 1565. Menéndez became the first governor of Florida, and St. Augustine was its capital for two centuries. Although Pensacola, Florida, is the oldest multiyear European settlement, founded by Tristán de Luna in 1559, St. Augustine, located in the northeast part of the state, wins the title for being the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the contiguous U.S.

Given the age of the city, St. Augustine’s archaeological team has worked for decades to shed light on various phases of occupation. In 1572, the town was relocated from a barrier island onto the mainland, following difficulties defending it from the Timucua Indians. Shortly after this move, the first parish churches were established: Nuestra Señora de la Soledad and, slightly earlier, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, the parish church of St. Augustine.

The sites of both churches, which were in use between the 16th and 18th centuries,…

International Art and Antiquities Trafficking Ring Busted By European Officials

European officials have arrested 75 individuals for allegedly trafficking stolen art and archaeological treasures, in a sweeping operation that dissolved an international crime ring, NBC News reports. More than 3500 artifacts and pieces of art were recovered, including a marble Ottoman tombstone, rare coins, and Byzantine/post-Byzantine artifacts.

Led by Spanish and Cypriot police, the operation—dubbed Operation Pandora—involved Interpol, the World Customs Organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and 16 other European countries. The transcontinental investigation was launched last fall, and arrests began in November.

Officials recently announced that Operation Pandora was a success. According to Europol, 3561 cultural objects were seized, nearly half of which were archaeological objects. Five hundred of them were discovered in…