CRM Journal


Cultural Resource Management and Heritage Stewardship in Peru

by Helaine Silverman


As peoples around the world gained independence from colonial regimes, many felt the need to mark and further their emergence as free countries. Various ideological and material projects contributed to the process of nation-building, also described as the forming of "imagined communities."(1) The creation of national museums and national laws governing the remains of ancestral cultures often rapidly followed the overtly political actions undertaken in the nascent postcolonial era by these new states. As cultural anthropologist Richard Handler has argued, "possession of a heritage, of culture, is considered a crucial proof of national existence."(2) One might add that possession of a heritage is also proclaimed by national leaders as crucial proof of worth on today's global stage.(3)

Peru is a prime example of these processes because the coastal and highland regions of its vast national territory are not only dotted with abundant monumental sites of the great Inca Empire and pre-Inca civilizations but also peopled by millions of their descendants. This article considers the functional meanings of cultural resource management and heritage stewardship in Peru in terms of Peru's history and evolution. In particular, it examines the dynamics and tensions (even contradictions) of cultural resource management and stewardship as functions of national ideology, legislation, and global tourism. It concludes with comments on some of the contemporary uses of Peru's past and speculation about its future.(4)

Heritage or Patrimony

The index in David Lowenthal's outstanding book, The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History, has a series of entries for "patrimony" followed by directions to "see also heritage."(5) The entries for "heritage" are even more extensive and are followed by the complementary indication to "see also history, patrimony." Indeed, as used by Lowenthal, one of the most precise and articulate authors on the subject, the terms are synonymous, as seen in the following passage—

The world rejoices in a newly popular faith: the cult of heritage…only in our time has heritage become a self-conscious creed, whose shrines and icons daily multiply and whose praise suffuses public discourse. Regard for roots and recollection permeates the Western world and pervades the rest. Nostalgia for things old and outworn supplants dreams of progress and development….Once the term patrimony implied provincial backwardness or musty antiquarianism; now it denotes nurturance and stewardship.(6)

Handler, one of the first scholars to write on this topic, almost always uses the term, patrimoine, in his critical analysis of nationalism and the politics of culture in Québec. He deconstructs Québécois usage of patrimoine as referring to "old things…tangible…historic buildings and monuments, antiques, ethnographic objects, and works of art…[including] animate objects and famous people as well as inanimate objects."(7) In his English parsing, patrimony and heritage appear equally synonymous. Citing a Québécois author's statement that "language is an important part of our patrimoine, of the common property of the Québécois," Handler concludes that "the French language is often described as an important part of Québec's heritage."(8)

It is important to consider the words patrimony (patrimonio) and heritage (acervo) in Spanish and as used in Peru today because their semantic differences result in different practices. The Diccionario de la Lengua Española of the Real Academia Española and its 21 affiliated academies define patrimonio as the "wealth that one inherits from one's ancestors, the sum of values assigned to resources that are available to a country for use in economic life and goods belonging to the Crown." In this definition, there is an intrinsic utilitarian sense. In Peru, manejo del patrimonio cultural (management of the cultural patrimony) is the conceptual equivalent of cultural resource management in the United States. The cultural patrimony in Peru encompasses archeological (pre-Hispanic) sites and Colonial Period monuments (churches and mansions, for example).

The Diccionario de la Lengua Española defines acervo as the "totality of goods (moral, cultural) accumulated by tradition or inheritance, pertaining to communities of various people." These communities could include the "nation" or, on a smaller scale, business partners and co-inheritors. Acervo has the semantic sense of the cumulative repository of those works that in their totality (knowledge, beliefs, practices, objects, and so on) define that which is particular to or characteristic of a human group and differentiate that group from others. Acervo implies works that are valued and considered culturally authentic by virtue of their history and symbolic prestige.

Although Peru has laws concerning site protection, it lacks an explicit philosophy of heritage stewardship in the sense of the Society for American Archaeology's first principle of archeological ethics—

It is the responsibility of all archaeologists to work for the long-term conservation and protection of the archaeological record by practicing and promoting stewardship of the archaeological record. Stewards are both caretakers of and advocates for the archaeological record for the benefit of all people…they should…promote public understanding and support for its long-term preservation.(9)

Heritage stewardship is seen differently in Peru, in socially engaged and indigenist terms, as—

giving voice to those who today have no voice because they are the ancestors of the deprecated popular sector of society or are ancestors of those who do not have valid representatives to argue for their rights, this being an outcome of the Spanish Conquest and their allies from other lands… We want to contribute to bettering the conditions of life of those who, in one way or another, made possible our existence in this land and who are the real inheritors of those goods that our ancestors created.(10)

The concepts of heritage and patrimony are social constructions with policy implications. Far from being inherent sentiments, concepts of cultural patrimony and cultural heritage imply value judgments about those sites, objects, and traditions that are considered worthy of being conserved and managed, and those that are not. The sites that in their totality comprise the cultural patrimony (resources) of a nation-state may be rearranged in any number of compositions according to the needs of the time, especially economic and political necessities.(11) Contemporary circumstances, in turn, determine which history of the past is told and which heritage the nation constructs and references.(12)  Both cultural patrimony and cultural heritage are dynamic and mutable, rather than unchanging and bounded phenomena.

It follows, then, that heritage stewardship and cultural patrimony (resource) management encompass the social circulation of sites in and out of circuits of perceived and actualized value or worth. Social action taken upon sites can—and frequently does—transcend national borders, as seen in the power structure underwriting concerned international intervention in the management of ancient archeological and historic sites in the developing or underdeveloped world. These actions are premised on the notion, which is promoted by UNESCO under the banner of World Heritage, that a country's patrimony is a heritage belonging to all humankind.(13) National ideology and approaches to heritage management may or may not conflict with that universalizing assertion.(14)

National Ideology in Peru

The preceding semantic analysis is important when discussing Peru because of how deeply felt the patrimonio cultural of Peru is. It is conceived as an inheritance (herencia) from the ancestors. Ricardo Marcenaro Frers, President of the Protocol Commission of the Peruvian Congress, expresses this sentiment succinctly: "It is our obligation as…citizens to preserve our cultural patrimony because it is our inheritance. An inheritance of which we Peruvians are very proud."(15)

This inheritance from the ancient Peruvian civilizations has been recognized as important to the nation since the creation of the independent territorial state in 1821, and it serves as the foundation of Peru's national ideology. By 1822, authorities had issued the first decreto supremo, or executive decree, regulating the protection and conservation of the patrimonio cultural. That decree, which also created the National Museum, states—

The monuments that remain from ancient times of Peru are the property of the Nation because these pertain to the glory that derives from them…the time has come to put to a national use all the exquisite things that our soil produces… With pain it has been seen that here unappreciated objects are sold and taken to where their value is known, thereby depriving us of the advantage of possessing that which is ours… [Therefore] the extraction of rocks, ancient pieces of pottery, and other objects that are found in the huacas [artificial mounds] is absolutely prohibited, unless the government grants an express and special license.(16)

In 1840, the government sent a letter to the prefects of all departments (states) of Peru explicitly requesting them to encourage citizens to donate their antiquities to the National Museum because "it is a duty of the Government to seek to enrich the National Museum with all those objects that the country produces…with Peruvian antiquities and other precious items."(17)

The symbolic significance of the National Museum is confirmed by the fact that invading Chilean troops sacked the museum in Lima during the War of the Pacific (1879-1883). Peru had no national museum from the fall of Lima in January 1881 until 1905, when President José Pardo re-founded it, stating that the "culture of the country demands the formation of a museum that contains, conserves and exhibits to the public…those objects that are related to our history in the epoch prior to Spanish domination."(18) This emphasis on the pre-Conquest era was still expressed in 1980 when then-director of the National Institute of Culture, Ricardo Roca Rey, referred to Peru's millennial culture as the foundation and origin of its nationality ("El Perú milenario, base y origen de la nacionalidad").(19)

As recently as 2000, the President of the Congress of Peru stated that "[p]atrimonial properties must be rehabilitated and their cultural content must be disseminated as must be their capacity as a symbolic force for the consolidation of local identities and the national identity."(20) This statement is more sophisticated and self-aware than those of the previous two centuries, yet the same national ideology underwrites them all. Although the Colonial Period constitutes the other half of Peru's readily admitted condition of mestizaje (racial and cultural mixture of indigenous and Spanish-European), official statements and actions repeated over centuries clearly indicate that the ancient pre-Columbian civilizations, especially the Inca Empire, are the foundation upon which the Peruvian nation builds its pride and forms the identity that is projected back to citizens and packaged for the world under the rubric of global tourism.(21)

Legal Framework

The office charged with implementing the spirit and essence of Peru's cultural patrimony legislation is the Instituto Nacional de Cultura or INC (National Institute of Culture). It was created in 1970 as a decentralized public entity within the Ministry of Education and was a direct outcome of the 1968 coup d'état that brought a progressive military government to power. The revolutionary government's overriding concern was agrarian reform and the integration and valorization of Peru's disenfranchised and impoverished indigenous population. Under General Juan Velasco Alvarado, the state took particular interest in Peru's past as a means of empowering the living descendants of the great pre-Columbian civilizations.

Arguably, the greatest difference between manejo del patrimonio cultural in Peru and cultural resource management in the United States is constitutional in nature. Unlike the United States Constitution, which limits state authority over private property, Peru's Constitution asserts national sovereignty over all buried and standing archeological sites of any size, kind, or time period within the national territory.(22) Peruvian law addressing the management of the cultural patrimony is couched in this sense of state ownership.

The major laws protecting Peru's cultural patrimony—both unmovable remains and portable objects—have evolved since 1822. In Peru's era of professional archeology, which began in the early 20th century, there have been two principal cultural patrimony laws, Laws 6634 and 24047.(23) Promulgated in 1929, Law 6634 reiterated the nation's claim to all pre-Hispanic remains on private property with the exception of artifacts and antiquities already in the possession of individuals when the law was enacted. Among other provisions, the law obligated the government to develop a national archeology program and to provide its local branches (municipalities, police, and so on) with sufficient resources to implement and enforce it (a provision that has never been met in any iteration of Peru's cultural patrimony law).(24)

Preceded by several other largely reiterative laws, the first major revision of Law 6634 took place in 1985 and was promulgated as Law 24047. The law went into much greater detail about the particular national, regional, and local offices responsible for the identification, protection, investigation, restoration, and maintenance of archeological remains, along with the dissemination of knowledge about them. Overall, it strengthened Law 6634, especially by recognizing that archeological remains were distinct from historic ones and thus required special treatment. The context of Law 24047 was the government of the populist president, Alan García, whose APRA party (Partido Aprista Peruano) had long used an image from Peru's millennial Chavín "mother culture" as its symbol. García was also responsible for the creation of a new archeological museum in Lima, the Museo de la Nación, which to this day co-exists with the older National Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, now the National Museum of Anthropology, Archaeology, and History.

In 2003, the Peruvian Government issued several more decrees and laws affecting the cultural patrimony. These new decrees signal a departure from the centralizing impulse that had shaped cultural resource policy in Peru since the early 19th century. Executive Decree No. 017-98-PCM (May 7, 2003) facilitates the granting of property titles to squatter populations on archeological sites. Law 26961 (May 29, 2003) grants the Ministry of Trade and Tourism control over those sites deemed to have potential value for tourism and obligates the INC "and other public and private entities that protect or administer the Cultural Patrimony" to invest at least 70 percent of the income from museums and monuments "in the maintenance, conservation, recovery and security of the Cultural Patrimony." Executive Decree No. 008 (June 5, 2003) permits abandoned state lands, even those with archeological sites, to be transferred into private development hands unless the INC has previously presented a legal brief documenting the existence of ruins and their precise locations, complete with maps and a description of materials present at the site. This decree appears to contradict the fundamental constitutional premise that the cultural patrimony belongs to the nation.(25)

Challenges to Preservation

Although Peru has deemed its cultural patrimony as crucial to a sense of national identity, that patrimony is impacted by shifts in ideology and management practices. It is also directly affected by global tourism and economic development. Although Lowenthal has argued that "[we] sustain organic touch with heritage not by striving to preserve its every vestige forever, but by accepting attrition and mortality as inevitable, and by pridefully adding our own creations to ancestral bequests," his premise, while healthy, is not universally accepted.(26) In Peru, the rudiments of site mitigation (identify, investigate, record, destroy) or liberación de terreno are not often applied, even at the most redundant of non-monumental sites. An ideology of intangibilidad—the idea that no site may be destroyed, even after study—characterizes the general approach to management of the archeological record. Thus, whereas in the United States it is typical to want to conserve and "superbly manage" only the most spectacular of sites and leave "the run-of-the-mill everyday landscape devoid of control or care" (bearing in mind, however, that a staggering 80,000 properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places), in Peru, all sites are regarded as important, which can result in a sizeable stewardship burden on the nation.(27)

As in other countries, budgetary constraints in Peru make it difficult to protect more than the most important sites because of the country's size, the remote locations of many of its archeological sites, the lack of resources with which to patrol the countryside, and the determination of those involved in the illegal antiquities trade.(28) Global tourism poses its own set of challenges, and in the case of Peru, it has already had impacts on the nation's most cherished sites, including the ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu, one of six of Peru's archeological sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List and the cultural sine qua non of the modern Peruvian national identity.(29) Machu Picchu is responsible for the vast majority of tourism to Peru and a major economic engine for metropolitan Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, the modern capital of the Department of Cusco, the "tourist capital of Peru," "archaeological capital of South America," and the predominant contemporary point of access to Machu Picchu.(30) As a result, any major management decisions affecting Machu Picchu are destined to have a major economic impact on the Cusco region and the nation.(Figure 1)

Cover of "Salvemos lo nuestro!"

Figure 1. The manual Salvemos lo nuestro! helps raise awareness of the importance of caring properly for Peru's cultural patrimony. (Courtesy of the author.)

Global tourism and economic development have also had unanticipated social consequences. In Cusco, tourist services have pressed against the city's historic district and have claimed physical and social space.(31) In the small city of Nazca on the south coast, which is noted for the great geoglyphs on the nearby plain, increased tourism has contributed to rapid urban growth and sweeping demographic changes.(32)

A different scenario has emerged in the Lambayeque Valley on the north coast, where the past is much more monumental and visible than in Nazca. On the one hand, there is now a massive re-identification with the ancient Mochica people who created spectacular monuments in the valley, including the widely publicized gold-filled tombs at Sipán.(33) Local interest in the ancient past is broad and intense. Some people identify specifically with the post-Mochica Sicán culture of the Ferreñafe area, which is famous for its pyramids and rich tombs.(34)

On the other hand, global tourism has exacerbated the inequalities between town and countryside. The discovery of spectacular tombs at Sipán led to the construction of a state-of-the-art multi-million dollar museum for the recovered materials, but not at their place of discovery in the countryside. Rather, the museum was created in Lambayeque, a small city some 35 kilometers away that has burgeoned into a major tourist destination. The impoverished farmers living alongside the site at Sipán continue to demand basic public services and lament the physical loss of their heritage and their rights, as local stakeholders, to ownership of the past.(35)

Creative Approaches

Despite the challenges, people are making concerted efforts to achieve an effective level of cultural resource management and heritage stewardship in Peru. Some archeologists at the INC in Lima and the regional offices go to considerable lengths to protect the archeological sites in their jurisdictions, getting media attention, taking legal action, and running educational programs to educate the public about the value of the past.

With support from UNESCO's Peru office, the INC published Salvemos lo nuestro! (Let's Save That Which Is Ours!), an excellent and inexpensive manual for teachers and local and regional authorities. Printed in at least three editions since 1980, Salvemos lo nuestro! presents both the cultural and natural patrimony of the country in the readily understood and entertaining format of a comic book.(Figure 1) Intended for mass distribution, the manual has three goals: to facilitate teaching about cultural and natural patrimony; to assist local authorities in complying with Peru's laws and disseminating knowledge about them; and to instill in all Peruvians—

a conscience about the value of Peru's natural and cultural riches for each individual and to suggest some concrete activities that can be undertaken by schools and communities to eventually help protect Peru's patrimony by means of fomenting in the population a legitimate pride in that which is theirs.(36)

Currently, the INC is promoting concern for the wide range of objects and traditions that constitute the nation's patrimonio within the ideological context of diversidad cultural (cultural diversity).

An array of public and site museums, archeological parks, and state-managed archeological sites fall under INC oversight. Site museums can be the first line of defense for archeological sites since the physical presence of a resident archeologist or a community organization can deter looters. These museums also present fascinating information about the site and region that can serve to instill local pride, generate employment, and thus contain or reduce the site destruction caused by agricultural, industrial, and other economic development projects.

A number of privately funded innovative site museum and museum-related projects have borne significant fruit in recent years. The National Sicán Museum (NSM) was created by Izumi Shimada and Carlos Elera with Japanese funding but functions within the national system of museums. Located in Ferreñafe, the NSM is a state-of-the-art facility with exhibition and research areas. Importantly, it displays only materials that were scientifically excavated, and along with exquisite objects excavated from rich Sicán tombs, the museum presents a holistic vision of the Sicán culture, including environment and the daily life of commoners and craft production.

In an effort to engage the local population in their activities and to engage tourists in the local community, archeologists Luis Jaime Castillo and Ulla Holmquist have designed a system of modest modular museum exhibits. The exhibits have been placed throughout a poor rural community in the Jequetepeque Valley on whose occupied lands the archeological site of San José de Moro was found. By dispersing the exhibits, the archeologists seek to motivate tourists to walk through town, availing themselves of its various services such as food kiosks and handicrafts.

The site museum in Pucará was created by Rolando Paredes, Graciela Fattorini, and Elizabeth Klarich in collaboration with the local office of the INC and archeologists from University of California, Los Angeles. The museum is located alongside Pukara, one of Peru's great monumental sites. Here their intention is manifold: to store excavated materials from the projects conducted at Pukara; to teach local people about their past (for here they are clearly the descendant community) and instill pride of self and place; to promote craft production as a viable commercial enterprise (notably pottery, for which Pucará has long been famous); to place Pucará and Pukara on the south highland tourist circuit to generate income through visitor admission fees, purchase of handicrafts, and employment of local people as guards and guides; and to further community involvement, public education about cultural resources, and site protection.

Mention also must be made of the exceptional vision of Ruth Shady Solis, one of Peru's foremost archeologists, who has been working at the enormous and precociously complex Late Archaic-Late Preceramic site of Caral for 10 years.(37) Shady is trying to create an agricultural-ecological tourism program to better the lives of local farmers and to open Caral to archeological tourism that also will generate income in the area. She is promoting the organic cultivation of traditional crops whose paleobotanical remains are recovered at Caral, the production of cotton garments using the traditional colored cotton species also found at Caral (and widely along the coast of Peru), honey production, and artisanal crafts. Among her innovative ideas is a chain of kiosks for marketing these goods outside Caral. Her stated intent is that the local population identify with the cultural patrimony on the basis of the benefits to be received from it.

Non-archeologically motivated adventure tourism also can have a major impact on archeological sites. Justin Jennings describes the camping and tramping of whitewater rafters who collect potsherds, remove textiles from mummies, and climb fragile stone walls at remote sites.(38) These visitors also leave behind organic and inorganic debris. Their actions are the result of ignorance and curiosity. Jennings is working with adventure tour companies to promote effective archeological stewardship for long-term site preservation and protection. Measures for sustainable tourism include designating camping grounds, removing all waste generated by visitors, creating routes around archeological sites, training river guides about the archeology of the region (the Cotahuasi Valley in southern Peru), and cooperating with local villagers.

The Future of Peru's Past

Pride is at the crux of the relationship between heritage stewardship and nationalism in Peru. Lowenthal has proposed that "[to] care well for what we inherit we must form the habit of admiring our own works too."(39) The reification of the Incas and other great pre-Columbian civilizations contributes to a pervasive official and vernacular discourse of lament about the cultural underdevelopment of contemporary Peru. This phenomenon resembles Michael Herzfeld's "structural nostalgia" through which people long for an age before the present nation-state and—

use images of a lost perfection to try to explain away the sorry state of today's world…they invoke images of a now-vanished condition of perfect social harmony and blame the outside world [in the case of Peru: the Spanish Conquest and subsequent Spanish Colonial regime] for the present state of moral [and practical] disintegration.(40)

Whereas Handler observes a general "proliferation in the number of social domains considered capable of generating heritage," in Peru it is the archeological past, above all, that generates heritage—for the nation-state at least.(41)

Luis G. Lumbreras, current director of the INC, articulates this idea, saying—

[in] contemporary Peru we must know the manner in which our ancestors understood life and faced its challenges. Peru today must look to the future with respect and knowledge about the past. Peru today must constantly recall that which it has and propose new forms to enter the road of modernization with its own styles and content.(42)

This heritage is not solely claimed by the nation-state. Individuals and communities are making similar assertions for a range of intensely personal as well as civic reasons.(43) On the north coast, for instance, volunteer "citizen brigades" of local farmers are patrolling the Lambayeque landscape in an effort to curb looting of the region's extraordinarily rich archeological sites. They explain their motivation as "respect for their ancestors" and express consternation that "outsiders from the city" are looting for profit (as opposed to local people who loot for subsistence).(44) But in Nazca, on Peru's south coast, where the geoglyph-marked plain nearby has transformed the town into an international tourism destination, residents identify less with or express an interest in the ancient inhabitants of the region.(45)

The future of Peru's past is challenging yet promising. There is a clear perception among the majority of the coastal and highland populations that the national identity is strongly predicated upon the pre-Columbian civilizations, especially the Incas. Tourism is constantly spoken about in the media and official discourse (including that of rural municipalities), with archeological sites being widely recognized as Peru's major selling point.(46) In addition, national and foreign archeologists are becoming increasingly involved in development projects at the sites where they work, and site museums are beginning to figure prominently in these efforts. The INC and Ministry of Education are committed to teaching about the ancient civilizations of Peru as part of the nationwide mandatory school curriculum. However, cultural resource management is seldom taught at the university level.(47)

The archeology and affiliated communities also benefit from a vigorous and rigorous publication regime that can be seen in the superb themed journal edited by Peter Kaulicke at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Arqueología PUCP (recent volumes are the product of major international conferences held at the university); the fine contributions that have appeared in the sporadically published Gaceta Arqueológica Andina, Arqueológicas, and Arqueología y Sociedad; several outstanding volumes on Mochica archeology published by the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo in partnership with other institutions including the PUCP; and major edited volumes sponsored by the cultural offices of various Peruvian banks and businesses (those produced by PUCP archeologist Krzysztof Makowski are exemplary).

With better funding from the state and continued private and public efforts locally, Peru's cultural patrimony may still be protected. By and large, the Peruvian public is well aware that tourism is predicated upon the remains of ancient civilizations. Even remote communities are trying to attract tourists to their archeological sites, and these communities realize that looting is counterproductive. The national government views the past as a marketable resource and a tool for promoting an ideology and a national identity. A better balance will have to be achieved between preservation and development, laws enforced, and realistic heritage management plans put in place if effective stewardship is to be achieved.

The community development efforts currently underway at site museums may well mark the beginning of a viable Peruvian model of site management. Site museums are feasible in Peru precisely because of the patrimonial wealth of the nation. Fascinating, visible sites abound in every valley of the coast and highlands. Museums at the more impressive of these sites can anchor regional strategies for cultural resource management, including non-touristic but nevertheless archeologically important sites, and thereby lead to a meaningful concept and practice of heritage stewardship. Strategies emanating from site museums would be decentralized and bottom-up rather than centralized and top-down, which could greatly increase their chances for success. Indeed, as one Bolivian case study has revealed, local communities themselves may generate the request for a site museum rather than it being suggested by archeologists.(48)


The closer the communication, alliance, and equality between local communities and archeologists, the greater the chance for success in many areas, including coordinated programs of site protection against looting; field investigation of archeological sites so that they are places of scholarly investigation and local employment (from laborers on excavations to site guides, guards, crafts sellers, and hostellers); survey and the prioritization of sites; and the targeting of excavations and effective mobilization of archeologists and other experts in advance of planned new development.

A true measure of the full impact of global tourism, economic development, government policy, and the creative efforts of concerned individuals and organizations locally and worldwide on the management of Peru's archeological sites might be years away. Peru nevertheless offers valuable insight into the issues and challenges faced by developing countries in which cognate economic constraints, political ideologies, and related long-term social problems exist.

The Peruvian case is particularly resonant with the management of heritage in developing countries where nation-building and the construction of a national identity may rely heavily on the interpretation and showcasing of the archeological patrimony. If these sites are well managed, they can continue to play a positive role in the aesthetic, intellectual, and ideological efflorescence of a nation on the world stage.


About the Author

Helaine Silverman is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and co-directs the university's Collaborative for Cultural Heritage and Museum Practices. She conducted many years of archeological fieldwork on the south coast of Peru and is now studying archeological tourism and its impact on identity production and representation in the cities.



1. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983); Richard Handler, Nationalism and the Politics of Culture in Quebec (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), 6-8.

2. Handler, 142.

3. One need only think of the repeated public references to Mesopotamia as the cradle of Western civilization made by Tariq Aziz, former Foreign Minister of Iraq.

4. This article is written from the perspective of an archeologist who, like all archeologists working in Peru, whether Peruvian or foreign, has interacted frequently with the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC). The author has observed it as an institution, both firsthand and through frequent newspaper accounts over many years.

5. David Lowenthal, The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

6. Ibid., 1.

7. Handler, 140.

8. Ibid., 141, emphasis added.

9. Mark J. Lynott and Alison Wylie, eds., Ethics in American Archaeology, Second Revised Edition (Washington, DC: Society for American Archaeology, 2000).

10. See the Colegio de Arqueólogos del Perú (COARPE) website,, accessed on October 17, 2005. Translated by the author.

11. A striking example is former President Alberto Fujimori's appropriation of Chavín de Huantar, Peru's millennial "mother culture." See Helaine Silverman, "Archaeology and the 1997 Peruvian Hostage Crisis," Anthropology Today 15 no. 1 (1999): 9-13.

12. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1995).

13. UNESCO maintains that "[w]hat makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located." See UNESCO World Heritage Centre,, accessed on October 19, 2005, and March 8, 2006.

Although 180 countries have signed the World Heritage Convention, tension nevertheless may develop when UNESCO intervenes in the heritage management of a participating state. Archeologist Steve Vinson has characterized UNESCO as a dominant form of political organization, created in the first era of globalization, which enforces "particular types of attitudes toward the past and its material remains. [It] create[s] the concept of heritage as a kind of property that has to be managed and used for the benefit of its putative owners." Similarly, archeologist Denis Byrne argues that, through paradigms such as World Heritage, Europe has exported its model of archeological practice to less developed countries in a continuing expression of colonialism, albeit through the transfer of ideology rather than imposition, which has resulted in a worldwide uniform style of archeological heritage management that is premised on the archeological construction of universal significance—the goal, according to him, of processual archeology. See Steve Vinson, "From Lord Elgin to James Henry Breasted: The Politics of the Past in the First Era of Globalization," in Marketing Heritage: Archaeology and the Consumption of the Past, ed. Yorke Rowan and Uzi Baram (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2004), 57-65; also Denis Byrne, "Western Hegemony in Archaeological Heritage Management," History and Anthropology 5 (1991): 269-276.

14. In a thoughtful essay on managing archeological heritage sites, Kristian Kristiansen reminds us not only that there are different national visions of appropriate heritage management, but also that each age "has its own conception of what is important," contingent upon science and politics. See Kristian Kristiansen, "Perspectives on the Archaeological Heritage: History and Future," in Archaeological Heritage Management in the Modern World, ed. H. F. Cleere (London, UK: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 23-29, 27 and 29; Robert Layton, "Introduction: Conflict in the Archaeology of Living Traditions," in Conflict in the Archaeology of Living Traditions, ed. Robert Layton (London, UK: Routledge, 1989), 1-21; and Byrne, 273.

15. Translated by the author from Ricardo Marcenaro Frers, "Prólogo," Patrimonio Cultural del Perú I (Lima: Fondo Editorial del Congreso del Perú, 2000), 15-18.

16. Portion of Executive Decree, April 2, 1822, translated by the author, published in Arqueológicas 10 (1967): 1-2. This issue of Arqueológicas is entitled Historia de los Museos Nacionales del Perú, 1822-1946, ed. Julio C. Tello and Toribio Mejía Xesspe (Lima: Museo Nacional de Antropología y Arqueología and Instituto y Museo de Arqueología de la Universidad Nacional de San Marcos, 1967).

In a newspaper (El Comercio [Lima]) interview on August 5, 2005, Luis G. Lumbreras, director of the INC, reminded his interviewer and the public that "when the Republic was created, three cultural entities were formed even before the Constitution was written: the National Museum, The National Library, and the Historic Center." Lumbreras argues that the Peruvian state has always been concerned with "culture," understood in its broadest sense and including the cultural patrimony.

17. Letter, October 27, 1840, published in Arqueológicas 10 (1967): 18. Translated by the author. The letter is addressed to the departmental prefects (unnamed) and is signed by Augustín G. Charún.

18. Executive Decree, May 6, 1905, published in Arqueológicas 10 (1967): 60. Translated by the author.

19. In Salvemos lo nuestro! (Lima: Instituto Nacional de Cultura, 1980), 9.

20. Martha Hildebrant, "Presentación," Patrimonio Cultural del Perú I (Lima: Fondo Editorial del Congreso del Perú, 2000), 11-14.

21. A current example is seen in President Alejandro Toledo's opening remarks at the 2003 summit of Latin American presidents held in Cusco. Toledo used the summit as the appropriate moment in which to inaugurate the new, private Museo de Arte Precolombino in the city, saying, "We are showing the world our cultural wealth. I am profoundly proud that [we can display] a little of the culture that belongs not only to Peru, but to Latin America," (author's translation). See "Toledo Inauguró el Nuevo Museo de Arte Precolombino de Cusco," from Terra Networks at, accessed on October 17, 2005. As I explain in a recent article, "With this statement, Peru's past was deployed as the sign of Peru's modernity, transnational engagement, and developmental promise for the future," see Helaine Silverman, "Two Museums, Two Visions: Representing Cultural Heritage in Cusco, Peru," SAA Archaeological Record 5 no. 3 (2005): 29-32.

22. Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Peru and Executive Decree, April 2, 1822.

23. For a summary of Peru's cultural patrimony legislation through 1974 see Rosalía Avalos de Matos and Rogger Ravines, "Las Antiguedades Peruanas y Su Protección Legal," Revista del Museo Nacional 40 (1974): 63-458.

24. For more information and background on Law 6634, see discussion in Peter Flindell Klarén, Peru: Society and Nationhood in the Andes (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000), 241-247.

25. On July 24, 2004 the Peruvian Congress considered a new Ley General del Patrimonio Cultural de la Nación (Law No. 28296). Insofar as I understand the text of this law it is not much different from earlier laws in that it reaffirms the state's and nation's ownership of all components of the cultural patrimony and exhorts their protection. It specifically replaces Laws 24047 and 27173, and any other previous norms that would be in conflict with the text of 28296. See "Arqueología Andina y Tiwanaku,", accessed on October 17, 2005.

26. David Lowenthal, "Pioneering Stewardship: New Challenges for CRM," CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship 1 no. 1 (2003): 7-13.

27. Ibid., 12.

28. See, e.g., Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, Lords of Sipán: A True Story of Pre-Inca Tombs, Archaeology, and Crime (New York, NY: William Morrow, 1992). For a fascinating historical perspective on looting see Jorge Zevallos Quiñones' treatment of the Spanish Crown-sanctioned act of "treasure hunting" (búsqueda de tesoro) during the Colonial Period in his book, Huacas y Huaqueros en Trujillo Durante el Virreynato (1535-1835) (Trujillo: Editora Normas Legales, 1994). For more information on the looting carried out by impoverished farmers in the countryside, see Gregorio Martínez, Canto de Sirena (Lima: Mosca Azul Editores, 1977).

29. Machu Picchu is a remote 15th-century Inca settlement situated on terraces built into the mountainside northwest of the ancient Inca city of Cusco. It is widely regarded as the architectural and urbanistic achievement of the Inca Empire at its height. See Luis G. Lumbreras, "Machu Picchu," at, accessed on April 8, 2006.

30. Helaine Silverman, "Touring Ancient Times: The Present and Presented Past in Contemporary Peru," American Anthropologist 104 no. 3 (2002): 881-902, n. 3.

Although the main entry point to Machu Picchu, Cusco is not the only one, since many tourists choose to board the train at two towns closer to the site in the so-called "Sacred Valley." In fact, Cusco and the Sacred Valley towns have been battling in recent years over the distribution of income from archeological tourism.

Equally determined to achieve regional dominance in the tourist trade centered on Machu Picchu are the residents of Aguas Calientes, who are not a descendant community but commercially-interested migrants from across the country who have located at the base of the site. To further their claim to Machu Picchu (or, more precisely, their right to live at the base and control the commerce and the buses that ascend the zig-zag road to the sanctuary), Aguas Calientes has sought legal recognition of its name change to Machu Picchu Pueblo.

31. See Silverman, "Touring Ancient Times," for a fuller presentation of this argument. See also, Helaine Silverman, "The Historic District of Cusco as an Open-Air Site Museum," in Archaeological Site Museums in Latin America, ed. Helaine Silverman (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, forthcoming).

32. Josué Lancho Rojas, personal communication, May 2005. Tourism in the Nazca region is not generating sufficient employment. As a result, the youth of the city are leaving for Lima and other countries, including the United States. Today only about 30 percent of the population is local in origin.

On the geoglyphs near Nazca see, for example, Helaine Silverman and Donald A. Proulx, The Nasca (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002), 163-192; Helaine Silverman, "Beyond the Pampa: The Geoglyphs in the Valleys of Nazca," National Geographic Research 6 no. 4 (1990): 435-456; Anthony F. Aveni, Between the Lines (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000).

33. See, for example, Walter Alva, Sipán (Lima: Cervecería Backus & Johnston, S.A., 1994) and Walter Alva, Sipán: Descubrimiento e Investigación (Lambayeque, 2004).

34. Helaine Silverman, "Embodied Heritage, Identity Politics and Tourism," Anthropology and Humanism 30 no. 2 (2005): 141-155; Izumi Shimada, Cultura Sicán: Dios, Riqueza y Poder en la Costa Norte del Perú (Lima: Banco Continental, 1995); Izumi Shimada, "Perception, Procurement, and Management of Resources: Archaeological Perspective," in Andean Ecology and Civilization, ed. Shozo Masuda, Izumi Shimada, and Craig Morris (Tokyo, Japan: University of Tokyo Press, 1985), 357-399; Izumi Shimada, "The Batan Grande-La Leche Archaeological Project: The First Two Seasons," Journal of Field Archaeology 8 no. 4 (1981): 405-446.

35. This argument is presented fully in Silverman, "Embodied Heritage."

36. Sylvio Mutal, "Presentación," Salvemos lo nuestro!, 7. Translated by the author.

37. In addition to her prolific publications in Spanish, see the excellent synthesis in English, Ruth Shady Solis, "America's First City? The Case of Late Archaic Caral," in Andean Archaeology III: North and South, ed. William H. Isbell and Helaine Silverman (New York, NY: Springer, 2006), 28-66.

38. Justin Jennings, "Ruins on the Rapids," Archaeology (November-December 2003): 31-35. See also his chapter, "Landscape Site Museums and Adventurers in Peru's Cotahuasi Valley," in Archaeological Site Museums in Latin America, ed. Helaine Silverman (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, forthcoming).

39. Lowenthal, "Pioneering Stewardship," 11.

40. Michael Herzfeld, Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State (London, UK: Routledge, 1997), 22, back cover.

41. Handler, 153. Peru's patrimonio cultural is distinguished from the patrimonio peruano, which in Salvemos lo nuestro! is considered to be everything, tangible and intangible (geography, food, languages, dance, history, etc.), that forms the multicultural Peruvian national identity and signifies "quiénes somos" (who we are).

42. Luis Guillermo Lumbreras, "Presentación," Patrimonio: Diversidad Cultural en el Perú (Lima: Instituto Nacional de Cultura, 2004), 7. See also my comments on the relationship between the display of the archeological past and modernity above.

43. As found in Cusco, where the author recently conducted an applied archeology-ethnographic project on the role of the ancient and contemporary built environments in generating an identification with the Incas within the context of global tourism. See Silverman, "Touring Ancient Times."

44. Roger Atwood, "Guardians of the Dead," Archaeology 56 no. 1 (2003): 42-49.

45. Silverman, "Touring Ancient Times."

46. But the ancient past is not the only focus of tourism ads. Ecotourism (jungle, mountains), adventure tourism (hiking, mountain biking, river rafting) and ethnotourism (visiting native communities) are also featured in their appropriate media outlets, especially specialized magazines.

47. To the best of my knowledge, only the Universidad Nacional Federico Villareal offers coursework in cultural heritage management, taught by my colleague Miguel Pazos Rivera. It is out of the UNFV's interest in applied archeology that COARPE was born. The premier academic programs in archeology are based in other universities, most notably at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, which is about to launch a doctoral degree.

48. Christine A. Hastorf, "Building the Community Museum at Chiripa, Bolivia," in Archaeological Site Museums in Latin America, ed. Helaine Silverman (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, forthcoming).