The closest populated area to the site is a place called Leymebamba, a village of about 5,000 people nestled high in the Andes Mountains of northern Peru.
Five Eckerd College students, selected and led by Anna Guengerich, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology, will use the village as a base camp while they spend three months this coming summer taking part in an archaeological dig at a site of pre-Inca ruins.
“The students will be studying the conquest of the indigenous people of this region by the Inca Empire in the 1400s and the ecological impact it had,” Guengerich explains. “We want to try to understand the changes that happened hundreds of years ago, so we can have a better understanding of what is happening now.”
Guengerich says that because the location is at a high altitude—an elevation of about 9,000 feet—the weather is usually cold and rainy. “We’ll be rotating, staying a week in town and then a week on-site,” she says. “It takes several hours to hike to the site. And then we’ll just be camping there.”
Anna Guengerich, Ph.D.
Thanks to a $167,070 grant from the National Science Foundation—Guengerich is the principal investigator, working with five colleagues from the U.S. and Peru—five students from her Andean Civilizations class will learn more than how ancient civilizations lived. “I would like them to gain an understanding of doing research and living abroad,” she says. “These are new challenges. Another important part is getting to know people from different walks of life. This is a very rural part of Peru, and they’ll be in trenches working together with brushes and trowels.”
The project will be conducted in Spanish, a language the Eckerd students are brushing up on.
“It’s a really meaningful cultural interaction because our team includes college students and colleagues from Peru and people who live and work in the area,” Guengerich says.
The project will run from June through August. “We’ll be doing this next summer,” she says, “and [the] two years after that.”
Guengerich has become a familiar face in Leymebamba, having made this trip several times—but never with Eckerd students. “It’s always so much fun to bring new people in,” she adds, “and watch them be a part of an eye-opening experience.”