FIELD TRIPS, EXPEDITIONS
Peru - field trip
Peru was certainly one of the highlights of our South American trip. Culturally it was exciting and versatile; and the nature, our culinary experiences and human encounters with the Indigenous Peruvians all made it an unforgettable experience.
We were amazed by the colonial architecture in Lima: Plaza de Arma (every main square in South America bears this very same name) and all the churches from the 15th century. The Iglesia de San Francisco church and monastery is renown for its catacombs that contain the remains of more than 70,000 people as well as a magnificent library that houses thousands of antique texts. But what one should not miss while in Lima is the Museo Larco, which displays one of the most comprehensive collections of pre-Columbian art in the world consisting of more than 45,000 pieces, varying from Lambayeque, Salinar, Virú to their specialty: Moche art. Photographs were not allowed, but the museum allows visitors to go in the storage area for treasure hunting.
The next cultural highlight was Nazca, where we visited the Chauchilla cemetery located approx. 30 km south of Nazca, where preserved prehistoric mummies and archeological artefacts are displayed in a – seemingly – unprotected manner. The bodies were remarkably preserved due to the dry desert climate, and were also painted with resin and kept in purpose-built tombs. The resin was believed to have kept out insect and slowed bacteria. Although the mummified human remains were spectacular, it was sad to hear that much of these mummies are still subject to theft and looting. In terms of other archeological artefacts, the abstract Nazca motives on pottery are easily recognizable and there are plenty of craftsmen between the cemetery and Nazca, who use ancient techniques and create replicas of museum displayed Nazca pottery, trophy heads and other attributes of humans and local animals. However, the city is most famous for the extensive Nazca lines on the nearby desert plains. Due to the climate's extreme dryness, these huge geometric and zoomorphic geoglyphs have remained visible and undisturbed for centuries, although there is much unresolved debate on their origin. Flying over these lines were truly spectacular and a once in a lifetime experience; some of the photos taken can be seen in this newsfeed.
Of course, most people associate Peru with the Incas, who were the last major empire upon the arrival of the Conquistadors, even though the Inca Empire only lasted 100 years, a short time for such a vast and famous enterprise. They conquered all Peru and much of present day Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador. The state, ruled by the divine Sapa Inca, governed from the capital city Cuzco by a system of duties, taxes and rewards. 20,000 kilometres of roads enabled efficient and speedy communication. The royal family's name was given to the culture they created. Their Quechua language was the lingua franca throughout the empire, surviving the Spanish invasion of 1532–33 and it is still spoken today. The emperor was the son of the Sun God and the pinnacle of an extremely hierarchical society. The Inca state religion demanded sacrifices, human and animal. Architecture, such as the famous World Heritage Site Machu Picchu, was the glory of Inca culture: temples, palaces, terraces and fortifications of huge stone blocks were fitted together, mostly without masonry. The Inca Empire of at least 12 million people fell very rapidly, due to superior European military technology, civil war and introduced diseases, especially smallpox. Perhaps 90 per cent of the native population – more than 10 million people – was killed or died of disease after the conquest but their majestic ruins still stand today.
Date: February 2012