文化遺産国際協力コンソーシアム Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage JCIC-Heritage logo JCIC-Heritage

Project Kuntur Wasi

Project Kuntur Wasi

Saitama University

Peru

The archaeological site Kuntur Wasi

1988-Ongoing Human Resource Development,Conservation and Restoration,Local Development,Fundamental Research,Installation and Improvement of Facilities
01/12/2011
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BACKGROUND

Excavations at Kuntur Wasi and discovery of gold artifacts

Significance of archaeological site revealed through exhaustive excavations

In 1946 the archaeological site Kuntur Wasi were discovered in the north highlands of Peru at an altitude of 2300m, but the site remained unexplored for a considerable period of time. In 1988, the University of Tokyo Expedition to the Andes, led by Dr. Yoshio Onuki, began excavation at this site. By 1997 the team had clarified that Kuntur Wasi, like the famous site of Chavín de Huántar, was one of the major temples during the Late Formative Period (800-250 BC) of the Andean civilizations. In 1998, the project team moved its base of operations to Saitama University. Exhaustive research and analysis of the data led to insights into the archaeological significance of this site, and a database was made to facilitate utilization of the research findings (director: Yasutake Kato). Based on these results, the team is starting a new research project in 2011 (director: Kinya Inokuchi). All of these ongoing projects are conducted with the support of the Japanese government’s Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research.


Discovery of oldest gold artifacts in Andes presents urgent challenge

In 1989, when academic researchers discovered the tombs containing the oldest gold artifacts in the Andes, the event excited worldwide attention. Further research uncovered hundreds of elaborate artifacts, including numerous gold objects, as well as stone carvings, multi-colored reliefs, decorated pottery, and accessories. The discovery presented the immediate challenge of preservation for this valuable cultural heritage dating from the dawn of Andean civilizations. Conservation work was also needed on the vast temple area that had been discovered. We realized that researchers had to take the initiative in addressing these issues because of the political and economic instability in Peru at that time. Therefore, it was decided to construct a museum and heritage park with the cooperation and support of the Japanese side.

The first discovery: a gold crown

Large gold ear ornaments

ACTIVITIES

Search for an effective means of protecting the valuable cultural heritage discovered during the academic research

The construction of a museum in the local village

With strong desire from the local people, it was decided to build a museum within the village in order to preserve the artifacts discovered in the excavations at Kuntur Wasi. Construction of the museum was funded through donations collected from the public at exhibitions held in Japan. In addition, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also provided subsidies for various other facilities. The museum was completed in 1994, and donated to the village by the Japanese research team. Management of the museum was entrusted to the Kuntur Wasi Cultural Association, which was established by the village. Electricity and water were obtained later through the efforts of local government. As a result of ongoing excavation projects, the museum had more artifacts in need of storage, and the Japanese side once again provided support to expand the museum. A police station and research facilities were later added, so that the museum, with the approval of the Peruvian government, is now fully functioning.


Restoration of the temple and establishment of heritage park

The temple of Kuntur Wasi, which had been buried for three thousand years, was revealed in its entirety after a decade of exhaustive excavations. This archaeological site, which is of great scholarly significance, should be appropriately restored and preserved, and displayed to the public. Widespread recognition of its value as cultural heritage would prevent further destruction and deterioration. Establishing a heritage park on the site, along with a museum, would contribute to the revitalization of the local community. Our plan was adopted by the UNESCO Division of Cultural Heritage, Culture Sector, and in 2000 an international research team (leader: Yasutake Kato) was organized at Saitama University. Together with the existing research team they launched a project entitled “Preservation and Restoration of the Historic Temple of Kuntur Wasi, Peru” funded by the UNESCO Japanese Trust Fund for the Preservation of the World Cultural Heritage. The construction of the heritage park was completed in 2003.

The Kuntur Wasi Temple

The archaeological site of Kuntur Wasi and the museum

RESULTS

Outcome of the cultural heritage conservation project

Cultural heritage conservation project jointly organized by the academic research team and the local community

The objective of this project was not construction of the museum or establishment of the park; rather, these were necessary measures for conserving the valuable cultural heritage discovered through the research. Almost all local residents took part in the excavation work, and were involved in decision-making concerning the construction of the museum and park. The research team and the local residents came to share the idea that the conservation of cultural heritage is a holistic project, with academic research as its core; as a result, the local community actively took part in the construction and maintenance of the museum.


Passing down cultural heritage leads to community development and of human resources

During the course of the Project Kuntur Wasi, which has lasted for over two decades, a museum and a heritage park were established, and infrastructure was improved and enhanced. Transportation routes connected the village with the outside world, bringing more visitors to the area. The local people have experienced the remarkable development brought to their community as a result of utilizing the cultural heritage. Furthermore, the Project Kuntur Wasi not only changed the mindset of the village people, but also made a tremendous contribution in the area of academic research in terms of human resources. Numerous students from both Peru and Japan have been putting to use the knowledge, skills and experience acquired during the project in research activities being carried out in other regions.

The Kuntur Wasi Museum

People celebrating the opening of the museum

Village people working in the museum

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