What is at stake for Peru?

Looking across the Peruvian desert, you can imagine it is a moonscape pocked with craters as far as the eye can see, except the holes are looted tombs. Royal tombs that once contained gold, silver, and copper ornaments have been stripped without any care for the cultural information their scientific excavation could reveal. Today you can find authentic Chimu and Nazca pottery being sold on eBay, dug up by rural peasants looking for objects like the ones in the Sotheby’s catalogs.

Visitors from around the world flock to sites like Machu Picchu every year to witness first-hand the magnificence of the Inca civilization. Tourism is the third largest industry in Peru, and its cultural sites and museums are major attractions. The looting of archaeological sites and the removal of objects from Peru are negatively impacting tourism. Preserving archaeological ruins and returning artifacts for display in on-site museums is mutually beneficial to the local population and foreign visitors who share an interest in our global heritage.

“Looters did not return to the place now because there was nothing left…in the last two decades of the twentieth century…more Andean historical heritage was lost than in the previous four centuries…”

Roger Atwood writes about the Andean site of Chilca, Peru, in Stealing History