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Volunteer Incan & Wari Archaeology in Peru

  • Placement location: Lucre Valley, Cuzco
  • Role: Working alongside expert Peruvian archaeologists undertaking a combination of archaeological work
  • Requirements: None
  • Areas of Focus: Investigation, mapping, and excavation of ancient pre-Inca structures close to the Pikillaqta National Monument. Prospection excursion parties.
  • Accommodation: Host family
  • Length of placement: From 2 weeks
  • Start dates: Flexible

A Projects Abroad Archaeology volunteer on the Inca Project uses a magnifying glass to take a close look at ceramics found in Huyro, Lucumayo Valley.

Volunteering with Projects Abroad on the Incan & Wari Archaeology Project in Peru is a great choice if you are interested in developing your practical skills in the field of archaeology and gaining a deeper understanding of the history of the Inca civilization. While living and working in a Peruvian community, you can gain hands-on experience in a range of archaeological and historical work.

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru in the 16th Century, the land had been ruled for roughly two centuries by the Inca people. During their rule the Incas gained control of an area about one million square kilometers in size, ranging from Colombia to central Chile. The vast Inca Empire had its administrative, political, and military centre in the city of Cuzco.

The year 1533 saw an end to the Inca Empire when the Spanish captured Cuzco. Despite years of Spanish rule, Peru has managed to retain a rich Incan legacy which can be seen throughout the country. The majestic ruins of Machu Picchu and the Inca capital city of Cuzco are among the most fascinating Inca sites.

Our Incan & Wari Archaeology Project is based near the town of Lucre, which is a 40 minute journey from Cuzco’s city centre. The town itself is in the Lucre Valley and the work we undertake here focuses on archaeology. You do not need previous experience to participate and this project is suitable for students on a gap year or school break, careers breakers, or anyone looking for a worthwhile and adventurous way to spend a vacation.

Archaeological Work and Activities in Peru

Projects Abroad volunteers on the Archaeology Project in Peru assist a staff member at an excavation site in Sacsayhuaman.

One of the long-term goals of the Incan & Wari Archaeology Project is the investigation and mapping of unregistered structures and forms in Pikillaqta National Park. All volunteers work alongside Peruvian archaeological experts, Jhon Valencia Cordova and Delsi Espinoza Masias. Jhon is the Director of Archaeology and Delsi is the archaeologist on the current archaeological program.

At the project, volunteers work on-site in the Lucre Valley for three days. The rest of the week will include the following activities: classifying ceramics, working at the local museum, community and office work. On the days when volunteers are at the office, archaeological presentations will be given.

On a typical working day on-site, volunteers and staff will travel between Cuzco and the work site together. The archaeological work in Lucre will include exploring the area looking for new sites, mapping, excavating, cleaning, and maintaining current sites, classifying artefacts, and more.

Most excavations can only take place during the drier months from June to October. During the wetter months, when excavation work is not possible in the Cuzco region, the majority of archaeological work during this time of year is done indoors.

Your Role at the Incan & Wari Archaeology Project

During your time on the Incan & Wari Archaeology Project, you will get involved in the following archaeological activities:

  • Preliminary investigations: Before beginning work at any site, there is a lot of preliminary work that needs to be done, including registering Inca and pre-Inca tombs, burial chambers, buildings, Inca trails, water channels, terrace systems, petroglyphs, and access routes. This is done using scales, photographs, GPS, and making physical maps of the structures and forms.
  • Excavations: Volunteers and staff work at six excavation sites close to the National Monument of Pikillaqta, a pre-Inca site dating from the Wari civilization.
  • Analysis and registration of cultural material: This involves cleaning and codifying evidence, analysis and classification of cultural material, drawing and registering evidence.
  • Site visits: Depending on the time of year, you visit archaeological sites in the Cuzco region once or twice a week. During these visits, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss different aspects of these sites with a project archaeologist. Site visits take place year-round.
  • Office registry work: Once a week, you will work in the office and focus on transferring all weekly registration works onto a computer to help prepare reports. These reports are presented to the Peruvian Ministry of Culture. Spending time in the office also gives staff and volunteers the opportunity to plan activities for the next week and discuss any problems encountered during the previous week.
  • Working at museums: Every Monday, you will assist local museums with translations and codifying objects.
  • Archaeology presentations: Every week volunteers attend a presentation related to the Archaeology Project. Topics are varied and could include: Machu Picchu, Inca architecture, Andean construction techniques, and Ancient Andean Beliefs. The project archaeologist will be on hand to answer any questions that you may have regarding the presentation.
  • Classification of ceramics: At the office, you will get involved with measuring, cleaning, classifying, and describing ceramics.
  • Community activities: Our volunteers do a lot of work at a small elementary school in Huacarpay, in the Lucre Valley. Activities include clearing pathways and making the playground safe, painting classrooms and school furniture, and preparing educational materials for the teachers and students.

Volunteering Abroad on the Archaeology Project in Peru

Projects Abroad Archaeology volunteer and staff archaeologist examine a bone uncovered at an excavation in Peru.

In addition to the archaeology work, volunteers also participate in a variety of weekly community-based activities. In 2011, Projects Abroad did a full diagnostic of the whole district and we now use this information in conjunction with the local and regional authorities to target areas in particular need and develop programs. By getting involved in these activities, you will help make a positive impact on the local community.

Once a week, usually on a Thursday, you will help with the following:

Every Wednesday afternoon, Projects Abroad staff organizes a social event for volunteers based in the Cuzco region. This gives you the chance to meet and socialize with other volunteers from projects based in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. You can expect to participate in various fun activities, such as cooking classes, salsa lessons, nature hikes, and ceramic workshops. These socials take place in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley.

Once or twice a year, volunteers also contribute to a dental health campaign, which is run in coordination with a local health centre. This campaign involves visiting schools, accompanied by a local professional dentist, and helping to apply a fluoride gel directly to the children’s teeth. The dental campaign runs for approximately three weeks during the academic year.

You will also have the option of contributing to workshops that aim to support teachers at the different educational institutes in the district. These workshops are usually held once or twice a year.

The Incan & Wari Archaeology Project in Peru is available for less than a month if you don't have time to join us for a month or more. This project has been selected by our local colleagues as being suitable for shorter durations for both the host community and the volunteer. Although you will gain valuable cultural insight and work intensely within the local community please be aware that you may not be able to make the same impact as someone participating for a longer period.

All volunteers participating on standard projects in Peru have the opportunity to spend one week on a Conservation & Environment project at the end of their main placement. For more information, please visit our Rainforest Conservation & Environment Project in Peru page. Our Combinations Page explains how you can combine not only projects, but also destinations.

If you have qualifications or experience in this field then we can make use of your skills volunteering abroad as a professional in Peru. If you are a high school student and first-time traveller you may want to consider our High School Special programs in Peru.

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