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Peruvian Archaeologist’s Life Is Threatened Over Caral-Chupacigarro

Peruvian Archaeologist’s Life Is Threatened Over Caral-Chupacigarro

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A 73-year-old Peruvian archaeologist was shot in the chest. Her dog was slaughtered. And now she’s receiving death threats, as she fights to defend Caral-Chupacigarro, America’s oldest city, from a violent criminal gang. Caral-Chupacigarro is an almost 5000-year-old Norte Chico civilization settlement located 200 kilometers (120 mi) north of Lima, on a dry desert terrace overlooking the Supe River Valley in the Barranca Province of modern-day Peru. Dating back to 2627 BC, the site is “America’s most ancient city.” It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 AD. However, in the spring of 2020 AD a family of “squatters” claimed rights to the land, and they’ve begun destroying archaeological treasures to build new homes.

The Battle For Caral-Chupacigarro, America’s Oldest City

Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady, 73, discovered the ancient settlement of  Caral-Chupacigarro in 1994 and in 1996 AD. In cooperation with the National Geographic Society, her  Caral Archaeological Project  excavated the ancient city. She was listed on  BBC’s 100 Women list  last year after she was shot in the chest defending Caral-Chupacigarro from squatters. Now, the family of squatters are claiming the almost 5,000-year-old ruins were given to them in the 1970s AD, during Peru’s agrarian land  reform under a leftist military dictatorship.

 

 

Shady, even after being shot, is standing strong. An article in  The Guardian  quotes the archaeologist as saying “They {the criminals} do not have a single land title. The owner of the land is the Peruvian state.” During the 2020 Covid-19 lockdowns, Shady learned that the squatters had made nine "invasions" into the 626-hectare (1,546-acre) archaeological complex of Caral.

It turned out that last July a heavy digger knocked down ancient adobe walls and smashed hundreds of ancient ceramics, and tombs containing  mummies. When Shady reported this to Peruvian police, they attended the site and stopped the destruction, but she began getting verbal  death threats  by telephone. Furthermore, text messages were sent to various workers at the archaeological site threatening them to back off, or else…

The eminent Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady who has been threatened over her attempts to protect the Caral-Chupacigarro site. (Zona Caral)

The eminent Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady who has been threatened over her attempts to protect the Caral-Chupacigarro site. ( Zona Caral )

At Caral-Chupacigarro, “Squatters” Are Violent Criminals

The word squatter brings with it images of helpless folk, who maybe through the toils of life lost everything and with nowhere to go they end up populating  abandoned buildings  and public spaces. Right? Well not in this case. These squatters are a gang of hardcore violent  criminals who were audacious enough to call the lawyer who works for the ancient site threatening to kill both him and Shady, and bury them “five meters below the ground,” said Shady.

If any of you out there are thinking perhaps there’s another side to this story, and that maybe the squatters have a legal claim to the debated territory, then you are about to be converted. They  poisoned Shady’s dog. Yup. They slaughtered her dog, folks. What’s more, while the archaeologist was grieving they texted her threatening a similar fate. See now? These “squatters” are in reality deplorable gangsters using  violence as tool in their colonization of an ancient sacred land, for wealth.

The people threating Ruth Shady and the Caral-Chupacigarro site are motivated by greed as land prices in the area increased by 1000 percent over the last 10 years. (Zona Caral)

The people threating Ruth Shady and the Caral-Chupacigarro site are motivated by greed as land prices in the area increased by 1000 percent over the last 10 years. ( Zona Caral )

Always Follow The Money Trail…

The archaeological site is surrounded by a 56-square-mile (145-square-kilometer) buffer zone and land prices surrounding Caral-Chupacigarro have rocketed in the last decade from around $5,000 (4,000 euros) per hectare (2.5 acres) to as much as $50,000 (40,000 euros) per hectare. And therein is the reason the “land developers” want to see Shady in a box “five meters” underground, in their own words. 

The latest death threats made to Shady and her team might have been prevented, however, if in December 2020 AD a local prosecutor and governmental officials, hadn’t failed to or forgotten to give the appropriate orders to stop the criminal gang ripping the ancient city apart. These sorts of failings and mistakes happen a lot in South America, especially when valuable indigenous land is up for development. Couldn’t possibly think why. But maybe you can work that out.

The destruction of Caral-Chupacigarro is a monstrous act like the burning of books at Alexandria or the intentional damage of abbeys and cathedrals during the Protestant Reformation. (jcfotografo / Adobe Stock)

The destruction of Caral-Chupacigarro is a monstrous act like the burning of books at Alexandria or the intentional damage of abbeys and cathedrals during the Protestant Reformation. ( jcfotografo / Adobe Stock)

The Destruction of Caral-Chupacigarro Is A Monstrous Act

Let’s stand back from the heat of this article for a moment and put what’s unfolding in Peru into historical perspective. While to many, this is “just another” story of archaeological vandalism, we must never ever become desensitized to these kinds of situations. Without a stroke of exaggeration, or journalistic color, whatsoever, if the oldest city in the Americas is destroyed by these bandits, for profit, it will be remembered as the 2020 AD burning of The Great Library of Alexandria, or perhaps the destruction of the abbeys and cathedrals during the European Protestant Reformation.

Ruth Shady was listed on the 2020 AD  BBC’s 100 Women list , but it’s a crying shame that she was not also included on the 2020 Time’s  100 Most Influential People list . The woman took a bullet. Her dog was slaughtered. And she’s now getting death threats, all to save “Americas oldest city.” In my book, Shady should be awarded a cape with “SA” printed on her chest, over her bullet wound, for “Super Archaeologist.”

Top image: A scene from the vast Caral-Chupacigarro site, a UNESCO world heritage in Peru that Ruth Shady was defending.       Source:  Mark / Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie

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