Summer Research Partnership in Archaeology: PAMA Archaeology Project: El Proyecto Arqueológico Medio Ambiental

23 January 2023

In the summer of 2022, Sarah Kennedy, Robert A. Oden, Jr. Postdoctoral Fellow for Innovation in the Humanities and Archaeology, Sophie Bagget ‘23, Claire Boyle ’25, Collin Kelso ’25, Ezra Kucur ’25, and Kalju Maegi ’23 traveled to Puno, Peru for the PAMA Archaeological Project: El Proyecto Arqueológico Medio Ambiental. This project documented four colonial period silver refineries (AD 1600-1800) and one Late Intermediate Period Colla city (AD 1000-1400)using GPS mapping, pXRF soil composition data, and water and vegetation sampling. The goal of the project was to determine the impact of ancient silver processing on both historical and modern agricultural environments by identifying and mapping heavy metal remnants within the soil, waterways, and vegetation present at these significant archaeological sites in the western Lake Titicaca Basin of southern Peru. A secondary goal of the project required building relationships and channels of communication with local communities, thus enabling current and future archaeologists to share their research and raise awareness about the potential for heavy metal poisoning and accessible mitigation options. Claire and Ezra shared some of their experiences in Peru with the Humanities Center.

When asked what the most interesting experience was Claire said, “Living and working in Peru was a unique and incredible experience. The landscape of the altiplano is beautiful and so cool to work in, and we also got to learn from our local co-workers from the area. It was awesome to get to talk to and work with people who lived in and were very familiar with Puno. One of my favorite experiences was working at one of our last sites, which was much larger than other sites and required an hour hike to get to. It really tested our survey techniques and physical endurance in a fun way!”

Ezra agreed, adding, “we gained significant field experience. We used a variety of instruments to gather our data along with field methods. We became proficient with Trimble GPS collection and correction, pXRF data collection, plant sample collection, and water sample collection. I also worked with a PhD-student named Lucia while in our field house to help her identify and bag her collection of animal bones. The final piece of lab work was collaborating with Carleton student Sophie Baggett who was in Peru with us doing an independent research project. Sophie was focusing on community outreach and understanding what efforts have been made to protect and educate the public about heavy metal poisoning by both local authorities, government offices, and NGOs. While working with Sophie I interviewed several people to learn more about this connection as well as completing lots of literature reviews to help guide her research. This was done almost entirely in Spanish, so I’d say another aspect that I gained was Spanish immersion.”

Both Claire and Ezra enjoyed working with Sarah saying that she’s a great teacher and made archaeological work, which can sometimes be repetitive and challenging, very fun and exciting. She created a positive and educational work environment. Claire said “I can’t say enough about how helpful and understanding she was in and outside of the field, whether that was teaching us a new skill or helping us navigate a foreign country. Additionally, although we were new to fieldwork, she wasn’t hesitant about having us put new skills into practice which really helped me develop confidence and skill in a variety of tasks.”