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Historic conservation project by Global Heritage Fund begins at "Machu Picchu of the North"
Marcahuamachuco marks the site of Pre-Incan ruins and is often referred to by archaeologists as “Machu Picchu of the North” and the “Jewel of La Libertad.”
HUAMACHUCO.- If you ask Alejandra Figueroa, Global Heritage Fund’s Project Site director at Marcahuamachuco what her take on cultural heritage is, she’d say her personal stake in the preservation of this mysterious, ancient site is twofold. “As an archaeologist, I want to see the site protected and prepared to survive… As a Peruvian citizen, I cannot ignore the many needs of my country’s population, and the desire for improving their quality of life…Marcahuamachuco has great potential to…strengthen the bond between people from Huamachuco and their cultural heritage and Peru’s past...”

Figueroa, who has worked on many archaeological missions across Peru, is working closely with the Unidad Ejecutivo Marcahaumachuco (UEM) to ensure the best preservation practices and community development. “The GHF project represents a unique opportunity to use the latest technology to protect and preserve Marcahuamachuco, and to create a new management model in Peru combining public and private efforts to protect archaeological heritage,” said Figueroa.

Marcahuamachuco marks the site of Pre-Incan ruins and is often referred to by archaeologists as “Machu Picchu of the North” and the “Jewel of La Libertad.” Set atop the nexus of three mountain valleys at over 10,000 feet (3,200 meters), the site towers over the land and rivers below. Celebrated for its massive castillos (castles) and unique circular, double-walled archaeological structures that predate the imperial expansion of the Incas and the Huari, Marcahuamachuco was constructed between 400-800 AD and became northern Peru’s most important political, economic and military center. Over many centuries, it has been damaged by natural factors and a lack of surveillance, but it remains one of the country’s most important archaeological sites.

With excellent potential to become one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the northern highlands of Peru, Marcahuamachuco will provide a major focus for economic development in an area with few opportunities for local communities.

Since March 2011, the UEM has been performing emergency actions at the site, including clearing vegetation and provisionally repairing the most damaged walls in advance of large-scale conservation. Currently, the UEM team includes 24 local workers from the town of Huamachuco - some 200 Peruvians are expected to be directly involved in this important national project.

GHF, together with its local partner, UEM will apply its Preservation by Design® methodology which includes scientific planning, GIS and mapping, archaeological conservation. These efforts integrate community development practices to provide jobs and training to local conservation workers, training guides and artisan works to ensure long-term sustainability.

Much of Marcahuamachuco's history still remains a mystery - with the engagement of archaeologists, historians and the local community, the project will shed light on this important Peruvian treasure. Like so many of the country’s top heritage sites, it has suffered in the shadow of Machu Picchu for too long.

Marcahuamachuco is GHF’s second project in Peru, joining Chavín de Huántar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the high mountains of the Andes, completed in partnership with Stanford University’s Dr. John Rick and the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC) to preserve Chavín. In 2010, GHF funded the cataloging and conservation of thousands of Chavin artifacts which are now displayed in the new $4 million National Museum of Chavín and already, 60,000 people have already visited the site over the last year.

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