Monday, October 14, 2013

Getting High in Peru: Studying the pre-Incan World of Peru and Relaxing in the Plaza de Armas

        [Submitted by Neal Bierling] Since my schedule differs from that of the students, I have been able to have different experiences in and around Arequipa. For example, during our first weeks in Arequipa, and since I am an archaeologist (in the Middle East but I have taught the Incas while I was a history teacher), I checked out the archaeology museums. The Incas were the final powerful peoples in this region before the Spanish Conquest and the events that followed the conquest of South America. However, from the museums in Arequipa, I am learning about the rich cultural heritage of Peru BEFORE the Incas. 

Examples of pre-Incan ceramics

Feathered Cape

       I am beginning to write this blog while in and around Trujillo, in northern Peru, where, within the past hour, I was in Trujillo’s National Archaeological Museum. Here, they too have on display beautiful artifacts recovered from the pre-Incan excavations around Trujillo. Arequipa has collections on the important pre-Incan civilizations, which, in some cases go back centuries before Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem.  Peruvians have a right to be proud of their Incan heritage, but now I’m learning that they have a right to be proud of their pre-Incan heritage.  The ruins of dozens (100s?) of mudbrick pyramids and other complexes exist in northern Peru; each pyramid required millions of mudbricks. The tombs and complexes that the Spanish conquistadors thankfully missed reveal beautiful ceramics and other artifacts. I have viewed (and photographed) Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s gold in Egypt countless times over the decades, yet here in Peru I have now seen more gold and silver artifacts than recovered from King Tut’s tomb. The pre-Incan peoples were highly skilled in metallurgy and other crafts. Alas, they did not write, and writing, speaking as an archaeologist, finding an archive of writing is more important than the pretty and shiny gold. The artistic artifacts on display here in Arequipa and now viewed in northern Peru are important, but if they had written about their society and if this archive had been recovered by archaeologists, this would tell us so much more about the intriguing pre-Incan heritage.

Pre-Incan Gold Mask

       While exploring Arequipa, I witnessed parades on its streets while the Calvin students were in classes. I’ve taken the time to just sit in the Plaza de Armas and watch the activity of its residents and visitors. Arequipa is peaceful and has much to be appreciated. The traffic around the university and the Plaza de Armas can be very busy. This city has grown too fast for its so many narrow streets. Profe Bierling worries about all of us as we cross streets by weaving between taxis, combis, and buses. This too can be an adventure. There are more taxis in Arequipa than personal cars and perhaps it is safe to say that the majority of its population travel across the city by taxis, combis (small buses), and buses.

Arequipa Parade

Activities in Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas

       Now that we are temporarily in the Trujillo area for a week, I am even more appreciative of Arequipa’s sunny, cool to warm and low humidity days. I love waking up, opening the blinds to consistently sunny sunrises, looking at the decreasing amounts of snow on Mt. Misti, and then not wearing a light jacket until sunset.

Paz y Shalom,

Neal Bierling

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