Written by: Andreas Valentin Wadskjær
No Pain, No Gain: An adventure comes true!
“Congratulations! You’ve got a B.” – Can a university grade lead to an adventure?
Even before I started at Prehistoric Archeology at the University of Copenhagen, I knew that I wanted to follow a course at Native American Languages & Cultures. Despite admonitions from older and more experienced students – “You will never get to use it for anything!” – I signed up for Mayan Culture & History.
The morning of January 6, 2014, I was waiting for my grade outside a classroom. I had chosen to do a presentation on Mayan mythology, which focused especially on Popul Vuh – the “Maya Bible”.
“Congratulations! You’ve got a B.”
After hearing the review for my grade, they wanted to know if I had any comments. “No” I answered at first. But wait, this was my chance! My professor Christophe Helmke had, throughout the semester, told us about his wonderful adventures in Mesoamerica with cave archaeology. And censor, Inge Shjellerup aka. Inca-Inge from the National Museum of Denmark had travelled all over Peru since the 1970s and executed jungle archaeology. I build up my courage and with a dry voice, I studdered:
“If one of you are going to South America, then I would like to join”.
9 months later, I was sitting in a plane across the Atlantic on my way to Lima, the capital of Peru. This should prove to be the first of many expeditions to Peru!
El Camino Inka – The Road to El Dorado?
My first Peruvian adventure was to follow an approximately 500-year-old Inca road through the highlands and jungle of Peru.
Inge Schjellerup had found a map from the 18th century at the British Museum. The map showed a route that the Spaniards had hoped would lead them to the city of gold, El Dorado! The route had never been measured by GPS, so that was the main purpose of our expedition. Whether the Inca road would be preserved, or whether we would find other ruins associated with it, you will have to find out later in our blog.
Pyramid & Mummies
In 2016 I spent 3 months in Peru! First at Proyecto Arqueologico Huaca Pucllana, which focuses on archaeology around a large platform pyramid in Lima. This was to become another adventure. In 2016, I excavated at the top of the pyramid with a team of four Peruvian archaeologists and workmen, in addition to two more teams in other small excavations. The following year I was back again, this time I was cleaning, sorting and analyzing organic residues. At Huaca Pucllana, the preservation conditions for organic material are fantastic due to the oxygen-poor environment. So it was everything from corn and beans to hair, fur and textiles that I looked at this field season.
The third consecutive year at Huaca Pucllana was in a slightly different setting. In 2018, I had arranged a field school for Danish archaeologists and students at the pyramid. Unfortunately, we could not excavate due to the missing excavation permit, but instead, we could do a lot of other relevant activities and excursions to Peru’s many wonderful places!
The Great Posic Adventure!
2016 was also the year when I visited the prehistoric city of ruins, Posic, on the eastern slopes of the Andes for the first time. My second expedition lead by Inge Schjellerup. Inge turned 70 shortly after we returned from that trip, and had several times said that she wanted someone to continue her projects and research. One sleepless night in Posic among the Inca ruins, I sat in my small tent and wrote down ideas for continuing the project. How many and who could I bring, what equipment would we need and how to fund it? At this point, I already had some experience with grant applications, but at a much smaller scale. Fortunately, Inge agreed to my ideas! She came to help a lot with administrative work, in preparation for my first season as archaeological director.
After the Field School in Lima in 2018, a selected team went to Posic to execute intensive archaeological excavations at The Forgotten Amazon’s first field season. 3 weeks in tents and 3 excavation units. The following year we were even more people and for a longer time. It turned out to be an incredibly effective field season with amazing results!
The two seasons were sponsored by Queen Margrethe II’s Archaeological Foundation, Louis-Hansen Foundation, Elisabeth Munksgaard Foundation, The Vellux Foundations, Geoteam A/S, Archaeologist Lene Blindbæk, Bonanza Tours Peru, Brorsons Travel Grant, Fiedler’s Scholarship, and a lot of smaller sponsors.
Do You Want To Join Us For Our Next Adventure?
We are currently planning the next expedition, which will be held in 2021. This time we will be going to a pyramid or Huaca around the city of Trujillo. This is a coastal/desert site with remains from the Moche and Chimu cultures, but with clear connections to the highlands and jungle. A small selected team will furthermore be going back to a site we discovered in 2014 to do a preliminary survey. In 2022, we will bring a large team to this site to carry out major archaeological excavations there. Do you want to experience your first Peruvian adventure? contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Andreas Valentin Wadskjær