A 'lost and found' city in Peru gets new perspective.
"Gran Pajaten is a legendary found city," says Daniel Buck of Washington D.C., a former Peace Corps volunteer in Peru who has put together a list of 19 publications that have discussed the ruins since 1967. Buck and several others familiar with Peruvian archaeology provided SCIENCE NEWS with background information on the site.
"In 1963 Gran Pajaten was a lost city, but it's not anymore", says anthropologist Douglas Sharon of the San Diego (Calif.) Museum of Man.
Sharon was part of the first North American expedition to reach the site in 1964 and 1965. The cluster of buildings was named Gran Pajaten by expedition leader Douglas Eugene Savoy, an explorer from the United States. Over the next decade, Savoy was the main popularizer of the "lost city," writing about it in books and encouraging media coverage.
Savoy, Sharon and company were guided to the ruins by Carlos Torrealba, who was part of the first group to discover Gran Pajaten in 1963. Torrealba also guided last summer's expedition. He still lives in Pataz, a village near Gran Pajaten. At Torrealba's insistence, the Peruvian government sent two archaeologists to the site in 1965 and 1966 for preliminary investigations, which led to the publication of a monograph and a journal article.
Since then, Gran Pajaten has appeared on several maps of Peru. The 1985 edition of The South American Handbook even recommends that visitors to the area check with a nearby tourist office for directions to the ruins.
"We never said we discovered the site," responds archaeologist Thomas Lennon of the University of Colorado in Boulder, a leader of last summer's expedition. "But it's tremendously difficult to get there; it's not an area a tourist could easily visit."
In his initial conversation with SCIENCE NEWS, Lennon had said that future work would mark "the first scientific investigation of the area." Last week he said that the Peruvian literature cannot be ignored. "I can't see myself as having said there was no scientific work before ours," he says.
News reports that the site will help to explain the demise of the Inca empire are "completely incorrect," adds Lennon. It has long been known that the Inca decline was tied to civil war and the introduction of deadly dieases by Spanish explorers.
there is disagreement, however, over the importance of the culture that once thrived at Gran Pajaten. "A full-scale investigation will be interesting, but of predominantly local significance," says Betty Meggers, a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., who specializes in South American archaeology. "There is no indication that the culture at Gran Pajaten spread to other areas. The inhabitants of the city were probably the recipients of cultural innovations from Inca centers in southern Peru, not originators."
Notes Meggers, "The knowledge that results from further work certainly wonht be revolutionary."
Lennon sees broader implications for the site. It may provide insights into cultures that existed before tyhe Incas in several regions of northern Peru, he notes. Savoy, who says he has found numerous other ruined cities in the areas around Gran Pajaten, believes they were all part of a civilization, the Chachapoyas, conquered by the Incas. "Savoy's hypothesis is reasonable," says Sharon, but further investigation will provide better evidence.
Meggers adds that there are "incredible pre-Incan ruins" at higher altitudes in the Andes, which may reveal more about the past than Gran Pajaten.
"It's curious to me that of all the scientific work done in Peru, this recent expedition so captured the media," says anthropologist thomas Patterson of Temple University in Philadelphia.
Comments Donald Montague, president of the South America Explorer's Club in Denver, "Gran Pajaten needed to be put in historical perspective after the first news reports. This is a bad way to start a new investigation, but the next chapter shoudl be more edifying."
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|Title Annotation:||Gran Pajaten|
|Date:||Feb 23, 1985|
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