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VOLUME 11 2015

The International Journal of

Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability: Annual Review


Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Site Sustainability at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chavín de Huántar MATTHEW SAYRE, ASUNCIÓN CANO, AND HUBER TRINIDAD


THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL, CULTURAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY: ANNUAL REVIEW www.onsustainability.com First published in 2015 in Champaign, Illinois, USA by Common Ground Publishing LLC www.commongroundpublishing.com ISSN: 1832-2077 © 2015 (individual papers), the author(s) © 2015 (selection and editorial matter) Common Ground All rights reserved. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of study, research, criticism, or review as permitted under the applicable copyright legislation, no part of this work may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the publisher. For permissions and other inquiries, please contact [email protected] The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability: Annual Review is a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal.

Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Site Sustainability at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chavín de Huántar Matthew Sayre, University of South Dakota, USA Asunción Cano, Natural History Museum, Peru Huber Trinidad, Natural History Museum, Peru Abstract: This paper analyzes efforts to enhance the sustainability of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Chavín de Huántar, Peru. The site of Chavín de Huántar is a three-thousand-year-old temple located in the Andean Mountains of Peru. In the past this site was known as the Mother Culture of the Andes. Current research conducted by the Stanford Archaeological Project at Chavín has revealed the importance of exchange with outside cultures and the importance of long-term ecological practices of the past inhabitants of Chavín. This paper presents botanical and archaeological data from the site and proposes plans of action for creating a more ecologically sustainable monument. The work has already led to some changes in ecological practice at the site as well as providing recommendations to the governing authorities about how to present the site to the viewing public and local and international tourists. In the future we hope to implement many of these plans and to create a landscape similar to that which existed when the temple was in use. Keywords: Archaeology, Ecological, Cultural



he UNESCO World Heritage site of Chavín de Huántar in Peru is internationally recognized for its important history and architecture. The site is located in the neo-tropical highlands, a region undergoing rapid environmental change. The site has also suffered from the impact of invasive species and tourist visitation. This article will discuss the site’s history and importance, the perspectives of early colonial visitors to the site, Peru’s changing climate, our survey of botanical diversity at the site, our remediation plans and actions, and future work and considerations for ensuring a sustainable site management plan.

Site Background and History Chavín de Huántar (Figure 1) is a major Formative Period (3200–2200 BP) archaeological site in the highlands of Peru, located at 3150 masl, at the base of the eastern slope of the Cordillera Blanca (Rick et al. 2011). This site is composed of an elaborate stone temple, constructed plazas, and surrounding ritual facilities. Sites of this complexity often have formally separated ritual space along with evidence of inter-regional interaction (Moore 2005; Rowe 1963).

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability: Annual Review Volume 11, 2015, www.onsustainability.com, ISSN 1832-2077 © Common Ground, Matthew Sayre, Asunción Cano, and Huber Trinidad All Rights Reserved, Permissions: [email protected]


Figure 1: Location of Chavín de Huántar in Peru.

The early colonial visitors to Chavín envisioned it to be an enormous castle. While the townspeople were not clear on who built the site some said it was built by the Inka (Burger 1995). These vague statements on Chavín’s origins, as well as the impressions of early colonial visitors, formed the foundation on top of which later work would be established. The postconquest history of archaeological work at the site is well known (Contreras 2007, 14; Mesia 2007, 1–14). Researchers later granted Chavín its own unique place in Andean history. While many other important archaeological sites are clearly associated with armies and militaristic functions, Chavín is considered to be a site of ritual pilgrimage. Pachacamac is a later pilgrimage site to which Chavín is compared. There were many other pilgrimage sites in the Andes, another one of particular importance was the Isla del Sol (Bauer and Stanish 2001) and archaeology conducted at the site also made clear that it is difficult to find material evidence of ritual activities (Moore 2005). Julio C. Tello first visited the site of Chavín in 1919 as part of his larger survey of the Marañon River (Tello 1943). Tello was conducting surveys of the highland region and searching for evidence for the independent development of Andean civilization, something that he intuitively believed to have begun in the highland region of Peru (Tello 1943). Chavín fell into the preconceived notions of what an early megalithic center should look like. The physical monumentality of Chavín was such clear evidence of elaborate planning that it could easily refute foreign archaeologists, such as Max Uhle (1902), who believed that Andean civilization descended from Mesoamerican civilization. The formal re-discovery of the temple did not initially lead to extensive excavations- rather the first visits to the temple were devoted to cleaning and mapping. After the site was cleared a long parade of archaeologists would begin to excavate and analyze the site. Little of this early work challenged the assumption that Chavín was the primordial site of Andean civilization. In recent years (Shady Solis 2006) this view has been debunked but modern day scholars are often times just as concerned with finding the oldest cities or cultures in the region. If there is a lesson to this story, it may be that there will always be another site or settlement to be found that challenges our chronological and cultural assumptions of the “evolution of society.” While most Andean scholars are familiar with the claims and writings of Julio C. Tello, many archaeologists are not familiar with the literature that informed his intellectual writings (Sayre 2010). His writings on early ritual and the basis of Chavín have been repeated time and again and yet returning to his own writings it is clear that many of his writings were intuitive formulations necessarily derived from the writings of theologians, philosophers, and chroniclers.



The early chroniclers wrote their texts in an age where divine influence on the material world was assumed. Much of Guaman Poma’s texts and drawings depict sacred images and try to correlate Inkan rites with Christian themes. While modern scholars may gloss over this relationship and attempt to use his work without any mention of Tello’s religious education, he lived at a time and place where religious thought still pervaded much of the social sciences. His capacity to discuss Andean cultures in their own terms is notable but his work is still profoundly informed by the concept of chief divinities and priests motivated by heavenly concerns. His upbringing in the Catholic Church, as well as his knowledge of Andean ethnography, undoubtedly impacted his vision of gender and ritual roles in the lives of Chavín’s past inhabitants. Tello’s work contained profound insights and many archaeologists continue to follow his thoughts on the nature and timing of Chavín. One of his most important contributions was his idea that the site functioned as a ritual center. This claim is now part of common wisdom most likely because the archaeologists have found no irrefutable evidence to contradict it or determine its correctness. Additionally, there is little evidence to support claims of military rule or extensive control over other sites outside of the Callejón de Conchucos. Chavin was built/reworked for a long span, reused by the Huaraz people, affecting the natural and cultural environment (Contreras 2007). The site became a UNESCO site in 1989 due to its outstanding cultural and historical importance and is visited by tens of thousands of visitors every year, including local elementary school students and tourists from all over the world. This visitation impacts the landscape in a variety of manners.

Peru’s Past and Future Climate The name of our current geologic era, the Anthropocene, acknowledges that human beings are the key factor in the formation of emergent environments. A radically human-altered earth has recently become an accepted fact in the natural science community but it is something that has been studied in Anthropology and Archaeology for decades (Kirch 2005; Sandweiss and Kelley 2012). As we consider the impacts of early human groups on megafauna populations, fire management, island birds, and methane emissions from rice paddies, we must acknowledge that humans have a long history as niche creators and environmental managers (Kirch 2005; Strauss 2012). Anthropology is particularly well suited to address the issue of how the past can inform present day research on emergent environments. This changing environment will impact the natural environment of Chavín. Decades of research on climate change have provided substantial data about how humans have impacted the environment (Dryzek et al. 2011; IPCC 2013). While complex modeling provides significant insights into the physical processes that will change our planet in the coming decades, this research is not always directly connected to people (Giddens 2011; Held et al. 2011; Trostle 2010). Thus, we still know relatively little about how diverse people around the world are adapting, or attempting to adapt, to climate change (Carey 2010). The tremendous natural changes occurring in the world will undoubtedly have tremendous consequences for many people. One group in particular will be at the forefront of this change: the rural poor. The town of Chavín de Huántar is a rural population center with many economic concerns. The majority of the world’s poor still live in rural areas and these populations are more likely to be responsible for producing their own food and energy requirements (Casillas and Kammen 2010). These broad structural problems are compounded for residents of the neo-tropics as these regions of the world are expected to see dramatic environmental change in the coming decades (Carey 2010; IPCC 2013). Highland Peru is one region of the world that is particularly vulnerable due to the fact that has almost a third of the world’s tropical glaciers (Bury et al. 2013). These glaciers are the major source of water in the region and they are rapidly retreating.



This loss of water will impact local farmers who depend upon this glacial source. The changing climate is also rapidly changing farming and food production strategies in the region. Glacial melt and retreat has two major impacts on this highland community. Melting glaciers prompt glacial moraine lake outbreaks, which are the source of deadly disasters, such as the enormous landslide which decimated the town of Chavín in 1945 (Carey 2010). Disappearing glaciers are also the possible harbinger of a limited future for farmers and local residents who depend upon this water source, particularly during the dry season when glacial melt provides the majority of the water in local rivers. Remediation and caretaking of glaciers may be necessary in order to slow the pace of glacier melting. Concerns about the changing environment led us to undertake a botanical survey of the park. In order to maintain a diverse and resilient plant community it was necessary to document the botanical composition of the park.

Plant Survey In 2010 and 2011 we conducted a major survey of the floral composition of the park. The survey was performed by Professor Asunción Cano Echevarría and Huber Sady Trinidad Patricio (Museo de Historia Natural, Lima, Peru). The survey was conducted in order to determine the human impact on the site and to formulate future management plans for the site. There was a diverse number of plant families represented in the park (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Families with Four or More Species of Vascular Flora Found in the Archaeological Complex of Chavín de Huántar

The vascular flora of the Chavín archaeological complex is composed of native species typical of the surrounding vegetation (Brack 1999; Cano et al. 2005; 2006). However, there were 60 recorded species (40.82%) that were considered invasive plants or weeds, although many of them grow naturally in the area. One of the recorded species was Cenchrus clandestinus (Poaceae) (Peterson et al. 2015), known as “kikuyu” or “picuyo,” which is native to Africa, and is one of the most aggressive, invasive, and difficult to eradicate species. Kikuyu grass was recorded in all areas evaluated, although its most disturbing presence was in the monumental sector. There it can cause great damage to the monument and disturb the maintenance of the structures.



There were five cultivated species grown in the surveyed area. Out of these, Cupressus lusitanica, Pinus radiata, and Eucalyptus globulus are cultivated for wood and hedgerows, while Prunus serotina and Pouteria lucuma are cultivated for their fruit (Wiersema and León 2013). The plants commonly known as Scottish Broom (Spartium junceum) and reed (Arundo donax) are introduced species but have become naturalized and are appreciated by local people for their fuel, fiber and use as medicinal plants. One other newly introduced alien species, (Citissus sp.), is grown for the purpose of forestation and reforestation. We report 41 species (27.89%) with known uses, either as medicine, firewood, wood/lumber (pine and cypress), ornamental, food (capuli, lucuma, Shirac casha) or other uses. Among these, cullash or molle (Schinus molle) are examples of plants highly prized as a source of timber, firewood, and medicine. The plant communities at Chavín varied greatly from sector to sector of the site. The four sectors of the site analyzed were: the West Field, The Monumental Sector, the Wacheqsa Area, and the South Area (Figure 3). The West Field is walled off from the tourist visitation area but it is commonly used as a grazing field for local animals, the Wacheqsa and South Area are not subject to significant visitation by visitors, and finally the Monumental Sector is the center of tourist visitation to the site (Figure 4). The two areas with significant use impact are the West Field and the Monumental Sector. These areas have the lowest plant diversity at the site and they are significantly covered by “kikuyu” grass, whose impact will be discussed in the next section. The South Area and Wacheqsa Area are also impacted by “kikuyu,” as well as by the deliberate planting of Eucalyptus trees for timber production. The damage caused by these two invasive/propagated species will also be discussed in the following section.

Figure 3: Sectors of the Site Discussed in the Botanical Survey



Figure 4: Number of Species of Vascular Flora, be Sector, of the Archaeological Complex of Chavín de Huántar

Site Remediation The goal of the botanical survey project was to determine how to protect and preserve the site of Chavín from future damage from invasive plants, climate change, and massive land movements. Our project found that invasive species or weeds should be selectively treated depending on the species and the archaeological area. Cenchrus clandestinus, “kikuyu,” is the most aggressive invasive species and it deserves special care. This plant propagates itself via horizontal rhizome growth while at the same time extending root systems over four meters down into the surrounding soil. We recommended manual removal and vigilance against its return. The Eucalyptus trees are a great concern as well due to their deep root systems and high daily water intake, which can impact the local water table. We found that invasive Eucalyptus trees could be easily removed and replaced with native species.

Figure 5a: Eucalyptus Trees in Front of Monument Source: Matthew Sayre



Figure 5b: Kikuyu grass growing in monumental architecture. Source: Matthew Sayre

In the summer of 2011 we began to remove invasive kikuyu grass and cacti from the monumental buildings. We also began planting native trees. These trees will create an open picnic area near the Wacheqsa River which will allow for tourists to further enjoy the site. The successful planting of native trees is the beginning of the transition of the ecology and botany of the park back to a state similar to the pre-colonial period. The improvement of the park will lead to an enhanced tourist experience and a more sustainable future. These projects are further described below. It may not be possible to replace kikuyu with other grass species. This is not the case with the Eucalyptus, if this species is removed completely it will be possible to replace it with other native species. The Kikuyu is particularly problematic and will be difficult to combat. Even if it is removed from atop of the monuments and from within the monumental center it would be nearly impossible to replace it with a native species that could resist its’ return. For this reason it may be necessary to cover all of the monuments with plastic, in order to remove the kikuyu, and then cover the monuments with stone cover or some other forms of inorganic material. This type of architectural remediation and conservation will require a trained architectural conservationist. While this would be a dramatic transformation it would be returning the monument close to its original state when it is very unlikely that it was covered by plant material. In addition to the problems associated with the kikuyu, the top and sides of the monument are covered with agaves and other plants that need to be manually removed. These plants send out roots into the stone walls and will separate them in search of soil and nutrients. The Eucalyptus will be difficult to remove, but once completely dealt with it will be fairly easy to control against the return of this species. While Eucalyptus trees can regenerate from stumps and other standing material if the entire stump is removed along with any remaining saplings it will be possible to replace the forested regions surrounding the riverbanks of the site with native species. Finally, pine trees are also not native to the region and should be removed along with the Eucalyptus. Pines are predominantly propagated by seed cones, and these can be directly controlled.

Future Plans and Work The future conservation of the site of Chavín de Huántar depends on a number of factors. Continued site remediation is needed in order to deal with a future that will undoubtedly portend a more variable supply of water. The continued melting of the neo-tropical glaciers will lead to a less secure water supply. The continued presence of dominant invasive species in the park is one factor that a changing climate demands to be addressed. One step that can be taken to deal with



this issue is the replacement of invasive plant species with more native species. Due to their excessive water consumption invasive species threaten the stability of the water table. The park itself offers the opportunity to demonstrate the value and resilience of native plant species. It can serve as a model of how to lessen impact on the local water supply. We also recommend the creation of a native plant garden, which may use species in the area with medicinal, aromatic and timber uses such as: Aliso (Alnus acuminata), Molle (Schinus molle), Tara (Caesalpinia spinosa), Huarauia (Tecoma sp.), and Ckaramati (Jungia paniculata).

Conclusion In this article we have addressed the issues of site conservation, sustainable management practices, and tourist visitation practices. We have described how the site of Chavín de Huántar is vulnerable to changing environmental patterns, as well as to human impacts. The slow process of restoring the site to a more sustainable state has begun and future plans for enhancing this project were suggested. There are many exciting possibilities for parks and cultural heritage sites to serve as centers of best practice for sustainable tourism.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS Dr. Matthew Sayre: Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota, USA Asunción Cano: Professor, Biological Sciences Faculty and Floristic Laboratory, Dicotyledons Department, Natural History Museum, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Peru Huber Trinidad: Licensed Biologist, Floristic Laboratory, Dicotyledons Department, Natural History Museum, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, Peru


The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability: Annual Review aims to create an intellectual frame of reference, and to support an interdisciplinary conversation presenting innovative theories and practices of sustainability. Candidates for inclusion in this survey journal include works by invited contributors and top-ranked articles selected from thematic journal submissions for their wide applicability and interest. The perspectives presented in the journal range from big picture analyses that address global and universal concerns to detailed case studies that speak of localized applications of the principles and practices of sustainability. Articles traverse a broad terrain, sometimes technically and other times socially oriented, sometimes theoretical and other times practical in their perspectives, and sometimes reflecting dispassionate analysis while at other times suggesting interested strategies for action.

ISSN 1832-2077

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability: Annual Review consists of articles considered to be of wide interest across the field. Four thematically focused journals also serve this knowledge community: •

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social, and Cultural Context

The International Journal of Sustainability Education

The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability: Annual Review is a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal.

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