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Past Watch Site
PUCARÁ DE TILCARA
Quebrada de Humahuaca, Jujuy Province, Argentina
Pucará de Tilcara is an archaeological site located in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a narrow mountain valley in northwest Argentina. The settlement was built on a small hill overlooking the Río Grande de Jujuy, with steep sides and a gently sloping summit. It is thought to have been first occupied in the tenth century A.D. During the fifteenth century, the expansion of the powerful Inca Empire into this region resulted in significant cross-cultural exchange. The Spanish arrived in the valley in 1536, but did not gain control of the area, which included the route to the important silver-mining town of Potosí to the north, until 1595. The settlement was later abandoned and looted for building materials.
Archaeological excavations began at the site in 1908, by the pioneering Argentine archaeologists Juan Bautista Ambrosetti (1865–1917) and his student, Salvador Debenedetti (1884–1930). A monument to Ambrosetti and Debenedetti was built at the site in 1935. Fieldwork by generations of archaeologists has continued through the twentieth century, and this history of excavation demonstrates the evolution of standards in the field. In the 1950s, for instance, many structures were reconstructed to prepare the site for visitors, once common practice around the world that has given way to different approaches to site interpretation today that rely far less on recreating missing elements.
Today, Pucará de Tilcara is part of the Quebrada de Humahuaca World Heritage Site, and receives more than 100,000 visitors every year. The site, however, lacks controlled circulation routes, which makes the masonry ruins vulnerable to physical deterioration. Soil erosion, which can lead to landslides, presents another problem for this hilly site. And in the past, the site has suffered from inadequate care for the conservation of ruins after excavation. The proposed drafting of a new management plan, and expert technical assistance, has the potential to serve as a model for other sites in the region.
IN WMF JOURNAL
- Visiting the Pucará de Tilcara on a Cold July Morning
August 14, 2012