2018 World Monuments Watch
Looting and neglect are some of the challenges facing the archaeological site of Cerro de Oro, located just 140 km south of Lima, in the Cañete Province. Perched atop a rocky hill, the 150-hectare site overlooks the Pacific Ocean, and is surrounded on all sides by agricultural land. Most of Cerro de Oro remains unexplored, yet past excavations have revealed three distinct periods of occupation over a span of a thousand years. The earliest remains are of a settlement with a vast network of monumental adobe buildings, including houses and funerary structures, dating back to 550-850. Burials containing elaborate funerary bundles with textiles establish a clear link with highland Wari society (850-950) and findings of a later cemetery and residential complex signals Inca occupation of the area from c. 1100 until the Spanish Conquest.
Declared as a Monumental Archaeological Zone by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture in 2006, Cerro de Oro is as historically significant as better-known archaeological sites like Chan Chan, Huaca de la Luna, and Machu Picchu. Intensive looting, disinvestment, and illegal encroachment on the land threaten the site and the archaeological remains. Less than two hours away from the historic center of Lima, Cerro de Oro has the potential to be incorporated into the region’s tourism offerings, which brings close to 20,000 visitors each year along with economic benefits to the underserved communities in the surrounding district of San Luis. The 2018 World Monuments Watch will help raise awareness of the conservation needs and opportunities for sustainable tourism development at Cerro de Oro.
Since the Watch
The District Municipality of San Luis de Cañete has renewed their commitment to help protect the site and beginning in February 2018, has increased security as a measure to prevent the looting that plagues the archaeological site. In the summer of 2019, new implementations were put in place to enhance the visitor experience while protecting the site from foot traffic. Work includes the implementation of informational panels along a new walking trail, the opening of two new viewpoints from which to observe the cultural and natural landscape of the low valley of Cañete, and the construction of a new interpretation center where educational activities will be carried out. In summer 2019, a ceremony was held to mark the completion and opening of new visitor services and an Interpretation Center.
On July 22, 2018, Watch Day was held in Cerro de Oro, welcoming more than 300 visitors from the surrounding community, students of the District of San Luis de Cañete and citizens of Lima. Participants toured the different areas of the archaeological site, and students received an educational booklet developed specifically for this occassion, to be used to create a more engaging visit. Exhibition panels were displayed to the public on an abandoned 20th-century house, informing visitors about the history and values of the site and its main threats of looting and encroachment.