Pucará de Tilcara

World Monuments Watch
Quebrada de Humahuaca, Jujuy Province, Argentina

2012 World Monuments Watch

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 first been 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, drawn by the route it provided to the important silver mining town of Potosí, but they did not gain control of the area until 1595. The settlement was later abandoned and looted for building materials.

Archaeological excavations began at Pucará de Tilcara in 1908, undertaken 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. By the time it was included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch it lacked controlled circulation routes, which made the masonry ruins vulnerable to physical deterioration. Soil erosion and inadequate care presented further problems at the site. The drafting of a new management plan and the solicitation of expert technical assistance for the protection of the remains were proposed in order to help make the site an appropriate model for similar places in the region.

Watch Day

Watch Day events at Pucará de Tilcara took place in August 2012, and provided children from the elementary schools of Tilcara with the opportunity to enjoy guided tours and discussions about the history and significance of the site.

Since the Watch

In the years following the announcement of the Watch, a plan was developed for the protection of the site. Conservation work included the stabilization of an original wall standing over two meters (6.5 feet) tall. Structures damaged by an outdated policy of allowing tourists to climb the remains were also protected. New visitor signage and brochures were created and a documentary for visitors with mobility problems was produced. Archaeologists trained local guides to provide tours around the site.

Last updated: February 2017.

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