Yanacancha-Huaquis Cultural Landscape

Active Project
World Monuments Watch
Miraflores District, Peru

Site History and Significance

Traditional Water Infrastructure in an Ancient Cultural Landscape

In Peru, an example of a traditional water infrastructure extends across an ancient cultural landscape nestled within the Andes. Here, people of the pre-Inca Yauyos culture developed a series of dams, reservoirs, and channels to divert, filter, and retain spring water and glacier melt for the irrigation of high-altitude pastures and lower-altitude fields, as well as for human consumption. The infrastructure, some of which dates to the ninth century CE, creates fertile wetlands in the high, dry puna ecosystem, allowing local herders to feed and water their livestock. Diverting and slowing the flow of water allows it to percolate into the soil and replenish natural springs at lower altitudes, which can be used to irrigate agricultural terraces and supply water for daily use.

There are six consecutive dams along 750 meters of the Yanacancha stream bed at 4,400 meters above sea level. Stone walls joined by mud mortar dam the water, which then emerges at Huacuyo spring further down the mountain, near the old town of Huaquis. When maintained, the system provides effective water management across a large, mountainous landscape that impacts communities across the Cañete River basin. Unfortunately, much of the infrastructure has been largely abandoned and key maintenance practices forgotten by the local Indigenous heirs of this incredible heritage.

Our Involvement

2022 World Monuments Watch

Since 2013, the community of Miraflores and Instituto de Montaña, in alliance with the Nor Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, have been working hand in hand to maintain and preserve this landscape. Together, they implemented an Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) measure that has restored the site’s ancient water management system, improving livestock and pastureland management there—key adaptations as climates affect precipitation and glacier melt.

Recognition on 2022 World Monuments Watch has helped draw international and national attention to the ancestral water management system of Yanacancha-Huaquis, encouraging the expansion of recent rehabilitation efforts and the development of a sustainable tourism plan benefiting the local community.

Since June 2023, World Monuments Fund (WMF), alongside Instituto de Montaña, has focused its efforts on research and documentation of the cultural landscape, including undertaking archaeological research using an interdisciplinary and participatory, people-centered approach. 

Learn More

Through the World Monuments Watch, WMF collaborates with local partners to design and implement targeted conservation programs—including advocacy, planning, education, and physical interventions in the historic built environment—to improve human well-being through cultural heritage preservation. 

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World Monuments Fund's work at the Yanacancha-Huaquis Cultural Landscape has been made possible, in part, by support from The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust and American Express.

Last updated: March 2024.

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