Archaeological Research

The research activities carried out in the north-central coastal region by Caral Archaeological Zone have all the characteristics of a multidisciplinary and comprehensive investigation program, including prospection work, excavation, analysis of materials, and processing of the information, in accordance with the epistemological requirements of the Social Sciences.

Archaeological Prospection Process 

This is an exploratory activity, preliminary to the archaeological excavation work.  Its first stage consists of collecting bibliographic information and information from land registers and previous archaeological research, as well as the use of data bases such as rural and urban land surveys, aerial photographs, and satellite pictures.  During a second stage, field work is carried out using modern topography equipment, for a systematic reconnaissance of the archaeological evidence and the landscape location; its present condition is recorded, and any possible damages suffered.

Records and surveys are made of the existing architecture, pre-Hispanic roads, geoglyphs, and petroglyphs.  The natural resources that had been used by ancient populations (stone and clay quarries, water sources, and rivers) are also located.  This information is systematized.  The idea is to cover all the components of each settlement, their characteristics and those of the surroundings, the geographic and cultural landscape.

Cadastral maps of the populations and of the systems, roads, canals, and modern streets near the archaeological sites are updated.

The archaeological settlement is fully recorded, including any modern modifications, thus making it possible to proceed with the archaeological research and the site protection.  The prospection is done by archaeologists, topographers, and specialized technicians.  For the geo-referencing and topographic work, a differential GPS Pathfinder PRO XRS is used as well as two total stations, Trimble 3600 and Leica TCR 407.   In some sectors of the settlements, geological penetrating equipment is used, such as georadar, to determine the archaeological nature of the place.  For these cases, a PulseEKKO Pro georadar is used, with antennas of 50, 100, and 200 MHz, and an Overhauser GSM-19 magnetometer.

Archaeological Excavation Process

Excavation is the main means of archaeological research for the recovery of evidence that cannot be seen on the surface.  It involves the registration and removal of the stratigraphic units and associated cultural materials, in a systematic way, for the best possible understanding and interpretation of the ancient Caral society.

The strategy used is that of excavation in area, which enables the archaeologist to have a better overview of the spatial distribution of the archaeological evidence and the associated contexts.  For the recovery of this evidence, meticulous record-taking is of the utmost importance throughout the procedure.  A special case is the study of archaeological architecture.  Here, particular importance is given to the contextual information of the materials and structural features of the buildings.  For the former, the association of the materials with the spaces and architectural elements is documented.  For the latter, the structural characteristics are documented (foundation, bonds, mortars and materials used). This is indispensable for a proper understanding of the architecture and its corresponding evaluation in terms of conservation.  In this case, in addition, problems with the preservation of the building and its components are recorded, to define the type of conservation work to be done.

The archaeological record is made up of all the written material, photographs, and scale drawings, as well as the topographic and architectural survey with total station, and digital scanning that were produced during the excavation process.  Harris diagrams are used to depict the stratigraphic relationships.

Different types of materials are recovered in the excavations, such as textiles, figurines, stone artifacts, and organic material, food remains, and funerary contexts, which provide us with information on different aspects of ancient societies.

At each research site we have a team of archaeologists and technical experts in archaeological excavation and recording techniques.  The results of the research are presented in monthly technical dossiers, fact sheets, and pre-established forms.

The Information Process

The data gathered in the field are systematized to obtain information and achieve an accurate archaeological understanding and interpretation.  Based on this, conclusions are drawn and confronted with existing knowledge.  The results are published in specialized reports and scientific articles.  Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software is used to vector graphics and process topographic and architectural surveys, as well as to model surfaces and volumes.  Views are prepared in 2d and 3d, as well as 3d animations and non-linear video editing.

The Geographic Information System (GIS) has the field data and records fed into it, which permits different levels of information analysis and its appropriate presentation.  The system is also used to analyze the environment and the relationships of the populations that lived in the settlements under investigation.

The results of the analysis of the archaeological materials are interpreted bearing in mind the synchronic and diachronic aspects of the architectural context of the buildings and of the settlement they come from.