We generally focus here on the demand side of the illicit antiquities trade — the museums, auction houses, collectors and dealers who buy plundered antiquities, providing the economic fuel that keeps looters digging.
Our friends at the Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI) have developed a promising paradigm for attacking the problem at its source—the impoverished communities where archaeological sites are frequently located.
Here’s a guest post from SPI’s Rebekah Junkermeier on that model and a new crowdfunding campaign to expand it:
If you’re reading this blog, you probably know that looting and the illicit antiquities trade ravages archaeological sites, ones that contain many of the precious artifacts valued by collectors, dealers, and museums because they help explain the history of human beings on the planet. More specifically, it is often residents of an impoverished local community that loot the site or use it for other purposes (grazing animals, growing crops) in an attempt to provide themselves and their family with the essentials, thus accelerating the damage.
But how can someone tell an underprivileged person not to economically exploit a site, even if that exploitation is destroying the site, without providing a viable economic alternative?
SPI’s paradigm answers this question. It preserves endangered archaeological sites by empowering local residents through entrepreneurship. By investing in locally-created and -owned businesses whose financial success is tied to preservation of the site, SPI preserves cultural heritage and alleviates poverty in the surrounding communities.
Our first project at San Jose de Moro, one of the most important ancient cemeteries in all of Peru, has created over 40 jobs for local residents and generated over $16,000 in an impoverished community where the daily wage is only $9.50. Looting and destructive practices at the site have come to a halt and local residents now view the site as an economic asset. After just one year of operations, the project is completely economically sustainable, no additional funding needed.
Our second project at Pampas Gramalote, Peru, is well on its way to the same type of success. The story of master gourd carver and designer Ivan Cruz there is a moving one. Before SPI, Ivan always struggled to make ends meet: “At first it was difficult, as I had to work at a number of jobs to support my family — as a house painter, as a brick mason, in my parents’ fields fumigating, weeding, and harvesting.” An SPI grant gave Ivan the entrepreneurial opportunity he needed to capitalize on his artistic abilities. He and local archaeologist Gabriel Prieto were able to build an artisan studio where he can create more artwork and train other local residents and a store where all of their works can be sold. He is now a proud and independent entrepreneur making a living by utilizing Pampas Gramalote and other local sites in a non-destructive manner. “I understand how my work can help preserve the art [of traditional gourd carving] and foster appreciation for such an important archaeological site as Pampas Gramalote.”
People Not Stones 2013
This week, SPI is launching its first crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.com to raise the $49,000 needed for our two newest projects in Bandurria and Chotuna, Peru. Both sites are home to poor communities and rich cultural heritage. Bandurria contains pyramids in Peru older than those of ancient Egypt and Chotuna is a 235-acre monumental temple and pyramid complex, where several ancient royal tombs have been discovered (see National Geographic link here).
Neither place can afford such basics as running water and electricity or has a sewer system. There are few jobs, little income and no opportunity to escape this cycle of poverty. Our project aims for nothing short of alleviating poverty in these communities and saving the archaeological sites, and we want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to come on board.
Help us save sites and transform lives! Click here to make a tax-deductible contribution at indiegogo today and spread the word by liking our campaign on Facebook, posting our crowdfunding campaign on your Facebook page, retweeting us on Twitter (#peoplenotstones2013), or pinning our project video on Pinterest!