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mountaintop Digging in Thin Air
Part 3 (back to Part 2)

Platform A
Platform A on the north side had a miniature shawl pin at its head, and as Jose Antonio and Walter dug it out they found some wood and then a deep layer of ashes. Jose Antonio originally believed the ashes were from Huayna Butina, a volcano that erupted in February 1600. The eruption was so widespread that it was heard in Lima and the ash reached as far away as Nicaragua. The sky was black for days in Arequipa and the ash layer killed everything underneath it. Today, Huayna Butina's eruption helps archaeologists in dating layers below or above the ash. After another day of excavating at Platform A—finding nothing but small pieces of straw—Jose Antonio and Walter abandon the site.

mountaintop At Last a Find
Johan and the crew pick away at the stubborn ice and rock in what seems like a fruitless effort until Walter yells "Johan" from a point in the rock wall behind the highest platform. Seven artefacts are ultimately pulled from that offering place, a record in Andean archaeology. When artefacts are pulled out of the earth they mostly look like bundles of mud-soaked cloth—which they are. The Inca wrapped all of their sacred offerings in textiles before burying them. Several of the figurines are wrapped in "shawls" and the female statuettes have pins to hold their shawls together, as was traditional for Inca women. Care is taken to not destroy the fragile artefacts, and they are promptly wrapped in tin foil (to keep them cold), labeled, and stuffed in a padded thermal shoulder bag.

Jose Antonio is the keeper of the artefacts, and he is very concerned about the possibility of looters making off with them. Every day he buries the artefacts in a new place in the snow on the summit. At night he keeps them in a secret location. In fact, Jose Antonio will not rest easy until the artefacts are safe in Arequipa.


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