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High Altitude Archaeology
Part 3 (back to Part 2)

scenic In fact, it would seem that nothing stops Johan from his high altitude archaeological explorations. He holds the world's high altitude scuba dive record. At 19,200 feet on Licancabur he made a very cold dive into a crater lake to see if there were any remains of Inca offerings to the lake. In an article written for the American Alpine Journal he described this experience: "The lake is over 200 feet long and proved to be relatively deep—about 15 feet in the center. I found a dark layer, roughly four feet thick, covering the center-bottom and consisting of millions of crustacean larvae—something hardly to be expected at this altitude. Diving into this dark swarm under such unusual circumstances proved to be an unforgettable experience. Like others at altitude, I too have occasionally had the sensation of someone accompanying me who didn't exist. Never before, however, did I have visions of this being a giant squid! I also saw underwater mole-like tunnels through the sand made by something I wasn't able to identify. Although a few pieces of wood were found at about 12 feet, these were apparently thrown in without any purpose in mind and no offerings of any type were seen."

finding cloth Foremost on Johan's agenda these days is the threat of potential looting of these sacred sites. "It's hard to do a lot of plundering at altitude, but is has happened. Before we went to Ampato, the site was blasted and looted." The aim of Johan's archaeological expeditions to the Andes is to preserve the sacred sites for posterity. "The number of high-mountain sites is limited, and few of the important ones were investigated prior to being pilfered and, occasionally, destroyed by treasure hunters and mountain climbers in search of souvenirs. Even if only one or two minor items were taken by each climber, a site would rapidly be depleted of finds, and we may never be able to determine who made them or reconstruct what took place there... It would be a tragic loss to (our) cultural and mountaineering heritage if materials which hold the key to such important ancient beliefs should disappear before they can be studied."

The Lost Empire | The Sacrificial Ceremony | High Altitude Archaeology | Burial Artefacts

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