Archaeology | Ethnography | Ethnohistory | Geoarchaeology | In the Museum | Landscape analysis


Between 2007 and 2008 21 ushnu stone platforms located across the Ayacucho and southern Huancavelica regions of modern Peru were excavated using a range of archaeological methods.

The 21 sites were specifically chosen for characteristics that would offer a wide range of elements to study, including altitude, distribution in the landscape, architectural-style, orientation, and location both within and outside known Inca settlements.

As well as unearthing and identifying a number of artefacts, the project team discovered variation in the material used as fill material inside the ushnu structures and differences in drainage channels. Some ushnus were filled with lots of stone, and frequently river cobbles, while those built on mountain tops usually had finely textured fills. These deposits were found to be very clean as if a special effort had been made to make sure no artefacts contaminated them.

Analysis has shown that in many cases material for the platform fills came from a distance away from the structures, possibly from agricultural land, suggesting composition was significant.

The survey and excavation undertaken by the project team included formal training for Peruvian students. This has enabled the sharing of new theory and practice in Andean archaeology. The Peruvian participants in the project contributed significantly to understanding of the Andean cultural context in which the ushnus functioned.


What is archaeology?

Archaeology is the study of past human societies through the recovery and analysis of the artefacts and information about the environment.

Archaeologists use methods such as survey, excavation and scientific analysis of finds to understand human and cultural history.

It is perhaps most important for the study of ancient and prehistoric peoples which left no written records of their societies.

Image captions:


1-3. Archaeological investigations at ushnu sites