This morning, Mantas street by the side of Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas woke up with a grid and people with maroon vests and jackets digging and carrying away residue.
It looks like archeologists from the Deconcentrated Directorate of Culture in Cuzco (Dirección Desconcentrada de Cultura de Cusco) have begun excavating the street where last week it was announced work on the street had uncovered a set of Inca stairs, Inca walls, and fragments of ceramics.
The Inca period remains had already been compromised by twentieth century utility piping.
The engineer in charge of the road work, Wilmer Chavez Marmanillo had hope to finish the project during September. The date is important because elections for Regional President as well as other positions are scheduled for October fifth. The city, as a result has sprouted with public works like a desert after a rain in anticipation of the elections.
Undoubtedly this discovery will slow down this project as archeologists do their work.
A find such as this is not surprising in this spot in what was the Inca Capital. The old city of Cuzco covers the Inca Capital and little remains visible of the magnificence that was. Almost every building project, whether private or public threatens to destroy what remains, hence the importance of the archeologist’s work, despite the probable political pressure to get it finished quickly so that the street work can finish.
Throughout Peru there is a tension between archeological remains and the demands for progress and development. Former president Alan Garcia is famous for saying something to the effect that three or four dead people cannot stop progress. Yet the country increasingly relies on its archeological heritage as pillars of its national project and to draw visitors.
This project takes place right between what was a river, Saphi, now channeled under ground, and the sacred main square, the Haukaypata and the Kusipata where so much ritual was performed in Inca times. It will be fascinating to see what is uncovered and to hear the comments of archeologists and ethnohistorians as the site is covered again and the road claims its place as part of modern Cuzco.