Monday, 15 December 2014

El Huaquero

Ancient artefacts that have gone walkabout all over the world are nowadays finding their way back home to museums where they can be enjoyed by everyone. Looted treasure, via unwitting explorers, local grave robbers and enterprising middlemen, can wind up in all sorts of places - from museums, to top end private collections, to the more humble dwellings of ordinary citizens.

In Peru, discoveries are made all the time in remote areas of a country where a rural population still struggles to make ends meet. Add to the mix a lack of trust in institutions, and it's easy for some to argue that there's nothing wrong with a 'pickings for all' approach.

To Tello the real value of an object was not the price it could fetch, but the story it would tell. Indeed his life was dedicated to bringing that story to the Peruvian people.  

He was pitted against looters of all types, as well as negligence and government indifference. Local tomb raiders posed a problematic dilemma .... whilst they were undoubtedly his sworn enemies, they could also help lead him to sites.

Silver and copper alloy headdress - Peru, 100-700 AD
 property of a Swiss gentleman acquired 1960 in the Paris art market. 
Vestervang House Auctions catalogue.

In this story Hernan tells of a chance encounter in the Casma valley which they hope can further their research. But science is not exactly uppermost in the mind of this particular local peasant.

El Huaquero 
In which an enthusiastic entrepreneur almosts gets more than he is bargaining for

Tello was in the Casma Valley one day, exploring every corner of the countryside and making notes on all the geographical features in order to make a detailed report, when we came across a small hut. The peasant who emerged from within could barely speak Spanish. Tello asked him for the names of all the nearby spots and landmarks, but he studiously ignored us, probably because we were strangers. Tello then decided to ask him if by any chance he had any artefacts