Volunteer Inca Archaeology in Peru
- Placement location: Huyro, Lucumayo Valley
- Role: Working alongside expert Peruvian archaeologists undertaking a combination of archaeological, community, and agricultural work
- Requirements: None
- Areas of Focus: Investigation and mapping of the ancient Inca road network in the Lucumayo area
- Accommodation: Shared volunteer house
- Length of placement: From 2 weeks
- Start dates: Flexible
Volunteering with Projects Abroad on the Inca Project in Peru is a great choice if you are interested in archaeology and the history of the Inca civilization, and want to get involved in a range of practical activities. While living and working alongside the local Peruvian people, you can gain hands-on experience in a range of archaeological and historical work and contribute to local community projects.
When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Peru in the 16th Century, the land had been ruled for roughly two centuries by the Inca people. During their rule the Incas gained control of an area about one million square kilometers in size, ranging from Colombia to central Chile. The vast Inca Empire had its administrative, political, and military center in the city of Cuzco.
The year 1533 saw an end to the Inca Empire when the Spanish captured Cuzco. Despite years of Spanish rule, Peru has managed to retain a rich Incan legacy which can be seen throughout the country. The majestic ruins of Machu Picchu and the Inca capital city of Cuzco are among the most fascinating Inca sites.
Activities, Expeditions, and Community Work in Peru
Projects Abroad works with several local organizations and archaeologists in Peru. The range and quality of the sites that our volunteers have worked on during this time has been impressive. They include Sacsayhuaman, Zurite, Ollantaytambo, the Historical Center of Cuzco, and some amazing new sites in the local cloud forest.
Since January 2007 we have been working near Huyro, at the site of some newly found ruins, discovered by the previous Director of Projects Abroad Peru, Tim DeWinter. We do not yet know too much about the new settlement, but due to its proximity to Machu Picchu and Vilcabamba, we are sure that the site will become an important area for Inca historians.
Volunteering Abroad on the Inca Project in Peru
The project is based near the town of Huyro, which is located in the province of La Convencion, a 3 hour journey from our main office in the Sacred Valley. This is a breath-taking journey that takes you up to 4300 meters above sea level and then back down to the heat of the cloud forest. The town itself is in the Lucumayo Valley and the work we undertake on the project here focuses on archaeology, community work, and agriculture.
Volunteers spend time working alongside Peruvian archaeological experts. John Valencia Cordoba is our main archaeologist on the archaeological program, which was completed in December 2014: “Prospection and Investigation in the Lucumayo Valley”, which has been approved by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.
In 2015, after hiking up to the ruins, the work involves exploration of new areas and clearing and preserving the ancient Inca and pre-Inca walls and terracing systems. You may even discover some new ruins yourself! Volunteers are also involved in mapping the ruins, excavating specific areas, and registering finds and placing them in historical contexts in order to better understand the Inca people. Another long term goal of the Inca project is the investigation and mapping of the entire Inca road network in the Lucumayo area. There are strong indications that one of the roads that we have explored leads to Machu Picchu, which is of great interest to local, regional, and national authorities.
Your Role as a Volunteer on the Inca Project in Peru
From February to November volunteers participate primarily in prospection work. Due to weather conditions, the outdoor archaeological work will largely take place only from April to October. We do not rule out these activities at other times of year, but they are uncommon. During the rainy season from November to February priority is given to cleaning, classifying, drawing, and registering finds. Workshops are held on Inca and pre-Inca civilizations and culture throughout the year.
It is important to note that this is just a rough guide and work is dependent on the weather any time of year. It may be possible to do some prospection work in December or January, and cleaning and classifying finds take place year round. During the rainy season we try and do as much outside archaeology work as possible and re-schedule work where practical. Workshops, cleaning and classifying our finds, and community work continue regardless of the weather, ensuring that you will still have the chance to learn about the Andean, Inca, and pre-Inca cultures, no matter what time of year you arrive.
In addition to the archaeology work, Projects Abroad has promoted community meetings in Huyro since August 2006 in order to discuss our work and the ways in which we can have a positive impact on the local community. The meetings are always very well attended and have proven to be rich sources of information. Thanks to this close relationship we have with local leaders, we always have new projects for volunteers to be involved in.
Our volunteers have been involved with working with the local kindergartens, creating a library, assisting with dental health campaigns, building greenhouses, setting up nutrition programs, building ecological stoves, and introducing new crops to diversify the agricultural production. In 2011, Projects Abroad did a full diagnostic of the whole district and we now use this information in conjunction with the local and regional authorities to target areas in particular need and develop programs.
Where You Will Live on the Archaeology Project in Peru
Volunteers live together in a shared community house in Huyro with the Projects Abroad staff members, who are available 24/7. We are aiming to make the Inca Project completely self-sufficient and all volunteers are expected to contribute to activities to help achieve this goal. Examples can include looking after crops, harvesting tomatoes, feeding the chickens and ducks, helping to maintain the facilities around the farm, and taking turns with cleaning up after dinner or lunch. You will have plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the local way of life and practice Spanish on a daily basis, as we have close ties with local communities in the area.
Traveling to the Inca Project
The best time for you to arrive in Cusco is on a Saturday or Sunday morning, as a member of our Inca Project staff is always traveling from Cusco to Huyro on Sunday afternoons. Volunteers arriving in Cusco on a Friday or Saturday will stay with a host family until the Sunday. Should you arrive on any other day of the week, you will have to wait until the weekend to travel to your placement or for other volunteers arriving on later dates.
This project is available for less than a month if you don't have time to join us for a month or more. This project has been selected by our local colleagues as being suitable for shorter durations for both the host community and the volunteer. Although you will gain valuable cultural insight and work intensely within the local community please be aware that you may not be able to make the same impact as someone participating for a longer period.
However, my favorite part of the project, being an archaeologist, was the trips up the mountain to the Inca ruins. We had to walk the last leg of the journey, a very steep climb with no proper path and lots of plants in the way, very hard journeys! The ruins are nestled in different parts of the forest, sometimes small two roomed houses, sometimes larger structures, but all belonged to Inca farmers. Read more...
All volunteers participating on standard projects in Peru have the opportunity to spend one week on a Conservation & Environment project at the end of their main placement. For more information, please visit our Rainforest Conservation & Environment Project in Peru page. Our Combinations Page explains how you can combine not only projects, but also destinations.
If you have qualifications or experience in this field then we can make use of your skills volunteering abroad as a professional in Peru. If you are a high school student and first-time traveler you may want to consider our High School Special programs in Peru.