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Volunteer Inca Archaeology in Peru

  • Placement location: Huyro, Lucumayo Valley
  • Role: Working alongside expert Peruvian archaeologists undertaking a combination of archaeological and community work
  • Requirements: None. Anyone aged 16 and older can join
  • 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. While living and working alongside the 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.

Archaeological Activities in Peru

A Projects Abroad Archaeology volunteer on the Inca Project uses a magnifying glass to take a close look at ceramics found in Huyro, Lucumayo Valley.

Projects Abroad works with several local organizations and archaeologists in Peru. The range and quality of the sites that our volunteers have worked on 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. Due to its proximity to Machu Picchu and Vilcabamba, we are sure that the site will become an important area for Inca historians.

One of the long-term goals 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.

Volunteering Abroad on the Inca Project in Peru

A Projects Abroad Archaeology volunteer cleans a ceramic discovered in Huyro, Lucumayo Valley 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 and community work.

You will 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.

During your time on the Inca Project, you will get involved in the following archaeological activities:

  • Site maintenance: this involves the superficial clearing of weeds and overgrowth from unknown archaeological structures in the Lucumayo Valley, in coordination with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.
  • Site registration: photographing, mapping, and recording GPS coordinates of previously unregistered archaeological structures, trails, and access routes.
  • Site visits: once a month, you will go with the project archaeologist to visit the archaeological sites in the Lucumayo Valley. Here, you will learn and get involved in discussion about the different functions, buildings techniques, and architecture of the structures in the valley.
  • Presentations: Projects Abroad staff and the project archaeologist will hold workshops, talks, briefings, and presentations regarding local and national culture, history, religion, and patrimony. You are encouraged to ask as many questions as you would like regarding these subjects.

Community Work in Peru with Projects Abroad

In addition to the archaeology work, volunteers also participate in a variety of weekly community-based activities. 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. By getting involved in these activities, you will help make a positive impact on the local community.

Once a week, usually on a Thursday, you will help with the following:

  • Visit a local kindergarten in the morning and assist with running educational activities, such as ball games, arts & crafts, music, or board games for children ages 3-5.
  • Spend time in the local library and do activities such as crafts, logic games, and reading with children ages 6-12.
  • Help care for babies and toddlers (up to the age of 3) at the local stimulation center. The program is run by the municipality and professional staff will be present, as well as the children’s parents. Your role will be to support the project, and use building blocks, ring towers, ball games, and early stimulus games to improve early childhood development.
  • Play volleyball and soccer, two of the most popular sports in Peru, with people from the local community (usually teachers).

Once or twice a year, Inca Project volunteers also contribute to a dental health campaign, which is run in coordination with a local health center. This campaign involves visiting schools, accompanied by a local professional dentist, and helping to apply a fluoride gel directly to the children’s teeth. The dental campaign runs for approximately three weeks during the academic year.

You will also have the option of contributing to workshops that aim to support teachers at the different educational institutes in the district. These workshops are usually held once or twice a year.

Where You Will Live on the Archaeology Project in Peru

The shared volunteer house for Archaeology volunteers based in Huyro, Lucumayo Valley

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.

The Inca Project in Peru 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.

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.

Volunteer ProfileVolunteer story from Amy Martin who volunteered on the Inca Project in Peru
Amy Martin
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...

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