In the Supe Valley region of Peru, there is a high desert between mountains, rainforests, and the coast. When German archaeologist Max Uhle first discovered what is now known as the ancient city of Caral in 1905, he didn’t realize that the large hills were actually pyramids. It wasn’t until the 1970s that archaeologists made that discovery. Finally, in 1993, Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady started systematically excavating the region to further unveil the old, forgotten city under it. She also found around twenty settlements dating back almost five thousand years, and eventually experts claimed that it could be the oldest city in the Americas. But the title of the oldest city is a tricky one, because a city is only considered the oldest until another older one is discovered.
Why is discovering an old city such a big deal in the world of archaeology? For one, it helps us understand how the practices, buildings, and rituals of today originated in the past. And two, it helps us map how people lived, traveled, and influenced other cultures.
Recently, Caral has been in the news because a family has claimed the excavation site as their own. The family believe that their ancestors owned the land and that scientists can’t dig in the land without their permission. They became ‘squatters,’ a term used to describe people who come into a space and sit or squat there to protest an activity. But the squatters did more than sit, they actively tried to destroy the structures in the region.
What do you think? Should Shady be allowed to continue her excavation? Or should authorities investigate if the family really owns the land?