Cerro de Oro | Cañete Valley, Peru
Perched atop a rocky hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean is the 150-hectare archaeological site of Cerro de Oro. Most of Cerro de Oro remains unexplored, yet past excavations have revealed three distinct periods of densely populated occupation over a span of a thousand years. The earliest remains are of a settlement with a vast network of monumental adobe buildings, including houses and funerary structures, dating back to 550-950 AD. The burials contain elaborate funerary bundles with textiles establishing a clear link with highland Wari society (850-950 AD). A later cemetery and residential complex signals Inca occupation of the area from c. 1400 until the Spanish Conquest.
Cerro de Oro is the largest and most influential settlement in the Cañete region and is located about 140 km south of Lima. The site is very well preserved, with wide, tall walls that measure over 10m that are still visible today. The site is well-known for a series of artifacts excavated in 2013 which are currently being exhibited in the Pachacamac Museum. Apart from that, the site is well-known for its monumental architecture and the interpretation center found within it.
What to Expect:
This is an all-inclusive travel itinerary includes a two day/one night expedition with work on the archaeological preservation of 1,500 year old structures. The work we will be performing will be an important step toward preserving Cerro de Oro and preparing the site for ongoing archeological visits and enjoyment by the surrounding community. Once preservation is complete, the new preserved spaces will be integrated into the site’s touristic circuit which currently includes an interpretive center, viewpoints and information panels to explain the site’s significance.
Notable artifacts & features:
Ceramics, Textile production tools, funerary objects
Age, Period or Culture: Incan 500-1500 AD
What's Included in the Cost:
You will be taught how to work on an archaeological excavation in the field for two days of this itinerary.
Tools and instruction for archaeological excavation and preservation
Lunch, drinks and snacks are provided for all participants.
Day 1: Excavation and Afro-Peruvian dance, music and dinner is provided
Day 2: Excavation and lunch in Cerro Azul and visit to the Guarco archaeological site
See below for what's included in the full travel and archaeological preservation itinerary.
What to Bring:
Comfortable outdoor clothing, hat, sunscreen, thick-soled shoes
Francesca Fernandini, PhD
Cerro de Oro & PUCP
What makes your site significant?
Cerro de Oro is in the lower Cañete valley. It’s a monumental settlement of over 150 hectares that presents a profuse and intensive occupation that spans over 1000 years. This city was composed of houses, temples, cemeteries and specialized workshops all made out of tall and thick adobe walls, some of them over 10m high.
What has been most surprising about your discoveries at this location?
In 2013 we excavated a very complex elite tomb. The remains from this tomb were curated and exhibited in the MALI museum. Currently some of these pieces are in exhibition at the Pachacamac Museum.
What are your current research objectives at your site?
My research objectives for the next two years include excavating a 1500 year old cemetery located in a ravine at the site in order to study diet, pathologies and the general way of life. In parallel, we are developing a more holistic community oriented research program that includes the community in decision making and in the directions the project takes.
What was most important or rewarding find at this site?
In 2019 we excavated a household that seems to have been oriented towards textile production. This context is allowing us to explore the entire chain of operation behind textile production, from wool and cotton spinning, to weaving with a waist loom. Remains include different tools such as spades, whorls, looms, waist bands, textiles combs, among other remains.
2023 Dig + Itinerary
Choose an itinerary start date between June 25 - July 26
Must be booked at least 30 days in advance
Participation is subject to availability and is at the full discretion of the dig location. Prices and dates dates subject to change.
Cerro de Oro Excavation + Travel Itinerary
Day 1 | Arrival in Lima
Upon your arrival at the airport in Lima, you will be escorted from the airport to your hotel in Miraflores and be briefed about the next day’s activities.
Day 4 | Cerro de Oro Excavation
Today begins your work on the archaeological site Cerro de Oro, led by Francesca Fernandini.
9am-10am | Tour of Cerro de Oro
10am-12pm | Instruction and begin archaeological preservation work
12-1pm | picnic lunch on site
1pm-4pm | Archaeological preservation work continues
7pm | Afro Peruvian dinner show
All meals included
Day 2 | Lima City Tour
After breakfast, you will be escorted by an English speaking guide to explore Lima’s old town, a UNESCO world heritage site with its fascinating historic buildings. Starting in Miraflores and Hauca Pucllana, we’ll continue to the colonial center to visit the main square, San Francisco church with catacombs and the Larco museum. We’ll visit the scenic coastal “Costa Verde” and “El parque del amor” with beautiful cliffs with views of the Pacific Ocean before being escorted back to your hotel.
Breakfast and lunch included.
Day 5 | Cerro de Oro Excavation
Day 2 of your archaeological work at Cerro de Oro
9am-12pm | Archaeological preservation work continues
12-2pm| Lunch at Cerro Azul
2-4pm | Visit to Guarco archaeological site
After 4pm, you will continue to Paracas where you will overnight.
Breakfast and lunch included.
Day 3 | Lima | San Vicente de Cañete
Today we'll head to Cerro Azul to experience local Afro-Peruvian gastronomy before continuing toward San Vicente to see the Castle of José Unanue (an important figure of Peruvian independence and founder of the School of Medicine). Later in the day, we arrive at the hotel where you will stay for the next two days when you will be excavating.
Day 6 | Paracas | Ballestas Islands|Nazca Lines | Lima
After breakfast we will visit the Islas Ballestas where we will observe sea lions, tendrils, boobies, pelicans, penguins and more than 200 birds. From there, we will board a flight to view the Nazca Lines-one of the most mysterious archeological sites that are so large, they can only be seen from the sky. Created between 200 BC and 600 AD, these geoglyphs 0f enormous monkeys, hummingbirds, fish, llamas, and lizards have spawned incredible theories about the ancient Peruvian peoples that made them. The deserts and valleys of this area also have treasures that are much older than the Nazca Lines, with 40 million year old marine fossils including the fossilized bones of enormous sea creatures. Viewed from the comfort of an airplane, you will have the chance to survey a landscape that has undergone the most dramatic change.
Fly back to Lima.
All meals included
Not included in cost: Flight from Cusco to Lima.
Day 7 | Cusco Cooking Lesson|Archaeological Tour
This morning you will fly to Cusco and be transferred to your hotel before visiting the local market for a cooking lesson at a rooftop kitchen.
In the afternoon will visit the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, one of the most emblematic buildings of the Incas, built in the 15th century. From there, we will see the magical environment of Quenqo and Qoricancha or “Temple of the Sun.” Our day ends with a visit through the beautiful streets of the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas. Dinner is on your own.
Included: Cooking lesson, breakfast and lunch.
Day 8 | Cusco| Chinchero Moray| Ollantaytambo
After breakfast, we will visit a town known for its master weavers called Chinchero. The women who weave create exquisite textiles using generations-old techniques. We’ll continue to Moray to visit an ancient Incan amphitheater style greenhouse before heading to the famous salt mines that have been used since Inca times and are still worked by the villagers to this very day. Finally, we’ll visit a well-known archaeological site called Ollantaytambo for an Andean spiritual ceremony to make the offering to the Mother arth “Pachamama.”
Included: Breakfast and lunch.
Days 9 & 10 |Aguas Calientes | Machu Picchu | Departure
Day 9: After breakfast, we’ll take a bus to the top of the world – Machu Picchu, the incredible Inca stone construction that is alternately hidden and revealed by clouds where your expert guide will give you a private tour of the ancient city.
After lunch in Aguas Calientes, trains and a private car will take you back to your hotel in Cusco.
Included: Transportation and entrance fees, breakfast and lunch.
Day 10: Departure. After breakfast, private transfer to the airport in Cusco.
Not included: international and domestic flights