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Ruining the ruins

Lima - Paradoxically, the relatively recently discovered Gran Pajaten ruins in Peru’s cloud forests are being harmed by meddling visitors and a lack of tourists.

The complex, consisting of 16 circular buildings connected by twisting roads and a number of accompanying terraces and platforms, was discovered in the 1960s, first by local villagers and just years later by an exploring archaeologist.

The ruins at Gran Pajaten are deteriorating. Credit: SLATE.COM

The structures date as far back as 200BC and are decorated with elaborate slate mosaics and carvings that were probably added during a later era of prosperity between 800 and 1500 CE. Depicting birds, humans and other Incan iconography, the designs give the site an air of living history.

Unfortunately this history is slipping away.

Relatively few archaeological projects have been centred on Gran Pajaten since its discovery, but each one has caused the ancient stone harm.

Once the thick jungle overgrowth was cleared from the stones, the ruins were exposed to the elements as they hadn’t been for hundreds of years. Micro-organisms and new flora found their way into the rock, weathering it with astonishing speed. Each subsequent exploratory mission damaged the ruins a bit more. Given the fragility of the site, it was given protected status, but this combined with its remote location led to a severe lack of tourism which often funds the protection efforts of such sites.

The Peruvian government is trying to build an infrastructure that will support more tourism surrounding Gran Pajaten, which will in turn help protect the site from further human and natural damage. The site was also recently recognised by the World Monuments Fund as an endangered site and they are also working to help revitalise interest in the fragile and lonely ruins. – Slate.com

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