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Honorable Mention, 2009

Save Our Past for the Future

Matthew Piscitelli, Anthropology

This image is a visual testament to the widespread looting that occurs throughout much of the developing world. In countries such as Peru, individuals are finding that raping their own heritage for ancient pots and textiles is more profitable than any work they can find in their own country. The systematic looting of archaeological contexts is an epidemic. This 1,000-year-old skull is part of a burial from the site of Porvenir, Peru. Looters, or hauqueros, inhabit known archaeological sites in makeshift tents for several days or even weeks to dig up burials looking for “showy” pieces that would fetch a decent price on the art market—primarily the auction houses of the U.S. and Europe. Whatever is left, including well-preserved skeletal remains such as those pictured, are often left on the surface to rot. Not only are these looters destroying any opportunity to learn about Peruvian prehistory from these human remains, but they are also desecrating their own ancestors.