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March 8, 2010

Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI) Announces First Grant Winner


Photos by Luis Jaime Castillo

The Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI), the innovative organization that preserves the world’s cultural heritage by providing sustainable economic opportunities to poor communities where endangered archaeological sites are located, has awarded a grant of $48,000 for artisanal and touristic development around the Moche cemetery site of San José de Moro, on the north coast of Peru (“Moro”). The proceeds will help create long-term business revenue and employment, as well as provide powerful economic incentives to ensure the preservation of this important site. The grant is the first given for the newly developed SPI paradigm of “Saving Sites by Transforming Lives.”

Larry Coben, Executive Director of SPI, stated that “SPI believes the best way to preserve cultural heritage is creating locally owned jobs and businesses whose success is tied to that preservation. Our SPI grants provide a TWO for the price of ONE benefit. This project will create transformative economic opportunities for the residents of Moro while saving the site for archaeological research and for future generations to study and enjoy.”


The Moro development plan includes a crafts workshop, store and exhibition area. Julio Ibarrola, a ceramicist renowned for his replicas of late Moche fineline ceramics like those excavated at the Moro site, and Eloy Uriarte, a blacksmith specializing in archaeological tools and implements, will direct the workshop. Tourists will be able to witness these and other artisans produce their wares as well as purchase the finished of artisan products at SPI-supported sites. These products will be also be sold on a newly created web site designed to enhance the sustainability of all SPI-funded businesses by selling artisanal wares crafted and publicizing touristic opportunities at all SPI-supported sites. The workshop will include training for additional artisans as well as provide tourists with the unprecedented opportunity to participate in the ceramic making process. Adjacent to the exhibition area will be a picnic and rest area, small snack bar and toilet facilities. Local masons and workers will construct all facilities, utilizing local materials and building techniques with appropriate seismic protections.


The SPI grant will also support tourism through the creation and sale of a guidebook and brochure to be sold at the site, the training of guides, and the erection of billboards and signs to direct tourists to and explain the site. The guides will all be local residents, primarily students at the local high school. Local residents and Peruvian archaeologists will prepare the guidebook and brochure. Together, the workshop, store and tourism activities are expected to create more than twenty additional jobs during the construction period and ten or more new permanent jobs thereafter.

Luis Jaime Castillo, professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru (“PUCP) in Lima and long time director of the San José de Moro Archaeological Program (“SJMAP”), noted that the SPI grant “will give the residents of San José de Moro the opportunity to create sustainable jobs and businesses for themselves and should spur additional investment around the site. The grant will also provide powerful additional incentives for site preservation. In this way, the local population will view keeping their rich archaeological patrimony as a source of income and progress and not an impediment to its natural growth”. Castillo also observed that the SPI grant and program will provide a template for these types of developments throughout the region and all of Peru. PUCP will be contributing various services to the project, including the time of archaeologists and architects. SJMAP will work with SPI in overseeing the distribution of the grant. Coben, SPI’s Executive Director, further noted that SPI expects to announce additional projects in Peru as a result of its rich archaeological resources and burgeoning tourism industry, and expects to partner with PUCP in many of these projects.

About the Sustainable Preservation Initiative


The Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI) seeks to save and preserve the world’s cultural heritage by providing transformative and sustainable economic opportunities to poor communities in which endangered cultural heritage sites are located. The SPI mantra is “Saving Sites by Transforming Lives.” SPI believes the best way to preserve cultural heritage is creating locally owned jobs and businesses whose success is tied to that preservation. SPI grants provide a TWO for the price of ONE benefit by creating sustainable economic opportunities for local residents while saving the site for archaeological research and for future generations to study and enjoy.

SPI seeks to create and fund locally owned businesses tied to archaeological sites that serve as an alternative to other potentially destructive economic uses of these sites, such as looting, agriculture, grazing, residential and commercial uses. These new businesses enable people to better their lives and provide a powerful economic incentive to preserve our shared heritage. SPI is creating a new preservation paradigm that responds to the question: how can someone tell a poor person not to economically exploit a site, even if destructive, without providing a viable economic opportunity that provides income to that person while simultaneously preserving cultural heritage. SPI is presently active in Peru and Armenia, and expects to announce projects in Bulgaria and Jordan prior to the end of 2010. SPI was incubated at and is strongly supported by the Archaeological Institute of America and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA.

About San Jose De Moro And SJMAP

San José de Moro is a small rural community of approximately 5000 inhabitants, located on the north coast of Peru about 700 km. north of Lima and between the provincial capitals of Trujillo and Chiclayo. SJMAP’s excavations at the Moro site have revealed one of the largest and most complex cemeteries and ceremonial centers used consecutively by civilizations such as the Moche, Lambayeque and Chimú. Hundreds of burials, some of them quite complex, have been excavated at the site since 1991, showing that Moro was for along period of time one of the most important ritual center for the north coast civilizations. The most relevant finds have been seven chamber burials containing the remains of elite Moche Priestesses, and, associated with them, one of the largest and finest assemblages of ceramics, including several of the remarkable late Moche fineline ceramics. SJMAP is also collaborating with a regional project to bring a water and sewage system to the Moro community, contributing the archaeological studies necessary for the construction of these public works. SPI will assist in this effort.

For further information, contact Larry Coben, SPI Executive Director, 212-366-4812,

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