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Apreciación del trabajo de
Max Uhle en Huamachuco

A Commentary on Max Uhle's Work in Huamachuco
John R. Topic y Theresa Lange Topic
(May 1989).

Max Uhle is considered by many to be the father of Peruvian archaeology. This accolade was not the result of his being the first, or even the best, archaeologist to work in Peru. Rather, it derives from the fact that he was able to develop a four phase chronological sequence for Peru which, at the time, was the most advanced sequence for any area of the New World.

Uhle's sequence was based on the study of museum collections in Germany as well as extensive fieldwork in Bolivia and Peru. His sequence was largely defined by two widespread pottery styles-Inca and Tiahuanaco. He knew from the Spanish chronicles that the Inca were late. He also recognized several styles of pottery which were related to the Tiahuanaco style of highland Bolivia. In excavations at Pachacamac in 1896-97 he was able to show that the Tiahuanacoid styles (which are now usually referred to as Huari styles) of pottery occurred in graves that were stratified below graves with Inca pottery, This showed clearly that Tiahuanaco was earlier than Inca. In addition, there was a third style which sometimes occurred in graves with Inca pottery but never occurred in the graves with Tiahuanaco pottery. Thus, he had a three phase sequence-Tiahuanaco, post-Tiahuanaco, and Inca. In excavations at Moche, near Trujillo, in 1899-1900 he was able to show that Moche pottery was pre-Tiahuanaco, resulting in a four phase sequence. His later work showed that this four phase sequence could be applied throughout Peru.

As soon as Uhle completed his work at Moche he left for Huamachuco where he worked for about 2 1/2 months. Unlike modern archaeologists whose expeditions are financed largely by scientific and governmental institutions, Uhle's work was financed largely by private patrons. At the time of Uhle's work at Moche and Huamachuco his expedition was financed by Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the wife of a wealthy newspaper publisher. She was interested in founding a museum for the relatively new University of California, and contracted Uhle to make collections in Peru for the museum.

While Uhle, then, had a scientific interest in developing a chronology of pottery styles, his main task was to find and export museum quality artifacts. He was also to provide a catalogue of the collections and a report on his excavations.

This brief background to Uhle's work in Huamachuco allows us to under stand better the "report" published here for the first time. This "report" is really just a brief letter to Mrs. Hearst, his patron, to keep her informed of his progress. It is one of a series of letters still preserved at the University of California at Berkeley. Also at Berkeley are Uhle's photographs and a catalogue of the collection Uhle made on his trip to Huamachuco; the catalogue contains more information about where the artifacts were found and, sometimes, comments on the artifacts themselves. Uhle apparently did prepare a much more complete report on his work in Huamachuco. This report, written in German, was supposed to be translated into English by his wife, but the translation seems never to have been completed. It is now not clear where the report, and the map of Marcahuamachuco which he mentions in his letter to Mrs. Hearst, are located or even if they still exist. They may be preserved in the large archive of Uhle’s notes and drawings located at the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut in Berlin, which we have not had the opportunity to investigate,

The repeated references in his letter to Mrs. Hearst to the lack of good results and unproductive nature of his excavations must be taken in the context of his primary task-collecting museum quality artifacts; despite the impressive architectural style and very interesting stone sculptures, Huamachuco is not characterized by a distinctive pottery style and artefacts in perishable media such as textiles, wood, and gourd are seldom preserved.

Uhle was a pioneer in the archaeological field of Peru and he seems to have been somewhat jealous of the other pioneers in the field. This fact is reflected in his negative comments about the work of E. W. Middendorf, and, especially, Charles Wiener. Both had passed through Huamachuco before Uhle and had written briefly about the principal ruins in the area in books describing their extensive travels throughout Peru and Bolivia. Uhle probably had copies of these books with him at Huamachuco and in his letter to Mrs. Hearst goes out of his way to criticize their observations.

Many of Uhle's criticisms are unjustifiable or incorrect. Wiener is subject to many more of Uhle's attacks than is Middendorf. He is criticized for suggesting that Huamachuco, and especially the platform under the Chapel of San Jose, was of pre-Spanish origin. Our own work in Huamachuco has confirmed that Wiener was right and Uhle wrong in this regard. Huamachuco was in fact, the Incaic center. It is surrounded by Inca storerooms, the modern plaza is a smaller version of the Incaic plaza which once included the platform or ushnu under the chapel of San Jose, Inca worked stone blocks can still be seen occasionally in house foundations, and finds of Inca pottery are reported from time to time. Uhle himself collected Inca pottery from the modern town of Huamachuco but was willing to concede only that there might have been a small Inca settlement there.

On the other hand, Uhle is completely justified in criticizing Wiener's maps of Marcahuamachuco and Viracochapampa. These maps bear only the faintest resemblance to reality and seen to have been drawn from memory after only brief visits to the sites. As Uhle notes, Wiener is completely confused about the orientation of Marcahuamachuco. However, in discussing Wiener's error Uhle himself is wrong on two counts. He says that Wiener has the hill oriented "from southeast to northwest, instead [of] from northeast to southwest as it is in nature". In fact, Marcahuamachuco is oriented from the southeast to the northwest, while Wiener's map has it oriented from the northeast to the southwest.

Uhle also criticizes Wiener in regard to the original location of a carved stone "mythical serpent head". Uhle argues that this must originally have been one of three which guarded the "chiles" or wells at Cerro Amaru. Wiener, on the other hand, claims it was found at Marcahuamachuco. It is impossible to say now who is right, or if either is right. Uhle mentions that the "mythical serpent head" which he bought in Huamachuco was left by the roadside by the man entrusted to bring it to Trujillo but that he hoped to recover it. Apparently he was successful in his efforts to recover the stone, because it is now in the Berkeley collection.

Both Middendorf and Wiener are criticized for believing that Viracochapampa was a Spanish settlement. In fact, Wiener seems to have considered Viracochapampa to be the Inca settlement, as did Uhle, though Middendorf clearly did consider it to be a Spanish settlement. All were wrong.

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