As both a Penn Anthropology PhD and a Museum Consulting Scholar, I am extremely concerned with saving our shared cultural heritage, whose study allows us to know so much about both the past and who we are today. And having worked in extremely poor communities where so many archaeological sites are located, I want to do everything I can to alleviate their poverty.
The primary cause of this loss of cultural heritage is economic-looting, agriculture, mining, home construction are frequently superior economic uses of archaeological sites, contributing more income to local communities. Archaeological sites often provide no jobs or revenues for their neighbors. And experience has sadly shown that if people cant eat their history and make some kind of living from preserving their sites, they will use them in other more destructive and profitable ways.
Having thought long and hard about both cultural heritage loss and alleviating poverty, I have started the Sustainable Preservation Initiative(“SPI”). Our People not Stones paradigm seeks to preserve the world’s cultural heritage by providing sustainable economic opportunities to poor communities where endangered archaeological sites are located. SPI believes the best way to preserve cultural heritage is creating or supporting locally-owned businesses whose success is tied to that preservation. thereby lifting communities from poverty and providing a powerful economic incentive to ensure that these sites remain intact, visitable and available for continued study.
The potential of community-based economic development and preservation is enormous. In our first project at San Jose de Moro, Peru, we created over 40 jobs with an investment of around $40,000, a record that Reuters financial columnist Felix Salmon called “impressive”. Looting and encroachment have ceased, economic activity in the local community has increased, and for the first time local governments are utilizing the site to generate jobs and working to preserve their cultural assets.
Unfortunately, few people know of either the great poverty of these communities, or of the loss of their archaeological sites. And those that do know have few ways to help solve these enormous problems. So we have decided to try a crowdfunding campaign to generate awareness of the problem, allow people to contribute to its solution, and to track the actual results of the paradigm. We believe that crowdfunding has a critical role in saving sites, transforming lives, empowering entrepreneurs and alleviating poverty. A grassroots campaign to help people on a grassroots level.