It has been almost a decade since UNESCO declared the Qhapaq Ñan, also known as the “Andean Road System (Inca Trail),” a World Heritage Site.
Spanning over 30,000 kilometers of pathways with branches across six South American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru), the Qhapaq Ñan is a unique road network created by the Incas, based on pre-Incan structures. Stretching from the coast to altitudes of up to 6,000 meters, the Qhapaq Ñan represents an incredible communication project that is not only studied today but, we like to believe, being “reactivated”.
Projects like the one near Portrero de Payogasta, close to Salta (Argentina), serve as prime examples of archaeological conservation and enhancement.
Potrero de Payogasta is a hillside site in the Calchaquí valleys, to the right of the Potrero River. From this vantage point, a wide area was visually monitored, and the Inca Trail connected Tastil to Payogasta, to the extent that archaeologists consider it a “small Cuzco in the Calchaquí Valleys.” This open settlement, covering 10 hectares and lacking any protective measures, became the focus of a consolidation and enhancement project led by INAPL (Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Pensamiento Latinoamericano).
We extend our gratitude to the project’s director, archaeologist Christian Vitry (Director Gral. de Preservación e Investigación – Salta. Profesor – Investigador de la UNSa Consultor EIA Arqueológico y Patrimonial), for allowing us to share the video embedded in this post on our channels.
The project involves various levels and, since the beginning, engages the local population and their technical expertise, valuing them as a primary asset. Traditional knowledge, which is nearly ancestral, plays a central role. It is not only reflected in the technology and materials used (identical to those employed by the Incas and sourced from the region) but also encompasses the human, social, and spiritual aspects.
The individuals involved are local residents who have shared their knowledge, practices, and personal stories. The outcome, therefore, goes beyond mere structural preservation and cannot be reduced to tourism and heritage promotion. Here, we encounter the inherent capacity within archaeological heritage to embody the seed for a new paradigm in which the archaeological asset not only channels and centers the spirit of a place but also revitalizes the spirit of those who inhabit it, distributing daily energy and awareness to its residents.
Portrero de Payogasta has been “reactivated.“