Field Notes from Peru via Smithsonian Under Secretary Richard Kurin

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Some may picture Smithsonian Institution’s experts as bookworms holed up in their offices studying their expertise from afar. But here’s proof positive that they do their due diligence in the field. Well, maybe "due diligence" isn’t the right wording in this case. Richard Kurin, a world-class authority on remote cultures and the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, is having some fun in the field, leading a 26-day Smithsonian Journeys trip by private jet that comes face to face with traditional cultures around the world, and he's blogging about it in the process. His travels, which began March 11, will cover six of the Smithsonian Magazine’s 28 Places to See Before You Die, from Machu Picchu to Easter Island, the Great Barrier Reef to Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal to Petra.

On Machu Picchu, he writes:


At Aguas Caliente we bussed up to Machu Picchu. Sun and clouds fought, as they usually do, in a place that seems to sit atop the world, floating in the midst of magnificent skyward thrusting peaks. Our travelers broke up into several groups with guides taking us through and explaining the archaeological remains. Was Machu Picchu a ritual center for the supreme Inca or a getaway "Club Med" for the elite?

The scale of the site is impressive, but more so the planning and labor that had to have assembled this city on a mountaintop. Frequent rain fed terraced agricultural in order to provide for food. Stone houses and other quarters were thatched and provided shelter. Ritual centers expressed Incan cosmology. Our group took it all in.

Read more at the Journeys Blog.

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