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Letters to the Editor


As you are aware, weather conditions created by the El Niño phenomenon have affected many parts of the world. However, for geographic reasons, Peru has been the epicenter of some of the most serious weather effects. Mudslides and flooding, triggered by heavy rains, have left more than 300,000 people homeless, destroyed thousands of acres of crops, caused at least 200 deaths, and destroyed roads and bridges, leaving cities such as Tumbes, Piura, Chiclayo, and Trujillo, and hundreds of small villages all over the country totally isolated. The most seriously affected areas have been the departments of Tumbes, Ancash, Lambayeque, and La Libertad. The Peruvian government has coped with the disaster to the best of its ability, and many relief agencies have responded with emergency humanitarian aid.

Several important areas of the Peruvian cultural patrimony have also been damaged or are threatened by El Niño rains, flooding, and mudslides. During the flooding in Ica province, sections of some of the Nazca lines were altered. At the end of February, mudslides buried a power plant near the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. Although the site itself was not affected, heavy rains are eroding ancient terraces within the complex. Another important site, Túcume, which is a 1000 A.D. archaeological complex in Lambayeque province, has suffered damage to one of the walls of its main pyramid. Túcume is near the famed tomb complex of the Lord of Sipán. Major sites in the Lima metropolitan area, including Pachacamac and Cajamarquilla, are threatened by heavy rains and rising rivers.

With this letter, I wanted to bring your attention to the damage already caused by El Niño to important Peruvian patrimony and world heritage sites, and to impending dangers posed by further storms, mudslides, and flooding in the coming weeks and months. Immediate assistance is needed to safeguard these monuments against damage caused by predicted further El Niño weather calamities and to deal with the damage already done.

The United States has a long-standing and widely recognized beneficial involvement with many Peruvian archaeological sites and other areas of the cultural patrimony, and it is in that sprit which I am sending this letter. You may already know of avenues through which you can channel assistance. If not, or for more information on affected sites, please contact Connie Stromberg, specialist in cultural patrimony issues, at the United States Information Service, U.S. Embassy Lima, (+511) 434-3000, ext. 2124, fax (+511) 434-1299, email

Dennis C. Jett

In his recent letter to the SAA Bulletin [1998, 16(2): 3], R. Lee Lyman was quite correct in attributing the phrase "New World archaeology is anthropology or it is nothing" to Philip Phillips. Phil certainly coined it for the first time in his 1955 article "American Archaeology and General Anthropological Theory" (Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 11: 246-250), and he must have been the one who saw that it was repeated in the text of our book Method and Theory in American Archaeology, which came out three years later (1958, University of Chicago Press). Needless to say, I heartily endorsed the statement and still do. I am only sorry that the "Willey Prize," established by the American Anthropological Association this past year for the worthy cause of advancing archaeological research under the aegis of that organization, has been the occasion to appear to offend this unintended slight.

Philip Phillips--my longtime friend and colleague from 1937 until his death in 1994--and I began conversations about American archaeology's role in the "House of Anthropology" shortly after I joined him at Harvard in 1950. Our relationship was never one of any kind of a "senior-junior" sort, in either direction. Thus, our first joint article on this theme, "Method and Theory in American Archaeology: An Operational Basis for Culture-Historical Integration" (American Anthropologist 55: 615-633), was published in 1953 under the authorship of Phillips and Willey; and our second and related paper, "Method and Theory in American Archaeology, II: Historical-Developmental Interpretation" (American Anthropologist 57: 723-819) was coauthored by Willey and Phillips. When we rewrote the two papers as the book, Method and Theory in American Archaeology, we literally tossed a coin for the order of authorship, and I emerged with "seniority." While, at least at that time, I endorsed everything that went into the book, I certainly didn't originate everything in it, including the "well-known maxim."

Gordon R. Willey
Harvard University

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