A Harvard undergraduate excavating the Moche archaeological site in San José de Moro, Peru, has unearthed a rare intact figurine. Second-year student Caroline Coolidge was digging in Peru as part of a summer archaeology program when she saw a little face peering up at her through the soil. Further excavation revealed an intact figurine in pristine condition, the first complete pottery artifact discovered this season.
The figurine dates to the transitional period between the decline of the Moche and the rise of the Lambayeque cultures in the area, about 1,000 years ago.
In addition to its pristine condition, what made Coolidge’s discovery so unusual was the absence of other objects nearby. “Typically, this type of artifact would be included in a burial,” she said, “but there were no burials found near it.” […]
Coolidge is eager to find out more about what her figurine might mean—archaeologists at the site suspect it may have been used as a fertility offering. [Harvard’s Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies Gary] Urton called it “an extraordinary piece” and “one of the most complete and beautiful figurines we have brought up from here in several years.” Coolidge plans to write about the artifact for her final class project and will study its composition and compare it with similar finds at the site in recent years, she said, to determine “its cultural significance and where it fits within the region’s chronology.”
Her exciting find on the five-week program, run by Pontifícia Universidad Católica del Perú in collaboration with the Harvard Summer School Study Abroad Program, has so inspired Coolidge that she has changed her planned course of study at the university. She will now either concentrate in archaeology or make it a “secondary field of study.” Is that what we called a minor in my day? It should be a second major at least, imho, given what a cool head start she got this summer.