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From Carrigaline to Cusco: Daniel O’Shea has been discovering Peru’s Ancient History for Over Twenty

Writes Tara Maher

In school, Daniel O’Shea, was always interested in ancient history and was always mesmerised by the fact there are no written records of any historical events that happened prior the 15th century when chroniclers first started to record events in ‘The New World’.

Having qualified as an English teacher and a highway engineer, Daniel looked for his “next great adventure”. All he knew is that he wanted to volunteer and chose Peru as his destination because of its landscape and bucket list destinations such as Machu Picchu.

He found a project with an international volunteer organisation located in the Cloud Forest, which is about a four hour drive from Cusco, where he now lives. He signed up to this project because there were no photographs of the site available and the unknown really excited him. Originally, Daniel signed up for three months but after six weeks he was promoted to Inca Project Supervisor. Sixteen years later, he is still living in Peru, is married with kids and runs his own company, CORE.

A site visit to Choquepijio. Picture: Daniel O’Shea

CORE Archaeology & Community Programmes is an organisation Daniel set up with his wife, Delsi. Together, they offer archaeological and community-based activities to the general public. CORE’s mission is to “protect, preserve and promote Peru’s rich history” while also making archaeology more accessible. Not only do they offer archaeology programmes, CORE also offers educational and cultural identity programmes, reforestation and environmental initiatives that they run alongside some of the national parks in the region. In their team they also have, Yessika, with her wealth of experience and knowledge assists Daniel and his wife in community projects, edutainment initiatives in local schools, and outreach programs with rural communities. CORE aids individuals and groups who want to design community projects of their own and put them in action during their time in Cusco.

No two days are the same for Daniel and his wife. They usually like to excavate during the summer months when the weather is nice, and during wetter months, they focus their attention on the administration side of things such as registering finds.

Daniel finds himself very lucky to be able to work in some amazing archeological sites in various locations such as ‘Choquequirao’, or the second Machu Picchu, Saqsaywaman’in Cusco, and the Wari (Huari) complex but no two sites are the same. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with all of the digs I’ve been involved with, whether they’ve been in remote parts of the cloud forest or closer to the city of Cusco. Every excavation site is unique and that’s what keeps the passion and motivation high.” said Daniel.

Majority of the items Daniel finds on his digs are ceramic, due to the weather conditions in the region it is very rare to find organic material like wood and textiles. One very interesting find he's had been that of a ‘spondylus sea shell’. These shells come from the north coast of Peru and the coast of Ecuador, “think about it, that’s a distance of more than 2,500Km and Cusco is at an altitude of 3,100 m.a.s.l. What I love about that find is that it is another little detail that confirms trade and transport routes in the pre-Columbian world through a system of road networks that encompassed a huge area of South America.”

In April 2022, Daniel was contacted by Channel 5’s ‘Amazing Railway Adventures with Nick Knowles’. The production crew explained that they would be doing some filming in Cusco, and asked if there was any possibility Nick could visit the site, ‘Machugolga’ and interview Daniel. That August, Nick arrived in Cusco and filming began.

Due to recent staff changes at the Ministry of Culture here in Cusco there have been some slight delays with some of this Summers archaeology. However, Daniel and his team are currently in discussions with the legal department of the Ministry regarding a project at Machu Picchu. They are expecting to get the green light any day now. CORE have started teaching English classes in Cusco and they will be taking thei English language classes to the staff at Saqsaywaman Archaeological Park towards the end of the year. They currently have a variety of projects running all year focusing on Community and Archaeology activities and are looking at adding intercultural projects to their programs in the future with a focus on anti-racism and anti-bullying.

Sixteen years have flown by for Daniel in Peru, and he’s made some fantastic memories. Meeting his wife, Delsi, and raising their three children there is an obvious highlight. Meeting incredible people along the way and being involved in the colourful fiestas and traditional celebrations have been stand out memories to Daniel. It is important to Daniel that his children experience Irish culture and traditions too. He hopes to return home and show his kids where he lived, went to school and introduce them to his old friends. After nearly twenty years, a visit to Carrigaline is long overdue.

Plaza de Armas - Cusco. Picture: Daniel O’Shea

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