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Northern Peru has an exceptionally rich archaeological heritage that includes metalwork, ceramics and textiles. The success of at least a half-dozen pre-Columbian societies dating back 3,000 years and subsequent Spanish colonization in the 1400s has rested on the effective use of northern Peru's abundant resources. In the summer of 2000, my son Matt and I learned about that connection firsthand by volunteering at the Santa Rita B archaeological site in the Chao Valley near Trujillo in northern Peru. Riding donkey-back through the Andes and talking with local people, we got our hands dirty in the rich archaeology and geology of the area. We were able to correlate mineral occurrences to their various roles in society - opening a window into the region's fascinating past. From construction to metallurgy, pre-Columbian societies flourished and advanced because of their understanding and use of the available mineral resources.