Meet Our Experts:
An Interview with Peter Frost
Peter Frost is a writer, archaeologist, photographer, and National Geographic grantee who has spent most of his life exploring Peru. His published works include a guide to the Cusco region and a well-known book on Machu Picchu. Peter has led National Geographic archaeological expeditions into the remote region of Vilcabamba, where he discovered the Inca and pre-Inca site of Qoriwayrachina (National Geographic magazine, February 2004). Peter will join both departures of the Peru Expedition.
What were you most passionate about as a teenager?
There was a hiking and orienteering club at my school, and I did just about every activity they had going. We used to go on hiking trips all over the British Isles. Orienteering is where you get dropped at night in the middle of nowhere with a map and compass, and have to find your way through a series of checkpoints, picking up fresh instructions at each point. Miss one, and you’re lost. So I cultivated my love of the outdoors and gained a good sense of direction as a teenager, and have both those things to this day.
Do you have a hero or mentor?
No mentor but many heroes, I would say. To name two, Manco Inca and Abraham Lincoln. Both of them exemplify unyielding dedication to a cause they believed in, against tremendous odds. In Manco’s case, it was resistance to a foreign invasion, in Lincoln’s, of course, it was preservation of the Union along with the abolition of slavery — two things that seemed impossible to reconcile at that time. Neither of them ever gave up. One failed, the other succeeded, and both were assassinated — but not all my heroes ended that way!
What has been your most memorable assignment with National Geographic?
I was awarded an Expeditions Council grant for exploration fieldwork in 2001 and 2002, and led a team which discovered and investigated an unrecorded Inca site in Vilcabamba. That was pretty memorable.
Can you identify the point in your life when you developed a passion for writing/archaeology?
I’ve enjoyed writing ever since high school, writing essays for class and articles for the school magazine. Archaeology came somewhat later, although I’ve always been interested in history, the past, the question of where we came from, and how we got here. But my specific interest in archaeology grew as a result of visiting and living in the Andes, seeing all these amazing ruins from the past, and wanting to know more about the people who built those things.
How long have you been living in Peru?
Continuously since 1987 — but I first came in 1971 and lived here for extended periods between then and 1987.
What aspect of Peruvian culture compelled you to stay and make a life there?
I think it was most of all the sense of continuity from the Incas to today’s indigenous Andean people — the thread that connects everything from a past that is still somewhat mysterious, to a modern, living and quite vibrant Quechua culture that I felt an instinctive empathy with.
What about Peru are you most interested in sharing with this summer’s students?
That sense of a vital and mysterious past connected to a living present, along with the amazing and dramatic landscape where it all lives.