Category Archives: PERU

The oldest civilisation in the Americas: Have you heard of it?

The oldest civilisation in the Americas: Have you heard of it?

Almost five thousand years ago, humankind came together in a way never seen before. We began to turn our backs on the traditional hunter-gatherer form of survival.

Tribal communities based around families began to form into larger hierarchical systems. The techniques to build permanent structures were developed. And the worship of deities was taken to a new level.

Civilisations were being born – and one of the first was Caral in Peru.

I find it a bit strange the way this happened almost simultaneously (in the grand scheme of human history) around the world – but just in a few select places.

Experts debate whether this happened independently or whether the idea spread across the world. Regardless, it was the dawn of a new era for mankind.

The oldest civilisation in the Americas: Have you heard of it?

In the Americas, it was on the coast of what is now Peru that the first cradle of civilisation emerged in about 2600BC. On a site called Caral, these ancient people with bountiful food on hand in the rich ocean, rose at around the same time as five other major civilisations.

Caral was eerily similar to some of the other great cultures growing at the same time. They built stone pyramids here, for instance, at exactly the same time that the Egyptians were building their much more famous counterparts.

But there were also differences. No artwork adorned the structures of Caral in Peru. Unlike in Egypt or Mesopotamia, the people of Caral did not seem to have the same aesthetic tastes (or knowledge).

There is no evidence they made or used ceramics, another key utensil and form of artwork in other civilisations. But they did have textiles.

In fact, the textiles were for more than just clothing and decoration. It’s believed the people of Caral also used textiles as their form of writing. Strings of different lengths with knots in various places are one way they could have communicated.

If this new advanced culture was not famous for art or ceramics, it was its architecture that was its strength. The same grand pyramids and temples of worship that were built here thousands of years ago are still partly standing around me on the day I visit.

They don’t just prove that the Caral civilisation was advanced enough to build these large monuments – it also shows that they had an advanced religious ideology.

The pyramids and other important structured would certainly have been used for worship and other ceremonies.

Although Caral-Supe is not one of the most famous sights in the country, I think it’s one of the most interesting places to visit in Peru. There’s a fascinating story behind it and there’s much more to see than you might expected for something that is 5000 years old!

The Mythical Peruvian Giants, Whose Skeletons Were Seen By Conquistadors

The Mythical Peruvian Giants, Whose Skeletons Were Seen By Conquistadors

There is one special area on our planet where there are especially many stories and legends about people of very large stature. Moreover, these stories are not thousands of years old, but only a few hundred.

Stories about the Peruvian giants have been known since the 16th century when the first Spanish conquistadors reached this region.

One of the earliest reports of the Peruvian giants is the story of conquistador Pedro Cieza de Leon, described in the folio Royal Inca Commentaries, Volume 1. This man apparently did not see the giants with his own eyes but talked with those who saw them.

In his report, he described that once people of great growth sailed on their large rafts from reeds to the shore where the village of local Indians stood. The village was located on the peninsula of Santa Elena, which is now the territory of Ecuador.

The giants landed from the rafts on the peninsula and set up their camp near the conquistadors. They apparently decided to settle here for a long time, because immediately they began to dig deep wells in order to extract water from them.

“Some of them were so tall that a man of ordinary size would barely reach their knees. Their limbs were proportional to the body, but their huge heads with hair to their shoulders were monstrous. Their eyes were huge like plates and their faces had no beards.

Some of them were dressed in animal skins, but some were in their natural state (without clothes). Not a single woman was visible among them. When they set up the camp, they began to dig deep wells for water. They dug them in stony soil and then built strong stone wells. The water in them was excellent, always cool, and tasted good. “

As soon as the giants set up their camp, they immediately made a bloodthirsty raid on the village of local Indians. According to the description of de Leon, they robbed everything they could grab and ate everything they could eat, including people!

It was a terrible sight when these huge people hung over the trees and the Indians fleeing from them, who practically could not defend themselves from them. Then, on the site of the devastated village, the giants built their large huts and stayed here to fish and hunt in the local forests.

This story ended with a completely surreal story when a “shining angel” appeared in the sky and drove all these giants away.

Despite this, de Leon himself believed that this story was completely true and described that he personally saw the huge stone wells constructed by the giants. He also writes that other conquistadors saw the wells and the remains of huge houses that could not be built by local Indians.

Further, de Leon writes about even more curious things. He writes that the conquistadors found in this area human bones of very large sizes, as well as pieces of teeth that were large and heavy.

“In 1550, in the city of Lima, I heard that when His Excellency Don Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy and governor of New Spain was here, some bones were found of people who were huge and could belong to giants.

I also heard that whole deposits of giants’ bones were found in an ancient tomb in the city of Mexico City or nearby. Since many locals claim to have seen them firsthand, we can assume that these giants really exist and can belong to a single race. “

Another proof of the existence of the Peruvian giants can be found in the records of Captain Juan Olmos, who in 1543 dug up ancient burials in the Trujillo Valley and allegedly discovered bones of people of very large stature there.

Later, another giant skeleton was found in the province of Tucuman by conquistador Augustine de Zarate and his people. In general, similar stories came from the Spaniards who visited Peru throughout the 16th century and continued to appear in the 17th century.

In 1620, the Jesuit priest and missionary Pablo Jose Arriaga in his manuscript “On the Eradication of Idolatry in Peru” wrote the following:

“They (representatives of the Spanish inspectors) led us to the other side of the village, where there was a very large cave and the remains of Giants lay in it. Among them were three giant bodies with deformed heads (elongated skulls) wrapped in combi (ceremonial fabric).

These giants were considered the ancestors of all these people in the village who worshiped and worshiped them, even sacrifices were made in their honor. Then they (Spaniards) burned all these bodies.”

In the 18th and 19th centuries, stories about Peruvian giants also appeared, but they were becoming smaller and they were already perceived as myths and legends, and not something real.

Peru archaeologists find a hall for human sacrifice

Peru archaeologists find a hall for human sacrifice

Archaeologists discovered an ancient ritual ground used by a Pre-Columbian civilization for human sacrifices on Peru’s northern coast.

The finding appears to support existing hypotheses about a ritual known as “the introduction” performed by the Moche people, an agricultural culture that existed between 100 B.C. and 800 A.D.

“There was a great ceremonial hall or passage integrated into the rest of the architecture that establishes the presence of certain figures of the Moche elite and also the practice of complex rituals such as human sacrifice,” Wester told Reuters.

Carlos Wester La Torre, director of the Bruning Museum in Peru and a leader of the dig, said the ceremonial site likely hosted ritual killings of prisoners of war.

Photographs were taken at the site show more than half a dozen skeletons on the floor of the hall.

Peru archaeologists find a hall for human sacrifice
Excavations at the San Jose de Moro site

The remnants of a mural found within the corridor depict three high priests whose ornamentation confirms the involvement of the culture’s political leadership in the ceremony, he said.

His team uncovered a 60-meter-long (197-foot-long) corridor opening up to face three equidistant porticos and five thrones on the archaeological site’s main pyramid.

Peru is believed to be one of the places in the world where agriculture first developed and has hundreds of ancient archaeological sites, including the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

Fossil Found of Ancient Four-Legged Whale that Could Walk on Land

Fossil Found of Ancient Four-Legged Whale that Could Walk on Land

The four-legged creature above resembles an otter or a platypus at first glance. In fact, it’s a 42.6 million-year-old whale with a length of 13 feet. In a new study published in the journal Current Biology, palaeontologists have documented their discovery of this whale ancestor, whose skeleton was unearthed in Peru in 2011.

An artistic reconstruction of two individuals of Peregocetus, one standing on the rocky shore of modern-day Peru and the other preying on fish. The existence of a tail fluke remains hypothetical.

Named Peregocetus pacificus, which means “the travelling whale that reached the Pacific” in Latin, this recent finding is upending scientists’ understanding of how these creatures evolved and spread around the world millions of years ago.

“This is the first indisputable record of a quadrupedal whale skeleton for the whole Pacific Ocean,” study co-author Olivier Lambert said in a press release.

This ancient whale could walk and swim

Peregocetus had four legs, with small hooves of the tips of its fingers and toes. That adaption, along with the orientation of its hip and leg bones, suggests this whale ancestor could maneuver on land.

Its tail and webbed feet, however, indicate that Peregocetus could swim well, too, much in the same way modern-day otters do. So Lambert and his colleagues categorized the creature as amphibious (meaning it lived partially in water and partially on land).

But that doesn’t mean the animal was good at walking, and “certainly not at running,” according to the Los Angeles Times. It likely ate in the water and only took to solid ground for activities like breeding and giving birth, Lambert told the LA Times.

Palaeontologists uncovered the animal’s bones just inland of Peru’s western coast at a site called Playa Media Luna, a three-hour drive south of Lima.

They excavated the whale’s tail vertebrae, jawbones, some of its spine, and it’s front and hind limbs. The animal’s skeleton suggests it was just over 13 feet long, and there’s evidence it had a pronounced snout filled with sharp teeth for chomping on fish.

Peregocetus’ tail bones appear similar to those of beavers and otters, suggesting that the limb played a large role in swimming, the authors wrote.

Unfortunately, the bones from the tip of Peregocetus’ tail were missing, so the researchers weren’t able to determine whether it had a well-developed tail fluke (like modern whales have) to help propel it through the water.

Whales’ new evolutionary story

Scientists agree that today’s massive, flippered whales evolved from small, four-legged ancestors in south Asia more than 50 million years ago. Fossils from one of the oldest quadrupedal whales that lived 53 million years ago were discovered in India.

The ancient creatures likely migrated west from Asia to Africa and then swam across the Atlantic until they hit the shores of the Americas.

Until now, palaeontologists thought these ancient whales had only made it to North America and hadn’t strayed south.

This is the first time a whale ancestor with four legs has been found in South America. And according to the study authors, Peregocetus might also be the oldest quadrupedal whale found in the Americas.

Whale ancestors with four legs are ample in the North American fossil record. Researchers found a 41.2 million-year-old whale ancestor off the shores of South Carolina in 2014. This led scientists to hypothesize that amphibious whales likely reached North America after leaving Africa’s western shores.

But the discovery of Peregocetus – which is 1.4 million years older than the South Carolina fossil – in Peru suggests that the animal may actually have arrived in South America before spreading to North America.

Schematic drawings depict the skeleton of Peregocetus in walking and swimming stance. Solid lines indicate the main preserved bones, while dotted lines indicate reconstructed parts.

So the study authors suggest that, contrary to previous ideas, Peregocetus and other whale ancestors likely traveled from Africa to South America. The distance between those was far smaller during the era in which Peregocetus lived – a period called the middle Eocene – than it is today. At the time, the distance between South America and Africa was about half of what it is today.

During the Eocene, North and South America were also separated by ocean, which created a channel from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. So the researchers now think that four-legged whales sliced through this gap between the Americas, then traveled north.

3,200-Year-Old Spider Mural Identified in Peru

3,200-Year-Old Spider Mural Identified in Peru

The Guardian reports that a 3,200-year-old mural on a mudbrick structure situated near a river in northwestern Peru depicts a knife-wielding spider god associated with rain and fertility.

3,200-Year-Old Spider Mural Identified in Peru
Experts believe the shrine was built by the pre-Columbian Cupisnique culture, which developed along Peru’s northern coast more than 3,000 years ago.

The image was painted with yellow, grey, and white paint in addition to ochre. 

The wall of the 15m x 5m mud-brick structure in the Virú province of Peru’s La Libertad region – was discovered last year after much of the site was destroyed by local farmers trying to extend their avocado and sugarcane plantations.

Experts believe the shrine was built by the pre-Columbian Cupisnique culture, which developed along Peru’s northern coast more than 3,000 years ago.

The archaeologist Régulo Franco Jordán said the shrine’s strategic location near the river had led researchers to believe it had been a temple dedicated to water deities.

The mural – applied in ochre, yellow, grey and white paint to the wall of the 15m by 5m mud-brick structure in the Virú province of Peru’s La Libertad region – was discovered last year.

“What we have here is a shrine that would have been a ceremonial centre thousands of years ago,” he told Peru’s La República newspaper.

“The spider on the shrine is associated with water and was an incredibly important animal in pre-Hispanic cultures, which lived according to a ceremonial calendar. It’s likely that there was a special, sacred water ceremony held between January and March when the rains came down from the higher areas.”

According to the archaeologists, about 60% of the complex, which lies 500km north of Lima, was destroyed in November last year when farmers in the region used heavy machinery to try to extend their crop fields.

Jordán has named the temple Tomabalito after the nearby archaeological site known as El Castillo de Tomabal.

“The site has been registered and the discovery will be covered up until the [Covid] pandemic is over and it can be properly investigated,” he told La República.

The spider god is not the only ancient animal artwork to have appeared in Peru over recent months.

In October last year, the form of an enormous cat, dated to between 200 BC and 100 BC, emerged during work to improve access to one of the hills that overlook the country’s famous Nazca line geoglyphs.

Chinese Skeletons Found in Ancient Peruvian Pyramid

Chinese Skeletons Found in Ancient Peruvian Pyramid

Archaeologists exploring Peru’s pre-Colombian past recently unearthed a glimpse of a less prominent chapter in the Andean country’s history – the remains of 16 Chinese labourers from around the turn of the last century.

The bodies, thought to be those of indentured workers brought to Peru to replace slave labour, were found buried at the top of an adobe pyramid first used by the ancient Ichma people, Roxana Gomez, the lead archaeologist of the site, said in a statement.

Peru was one of the biggest destinations for Chinese labour in Latin America in the 20th century, a market that thrived after slavery was abolished in the country in 1854.

Chinese laborers in Peru circa 1900

The Chinese found at the Bellavista pyramid in Lima were buried in the late 1800s and early 1900s and had likely picked cotton at a nearby plantation in “very difficult” conditions, said Gomez.

In a possible sign of how the Chinese gradually emerged from dire poverty in Peru, the first 11 bodies were shrouded in cloth and placed in the ground, while the last five wore blue-green jackets and were buried in wooden coffins, Gomez said.

“In one Chinese coffin, an opium pipe and a small ceramic vessel were included in the funerary ensemble,” said Gomez.

Chinese labourers in the 20th century were generally not allowed to be buried at Lima’s Catholic cemeteries, forcing them to improvise burial sites, according to Peru’s Culture Ministry.

The remains of Chinese labourers were previously found in Lima at other adobe pyramids known as “huacas.” Built by the indigenous societies that once ruled much of Peru’s Pacific coast, huacas were used as administrative and religious centres where members of the elite were often buried with gold objects, ceramics or human sacrifices.

Gomez said the huacas had a sacred association that might have made them attractive places for burial by Chinese labourers.

The Bellavista Huaca was occupied by Ichma starting in about 1000 A.D. and was later annexed by the Incan empire until the arrival of Spanish conquerors who deemed huacas blasphemous.

Italian immigrants later kept vineyards at the base of the site, Gomez added.

“The best way to understand our history is as a continuum of different cultures,” said Gomez.

The Oldest City in The Americas Is an Archeological Wonder, And It’s Under Invasion

The Oldest City in The Americas Is an Archeological Wonder, And It’s Under Invasion

The oldest archaeological site in the Americas, having survived for 5,000 years, is under threat from squatters that claim that the coronavirus pandemic has left them with no other option but to occupy the sacred city.

The government wants to take all of the items found from archaeological sites for national security. Because of this, Ruth Shady, who archives the items before, and after she is done, she has been threatened with death.

Archaeologists told an AFP team visiting Caral that squatter invasions and destruction began in March when the pandemic forced a nationwide lockdown.

An agricultural area that has invaded the protected site.

“There are people who come and invade this site, which is state property, and they use it to plant,” archaeologist Daniel Mayta told AFP.

“It’s hugely harmful because they’re destroying 5,000-year-old cultural evidence.”

Caral is situated in the valley of the Supe river some 182 kilometres (110 miles) north of the capital Lima and 20km from the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Developed between 3,000 and 1,800 BCE in an arid desert, Caral is the cradle of civilization in the Americas. Its people were contemporaries of Pharaonic Egypt and the great Mesopotamian civilizations. It pre-dates the far better known Inca empire by 45 centuries.

None of that mattered to the squatters, though, who took advantage of the minimal police surveillance during 107 days of lockdown to take over 10 hectares of the Chupacigarro archaeological site and plant avocados, fruit trees, and lima beans.

“The families don’t want to leave,” said Mayta, 36.

“We explained to them that this site is a (UNESCO) World Heritage site and what they’re doing is serious and could see them go to jail.”

Death threats

Shady is the director of the Caral archaeological zone and has been managing the investigations since 1996 when excavations began. She says that land traffickers – who occupy state or protected land illegally to sell it for private gain – are behind the invasions.

“We’re receiving threats from people who are taking advantage of the pandemic conditions to occupy archaeological sites and invade them to establish huts and till the land with machinery … they destroy everything they come across,” said Shady.

“One day they called the lawyer who works with us and told him they were going to kill him with me and bury us five meters underground” if the archaeological work continued at the site.

Shady, 74, has spent the last quarter of a century in Caral trying to bring back to life the social history and legacy of the civilization, such as how the construction techniques they used resisted earthquakes.

“These structures up to five thousand years old have remained stable up to the present and structural engineers from Peru and Japan will apply that technology,” said Shady.

The Caral inhabitants understood that they lived in the seismic territory. Their structures had baskets filled with stones at the base that cushioned the movement of the ground and prevented the construction from collapsing. The threats have forced Shady to live in Lima under protection. She was given the Order of Merit by the government last week for services to the nation.

“We’re doing what we can to ensure that neither your health nor your life is at risk due to the effects of the threats you’re receiving,” Peru’s President Francisco Sagasti told her at the ceremony.

Police arrests

Caral was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009. It spans 66 hectares and is dominated by seven stone pyramids that appear to light up when the sun’s rays fall on them. The civilization is believed to have been peaceful and used neither weapons nor ramparts.

Closed due to the pandemic, Caral reopened to tourists in October and costs just US$3 to visit. During the lockdown, several archaeological pieces were looted in the area and in July police arrested two people for partially destroying a site containing mummies and ceramics.

An unusual pre-Hispanic chimú burial was discovered in Peru

An unusual pre-Hispanic chimú burial was discovered in Peru

In an archaeological discovery in Peru, a pre-Hispanic burial belonging to the Chimu Culture was discovered on Wednesday by government workers who carried out domestic gas connection works very close to an urban area in the city of Chimbote, in the Ancash district.

Juan Lopez Marchena, head of the Decentralized Culture Directorate (DDC) of Chimbote, clarified that the skeletal remains belonged to an individual who was found in a flexed ventral ulna position along with three vessels.

“Following the studies and analyses, we will be able to know part of the pre-Hispanic history of the people at that time, the gender of the individual, the diet, the occupation, as well as information about the vessels associated with the find,” he told Andina news agency.

According to Lopez, the vessels were apparently destined for domestic use, and —on the inside— there was evidence of the presence of piruros, which the Chimu women used to spin wool.

“The vessels feature characteristic circles of the Chimu Culture, which settled mainly in Casma,” he mentioned.

Rich and millenary peoples

The discovery occurred in the shantytown of Bolivar. Before that —also while gas installation works were being carried out— a burial of the Moche Culture was found in the shantytown of San Pedro. 

These discoveries are important for this reason, he said, because “we are building a cultural sequence.”

“Two finds have been reported, and they are very important because they indicate how rich and millenary different peoples in Chimbote can be,” he stressed.

The remains will be taken to the Max Uhle Museum, located in the city of Casma. They will be analyzed, and the results will be significant for the investigation of pre-Hispanic Peru.

Mass-Murder Under The Silvery Light Of The Moon

One aspect of the Chimú culture, which the Spanish conquistadors couldn’t forgive, was the mass-sacrifice of captive adult warriors at the Temple of the Moon, just a few miles from Chan Chan. However, this was way less horrific than the Chimú elite’s institutionalized killing of babies and children.

In a 2019 National Geographic article Dr. Gabriel Prieto, a professor of archaeology from the National University of Trujillo, discussed a shocking discovery in Huanchaquito, a hamlet on the north coast of Peru.

In 2011 he discovered the broken bodies of “269 children between the ages of five and 14.” More than 500 years ago these children were systematically murdered in “carefully orchestrated acts of a ritual sacrifice that may be unprecedented in world history,” said Dr. Preito.

A shocking number of children’s bodies have been found at Huanchaquito

Chan Chan’s sustained success depended on carefully managed irrigation systems and coastal fisheries. This means a severe El Niño weather event might have shaken the political and economic stability of the Chimú kingdom.

It is thought that the priests and leaders may have ordered the mass sacrifice of these children in a desperate attempt to persuade the gods to stop the rains and flooding caused by an El Niño.

Jane Eva Baxter, an anthropology professor at DePaul University, said the Chimú people probably considered their children as the most valuable offerings they could present to the gods and Dr. Prieto said this number of children (269) would have been “a massive investment on behalf of the state”.