Category Archives: PERU

Archaeologists were amazed by Peru’s ‘mind-blowing’ ancient solar calendar built into the desert

Archaeologists were amazed by Peru’s ‘mind-blowing’ ancient solar calendar built into the desert

At 2,300 years old, the Chankillo observatory has been described as one of the oldest of its kind in the world — and the oldest in the Americas. It is a construction of 13 stone towers built atop a hill and was once used as a calendar. Only this summer was Chankillo designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

An ancient Peruvian civilisation built it around two millennia before the ascent of another well-known and now famous sun cult — the Incas. It is believed that they completed it at some point between 250 BC and 200 BC.

According to recent studies of Chankillo, the ancient peoples who used it would have reaped remarkably accurate astronomical observations, also doubling up its use as a temple and administration block. The vertebrae-like structures have been called the ‘Thirteen Towers’ — these are what the ancient astronomers used as an artificial horizon.

Archaeologists were amazed by Peru's 'mind-blowing' ancient solar calendar built into the desert
Researchers only figured out what the site was once used for in 2007
Chakillo: The towers appear like vertebrae from above

By determining the Sun’s position, the civilisation could accurately predict upcoming solstices and equinoxes, and determine the date with a precision of one to two days.

BBC Science Focus magazine noted: “It’s thought that this knowledge would help them plan seasonal harvests, as well as hold religious events.”

Brian Cox visited Chakillo during his docuseries, ‘Wonders of the Universe.

In a clip from the show titled, ‘Mind-blowing Ancient Solar Calendar’, he wandered across the ancient timekeeping piece and noted how the fortified temple’s walls, “were once painted a brilliant white, covered with painted figures”.

Mr Cox explained that “all but the smallest fragments of the decorations are gone”, leaving researchers in the present-day almost clueless about who made up this ancient civilisation.

For decades, researchers were equally clueless about Chankillo’s purpose.

It wasn’t until 2007 that a study published in the journal Science proposed that the sequence of towers “marked the summer and winter solstices” and that Chankillo “was in part a solar observatory”.

Peruvian archaeologist Ivan Ghezzi, who co-authored the study with a British colleague, Clive Ruggles, told AFP the towers were erected “with great precision,” and were placed to mark different positions of the Sun “and therefore mark exact dates.”

Ancient civilisation: The peoples had fortified the calendar

The structure essentially works like a giant clock, marking the passage of time over the span of a year.

In September, the Sun would rise somewhere between the fifth and sixth towers. By December 21, it creeps up between the last of the towers at daybreak.

Mr Ghezzi said: “Chankillo is a masterpiece of ancient Peruvians.

“A masterpiece of architecture, a masterpiece of technology and astronomy.

“It is the cradle of astronomy in America.”

And as it was also likely a place of Sun worship, the sites to the east and west of the towers feature the remains of objects used for ritual sacrifices.

The observatory and its ceremonial appendages were protected by fortress walls made of stone, mud and tree trunks, a site spanning an astonishing 5,000 hectares — yet just one per cent of it is believed to have been studied. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, excavations at ancient sites in Peru were abandoned, leading to many raids by black market traders.

While Chankillo was left untouched, nearby farmers expanded their pasturelands on the site’s border. It is hoped that the UNESCO World Heritage status will help to protect it from threats in the future while helping to sustain those struggling farmers.

Machu Picchu in Peru is 20 Years Older Than Previously Thought, Finds Study

Machu Picchu in Peru is 20 Years Older Than Previously Thought, Finds Study

The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru was occupied from around 1420-1530 AD, several decades earlier than previously thought, according to a new study.

A team of researchers, led by Richard Burger, a professor of anthropology at Yale University, used radiocarbon dating to reveal that the emperor Pachacuti, who built Machu Picchu, rose to power earlier than expected, according to a news release published Tuesday.

This means Pachacuti’s early conquests took place earlier, helping to explain how the Inca Empire became the largest and most powerful in pre-Columbian America.

Based on historical documents, it was thought that Machu Picchu was built after 1440, or maybe even 1450. However, Burger and his team used accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating of human remains to get a more accurate picture.

AMS works on even small amounts of organic material, which enlarges the pool of skeletons that can be studied. The team looked at 26 individuals from cemeteries at Machu Picchu that were recovered from the site during excavations in 1912.

Machu Picchu is pictured in 1911.

The bodies were buried under boulders, overhanging cliffs or shallow caves, sealed with masonry walls, according to the study. There were also grave goods such as ceramics and bronze and silver shawl pins.

“This is the first study based on scientific evidence to provide an estimate for the founding of Machu Picchu and the length of its occupation,” Burger said in the news release.

The historical records were written by Spanish conquistadors following their takeover of the area, and the results of the study question the merit of drawing conclusions based on these kinds of documents, according to researchers.

Although the study acknowledges the “limitations” of radiocarbon dating, the researchers said the documentary evidence is unreliable.

“Perhaps the time has come for the radiocarbon evidence to assume priority in reconstructions of the chronology of the Inca emperors and the dating of Inca monumental sites such as Machu Picchu,” reads the study.

The study was published in the journal Antiquity.

Revered as one of the world’s great archaeological sites, Machu Picchu perches between two mountains.

The site is made up of roughly 200 stone structures, whose granite walls remain in good shape although the thatched roofs are long gone.

These include a ceremonial bathhouse, temples, granaries and aqueducts. One, known as the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock, is thought to have been used for embalming dead aristocrats.

Ancient remains of noblewoman found in Peru

4,500-year-old female mummy discovered in Peru

This footage shows a 4,500-year-old mummy which has been unearthed by archaeologists in Peru. She is believed to be a noblewoman and can be seen wrapped in burial cloths.

She was buried in the ancient fishing village of Aspero in northern Peru along with objects featuring carved details of both coastal and jungle animals like birds and monkeys.

Experts believe the discovery is hugely significant and will provide insights into the ancient Caral civilisation.

Archaeologists in Peru have unearthed a 4,500-year-old mummy of a noble woman

The images of the coastal and jungle animals indicate possible trade between Aspero and the city of Caral, the most ancient civilisation of its kind in South America and the precursor of the Incas.

The two regions are located 14 miles from each other.

Ruth Shady, director of the Caral Archaeological zone, explained the significance of the discovery

She said: “In the settlements of the Caral civilisation there are sometimes burials.

“The sacrifice of human beings are not regular, they’re very rare.”

“In this case, it is a woman of 40 to 50 years who was buried with evidence and objects that allow us to identify her as a woman of important social status,” she continued.

“Her remains were with offerings of objects brought from different places,” Ruth continued.

“These objects, carvings depict different images from the jungle.”

“What we can infer on the basis of recovered evidence of a society which began the stage of civilisation formation 5,000 years ago in relation to settlement dwellers in the Super Valley,” she added.

4,500-year-old female mummy discovered in Peru
She was perfectly preserved

The Caral civilisation dates back to 2,600 BCE and its archaeological site reportedly predates Inca civilisation by some 4000 years.

1,200-Year-Old Telephone, Amazing Invention of the Ancient Chimu Civilization

1,200-Year-Old Telephone, Amazing Invention of the Ancient Chimu Civilization

As a nomadic cultural historian, my subjects have led me in wildly different directions. I spent every Friday for five years in a dim, dusty reading room in West Orange, New Jersey, formerly a laboratory on the second floor of Thomas Edison’s headquarters, deciphering the blunt-pencilled scrawls of the celebrated inventor.

Two years after my biography of Edison appeared, I found myself labouring up vertiginous stairs at daybreak in Mexico, photographing the faded ocher outlines of winged snakes etched into stone temples at the vast ruins of Teotihuacán. The daunting treks led to a book on Mesoamerican myth, Legends of the Plumed Serpent.

Those two disparate worlds somehow collided unexpectedly on a recent afternoon in the hushed, temperature-controlled precincts of the National Museum of the American Indian storage facility in Suitland, Maryland. There, staffers pushing a rolling cart ushered one of the museum’s greatest treasures into the high-ceilinged room.

Nestled in an acid-free corrugated cardboard container was the earliest known example of telephone technology in the Western Hemisphere, evoking a lost civilization—and the anonymous ancient techie who dreamed it up.

The gourd-and-twine device created 1,200 to 1,400 years ago, remains tantalizingly functional—and too fragile to test out. “This is unique,” NMAI curator Ramiro Matos, an anthropologist and archaeologist who specializes in the study of the central Andes, tells me. “Only one was ever discovered. It comes from the consciousness of an indigenous society with no written language.”

We’ll never know the trial and error that went into its creation. The marvel of acoustic engineering—cunningly constructed of two resin-coated gourd receivers, each three-and-one-half inches long; stretched-hide membranes stitched around the bases of the receivers; and a cotton-twine cord extending 75 feet when pulled taut—arose out of the Chimu empire at its height.

1,200-Year-Old Telephone, Amazing Invention of the Ancient Chimu Civilization
Right: A communication device created more than 1,000 years ago by the Chimu people of Peru (Travis Rathbone/Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian) Background: Chan Chan, Peru

The dazzlingly innovative culture was centred in the Río Moche Valley in northern Peru, wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the western Andes.

“The Chimu were a skillful, inventive people,” Matos tells me as we don sterile gloves and peer into the hollowed interiors of the gourds.

The Chimu, Matos explains, were the first true engineering society in the New World, known as much for their artisanry and metalwork as for the hydraulic canal-irrigation system they introduced, transforming desert into agricultural lands.

The god Naymlap on his boat, gold plate, Chimu 1000-1450 AD.

The artefact’s recent past is equally mysterious. Somehow—no one knows under what circumstances—it came into the hands of a Prussian aristocrat, Baron Walram V. Von Schoeler.

A shadowy Indiana Jones-type adventurer, Von Schoeler began excavating in Peru during the 1930s. He developed the “digging bug,” as he told the New York Times in 1937, at the age of 6, when he stumbled across evidence of a prehistoric village on the grounds of his father’s castle in Germany.

Von Schoeler himself may have unearthed the gourd telephone. By the 1940s, he had settled in New York City and amassed extensive holdings of South American ethnographic objects, eventually dispersing his collections to museums around the United States.

The sophisticated culture was eclipsed when the Inca emperor Tupac Yupanqui conquered the Chimu king Minchancaman around 1470.

During its heyday, the urban centre of Chan Chan was the largest adobe metropolis in pre-Columbian America. The central nucleus covered 2.3 square miles.

Chan Chan sculpture and architecture

Today, the angular contours of ten immense compounds, once surrounded by thick, 30-foot-high walls, are visible. The compounds, or ciudadelas, erected successively by ten Chimu kings, were subdivided into labyrinths of corridors, kitchens, courtyard gardens, wells, burial sites, supply rooms and residential and administrative chambers, or audiencias.

Like the Inca, Matos says, the Chimu were organized as “a top-down society; this instrument would have been made only for, and used by, a member of the elite, perhaps a priest.”

Walls within walls and secluded apartments in the ciudadelas preserved stratification between the ruling elite and the middle and working classes. The NMAI telephone, Matos says, was “a tool designed for an executive level of communication”—perhaps for a courtier-like assistant required to speak into a gourd mouthpiece from an anteroom, forbidden face-to-face contact with a superior conscious of status and of security concerns.

Contemplating the brainstorm that led to the Chimu telephone—a eureka moment undocumented for posterity—summons up its 21st-century equivalent. On January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs strode onto a stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco and announced, “This is the day I have been looking forward to for two and a half years.”

As he swiped the touchscreen of the iPhone, it was clear that the paradigm in communications technology had shifted. The unsung Edison of the Chimu must have experienced an equivalent, incandescent exhilaration when his (or her) device first transmitted sound from chamber to chamber.

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.