Category Archives: PERU

The Ancient Ruins On and Beneath the Sacred Lake Titicaca

The Ancient Ruins On and Beneath the Sacred Lake Titicaca

Marine archaeologists have discovered an ancient ceremonial site identified as exceptional in the Andes, recovering ritual offerings and the remains of slaughtered animals from a reef in the centre of Lake Titicaca.

The extraordinary haul points to a history of highly charged ceremonies in which the elite of the region’s Tiwanaku state boated out to the reef and sacrificed young llamas, seemingly decorated for death, and made offerings of gold and exquisite stone miniatures to a ray-faced deity, as incense billowed from pottery pumas.

The Kingdom of Tiwanaku emerged between the 5th and 12th Centuries A.D. in the Titicaca Lake Basin, near the border of modern Bolivia and Peru, and became one of the strongest and most powerful in the Andes.

Formed by a natural fault that divides the Andes into two mountain ranges, the basin is a unique ecosystem with an “inland sea” set 3,800m above sea level. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the basin was home to an estimated 1 million people.

Marine archaeologists decided to explore the Khoa reef after amateur divers found a number of ancient items at the site. The reef is submerged in more than 5m of water about 10km off the northwestern tip of the Island of the Sun, a central feature of Lake Titicaca.

The researchers excavated a trove of artefacts including a lapis lazuli puma figurine and other miniature stone animals, ceramic puma incense burners and gold ornaments including engraved sheets, a medallion, and an L-shaped piece marked with puma and condor silhouettes.

Perforated gold leaves still attached to fragments of leather may have been used to make ear tassels and another regalia to dress young llamas killed in the ancient ceremonies, the researchers believe.

Taken together, the items reveal how the lavish ceremonies displayed and disposed of the most prestigious materials that money could buy in the ancient Andean empire. Besides the gold and the carved and polished stones were spiny oyster shells from the warm waters off the Ecuadorian coast, nearly 2,000km away. They could only have been obtained through trade.

“What is great about these artefacts is that, beyond their beauty and the quality of manufacture, they were discovered in an undisturbed context,” said Christophe Delaere, a marine archaeologist at the University of Oxford and the Free University of Brussels.

“This is one of the advantages of underwater heritage. Lake Titicaca protects its ancient material culture from time and man. Never before have so many artefacts of this quality been discovered. The history that these objects tell us is exceptional.”

Found alongside the artefacts were llama bones and the remnants of burnt fish, the latter of which is thought to have been eaten during the ceremonies.

Carbon dating of charcoal and bones at the site found that the offerings were made throughout the 8th and 10th centuries AD, according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The ancient offerings are not the first riches to be recovered from Lake Titicaca, but the exceptional quality and abundance of the items put the reef at the heart of the Tiwanaku people’s beliefs and ritual landscape.

One of the major questions surrounding the Tiwanaku state is how it expanded so effectively across the Titicaca basin in the first millennium. Charles Stanish, an anthropologist on the team from the University of South Florida, said that pilgrimages leading up to elaborate ceremonies were a crucial part of the state structure. Through ritual, religion and “supernatural punishers”, the state encouraged cooperation and deterred freeloaders and other rebels.

“What we’ve discovered in the Titicaca basin are pilgrimages and ritual processions and these are part of the state apparatus. As you participate in them you are reinforcing the power of the state,” Stanish said.

“Combined with what’s been found of other islands in the 1990s, the discovery of these items on the reef shows us there was probably a series of pilgrimages or precessions around the lake and I find that to be extremely exciting.”

More than a dozen Tiwanaku sites have been found on the Island of the Sun. One, near the north-west shore, is a puma-shaped ceremonial complex.

But from Khoa reef, those taking part in a water ceremony would have a panoramic view of the lake and the spectacular surrounding mountains. “It is not surprising that the Tiwanaku elite appropriated this space for costly and highly charged ceremonies,” the authors write.

“Ritual and religion were profoundly important in ancient states. It is not some new age-y thing,” said Stanish. “Ritual and religion structured people’s lives, it structured the economy and the whole of society. This is how these people were able to create spectacular ways to get along and have a very successful society.”

Archaeologists Find 5,500-year-old Plaza in Peru

Archaeologists Find 5,500-year-old Plaza in Peru

A team of German and Peruvian archaeologists says they have discovered the oldest known monument in Peru: a 5,500-year-old ceremonial plaza near Peru’s north-central coast. 

Carbon dating of material from the site revealed it was built between 3500 BC and 3000 BC, Peter Fuchs, a German archaeologist who headed the excavation team.

A circular plaza built 5,500 years ago has been discovered in Peru, and archaeologists involved in the dig, carbon dating shows it is one of the oldest structures ever found in the Americas.

A circular plaza unearthed at the ruins of Sechin Bajo, 230 miles north of Lima, may have been a site for gatherings and ceremonies, archaeologists say.

“It’s an impressive find, the scientific and archaeology communities are very happy,” said Cesar Perez, the scientist at Peru’s National Institute of Culture who supervised the project. “This could redesign the history of the country.”

Prior to the discovery at Sechin Bajo, archaeologists considered the ancient Peruvian citadel of Caral to be one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, at about 5,000 years.

Scientists say Caral, located a few hour’s drives from Sechin Bajo, was one of six places in the world — along with Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, and Mesoamerica — where humans started living in cities five thousand years ago.

“The dating done by the German archaeologists puts it at about 5,500 years, but other parts could be older depending on what else is found,” Perez said.

Earlier finds near Sechin Bajo had been dated at 3,600 years.

“They had a highly-developed understanding of architecture and construction. This can clearly be seen in the fact that the materials they used survived for so long,” Peter Fuchs, one of the archaeologists, told the El Comercio newspaper.

The social gathering space that Fuchs and his colleagues found was built with rocks and adobe bricks.

Hundreds of archaeological sites cover Peru, and many ruins were built by cultures that preceded the powerful Incan empire, which reached its peak in the 16th century, just before Spanish conquerors arrived in what is now Peru.

Ancient city discovered deep in Amazonian rainforest linked to the legendary white-skinned Cloud People of Peru

Ancient city discovered deep in Amazonian rainforest linked to the legendary white-skinned Cloud People of Peru

A lost city discovered deep in the Amazon rainforest could unlock the secrets of a legendary tribe. Little is known about the Cloud People of Peru, an ancient, white-skinned civilization wiped out by disease and war in the 16th century.

An ancient Chachapoyas village located close to the area where the lost city was found

But now archaeologists have uncovered a fortified citadel in a remote mountainous area of Peru known for its isolated natural beauty. It is thought this settlement may finally help historians unlock the secrets of the ‘white warriors of the clouds’.

The tribe had white skin and blonde hair – features that intrigue historians, as there is no known European ancestry in the region, where most inhabitants are darker-skinned.

The citadel is tucked away in one of the most far-flung areas of the Amazon. It sits at the edge of a chasm which the tribe may have used as a lookout to spy on enemies.

The Chachapoyas also called the Warriors of the Clouds, were an Andean people living in the cloud forests of the Amazonian region of present-day Peru

The main encampment is made up of circular stone houses overgrown by the jungle over 12 acres, according to archaeologist Benedict Goicochea Perez.

Rock paintings cover some of the fortifications and next to the dwellings are platforms believed to have been used to grind seeds and plants for food and medicine.

The Cloud People once commanded a vast kingdom stretching across the Andes to the fringes of Peru’s northern Amazon jungle, before it was conquered by the Incas.

Named because they lived in rainforests filled with cloud-like mist, the tribe later sided with the Spanish-colonialists to defeat the Incas. But they were killed by epidemics of European diseases, such as measles and smallpox.

Much of their way of life, dating back to the ninth century, was also destroyed by pillaging, leaving little for archaeologists to examine.

Remains have been found before but scientists have high hopes of the latest find, made by an expedition to the Jamalca district in Peru’s Utcubamba province, about 500 miles north-east of the capital, Lima.

Until recently, much of what was known about the lost civilization was from Inca legends. Even the name they called themselves is unknown. The term Chachapoyas, or ‘Cloud People’, was given to them by the Incas.

Their culture is best known for the Kuellap fortress on the top of a mountain in Utcubamba, which can only be compared in scale to the Incas’ Machu Picchu retreat, built hundreds of years later.

Two years ago, archaeologists found an underground burial vault inside a cave with five mummies, two intact with skin and hair.

Chachapoyas chronicler Pedro Cieza de Leon wrote of the tribe: ‘They are the whitest and most handsome of all the people that I have seen, and their wives were so beautiful that because of their gentleness, many of them deserved to be the Incas’ wives and to also be taken to the Sun Temple.

‘The women and their husbands always dressed in woollen clothes and in their heads they wear their llautos [a woollen turban], which are a sign they wear to be known everywhere.’

Secret civilisation: a map of the region where the settlement was found

The Chachapoyas’ territory was located in the northern regions of the Andes in present-day Peru.

It encompassed the triangular region formed by the confluence of the Maranon and Utcubamba rivers, in the zone of Bagua, up to the basin of the Abiseo river.

The Maranon’s size and the mountainous terrain meant the region was relatively isolated.

Chachapoyas Children’s Cemetery Found in Peru

Chachapoyas Children’s Cemetery Found in Peru

Archaeologists reported on the unique culture of the Chachapoyan people, a society of Andean people living in the cloud forests of the Amazonas region of present-day Peru, otherwise known as the ‘Warriors of the Clouds’.

The Chachapoyas are known for their incredible sarcophagi, known as purunmachu.

The sarcophagi were made of clay and carefully decorated and painted with faces and bodies before being lined up precariously on cliff edges, like sentinels guarding the dead.

Chachapoyas Sarcophagi

Now archaeologists have made a rare discovery of 35 more sarcophagi belonging to the Warriors of the Clouds. However, uniquely, these sarcophagi are only about 70 centimeters tall which leads researchers to believe that they hold the remains of children and that this collection of purunmachu was a cemetery that was exclusively for those who died young.

The purunmachu were first discovered in 1928 when a powerful earthquake shook the hills surrounding the Utcubamba valley in Peru, revealing a seven-foot-tall clay statue, which came crashing down from the cliffside.

Researchers were stunned to find that the figure was in fact a sarcophagus, and inside it were the remains of an individual carefully wrapped in cloth.

Since then, hundreds more have been found, however, it was not thought that any more sarcophagi remained, especially untouched and intact.

But in July of this year, archaeologists working in the Amazonas region spotted the collection of purunmachu with a long zoom lens camera.

Researchers have now been able to reach the site to confirm the finding, however, the sarcophagi have not yet been opened or analyzed.

In addition to the small size of the sarcophagi, another unique feature is that they were found facing west, which is not typical for the Chachapoyas cemeteries.

“Because of the magnitude of the find, we’re dealing with a discovery that is unique in the world,” said Manuel Cabañas López of the regional Ministry of Exterior Commerce and Tourism.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the Warriors of the Clouds began settling the region at least as early as 200 AD, but the Incas conquered their civilization shortly before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century.

Their incorporation into the Inca Empire led to the complete decimation of their culture and traditions, and less than a century after the arrival of the Spanish, they had been effectively wiped out.

The purunmachu sarcophagi remain as memory and legacy of this once flourishing culture of the Andes.

Mass Child Sacrifice Discovered in Peru May Be World’s Largest

Mass Child Sacrifice Discovered in Peru May Be World’s Largest

In Peru ‘s coastal plain, archeologists who excavated what is believed to be the world’s largest children’s sacrifice site have extracted the skeletons of 227 young victims.

Ever since last year teams have been digging at the sacrificial site of Huanchaco, a tourist town on the beach near Trujillo, the third-largest city in Peru.

The children aged four and 14 years of age have been sacrificed by experts to the Chimú culture in order to displace the gods as the rains and floods caused by the weather pattern of El Niño have reached the coast of Peru.

Archaeologists say more bodies could still be discovered

“This is the biggest site where the remains of sacrificed children have been found,” chief archaeologist Feren Castillo told to AFP. “There isn’t another like it anywhere else in the world.”

He said the children had been sacrificed to appease the El Niño phenomenon and showed signs of being killed during wet weather.

Castillo, an archaeologist at the National University of Trujillo, said that there may still be more to be found. “It’s uncontrollable, this thing with the children. Wherever you dig, there’s another one,” he added.

The children’s remains were found in a position facing the sea. Some still had skin and hair and had been found with silver earrings.

Huanchaco was a site where many child sacrifices took place during the time of the Chimú culture, whose apogee was between 1200 and 1400.

Archaeologists first found children’s bodies at the dig site in the town’s Pampa la Cruz neighborhood in June 2019, unearthing 56 skeletons.

Pampa la Cruz is a short distance from Huanchaquito, where the remains of 140 sacrificed children and 200 llamas were found in April 2019.

The discovery comes after more than 200 child sacrifices were found last year

Excavation work at Huanchaquito started in 2011, but the findings were first published last year by National Geographic, which helped finance the investigation.

Researchers there found footprints that had survived rain and erosion. The small footprints indicate the children were marched to their deaths from Chan Chan, a huge, ancient adobe city a mile from the burial site.

The children’s skeletons contained lesions on their breastbones, which were probably made by a ceremonial knife. Dislocated ribcages suggest whoever was performing the sacrifices may have been trying to extract the children’s hearts.

The Chimú civilization extended along the Peruvian coast to Ecuador but disappeared in 1475 after it was conquered by the Inca empire, which in turn fell to the Spanish conquistadors.

The region still suffers the devastating effects of El Niño. In March 2017, 67 people were killed and thousands more forced to evacuate by intense rains which damaged 115,000 homes and destroyed more than 100 bridges in Peru.

In 1998, a “super” El Niño hit Peru, killing more than 300 people and causing billions of dollars of damage.

Gigantic 2,000-Year-Old Geoglyph of an Orca Is One of the Earliest in Peru

Gigantic 2,000-Year-Old Geoglyph of an Orca Is One of the Earliest in Peru

A giant geoglyph of the killer whale, carved to a desert hillside in the remote Palpa region of southern Peru after being lost to science for over 50 years, has now been rediscovered by archeologists.

The rediscovered orca geoglyph lies on a desert hillside in the remote Palpa region of southern Peru.

According to the researchers, the 230-foot-long (70 meters) orca figure – considered a powerful, semimythical creature in ancient Peruvian lore — may be more than 2,000 years old, according to the researchers.

It is said to be one of the oldest geoglyphs in the Palpa region, older than those in the Nazca region known for its vast collection of ancient ground markings– the Nazca lines – which include animal figures, straight lines, and geometric shapes.

Archaeologist Johny Isla, the head of Peru’s Ministry of Culture in Ica province, which includes the Palpa and Nazca valleys, explained that he saw a single photograph of the orca pattern for the first time about four years ago. He’d seen it while researching studies of geoglyphs at the German Archaeological Institute in Bonn.

The photograph appeared in an archaeological catalog of geoglyphs printed in the 1970s, which was based on research carried out in Palpa and Nazca by German archaeologists in the 1960s, Isla said.

But the location and size of the orca geoglyph were not well-described in the catalog, Isla told Ancient Origins in an email.

As a result, he said, the glyph’s whereabouts in the desert hills of the Palpa Valley, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Lima, were by then unknown to local people or to scientists.

After returning to Peru, Isla looked for the orca geoglyph on Google Earth and then on foot. “It was not easy to find it, because the [location and description] data were not correct, and I almost lost hope,” he said. “However, I expanded the search area and finally found it a few months later,”

Orca art

After documenting the rediscovery, Isla led a team of six specialists from Peru’s Ministry of Culture in an effort to clean and restore the orca geoglyph in March and April this year.

Before the restoration, the geoglyph was disappearing due to erosion and the passage of time. “Being drawn on a slope, it is easier [for it] to suffer damage than [for] those figures that are in flat areas, such as those of the Nazca Pampa,” he said.

Until the restoration this year, time and erosion had almost obliterated the ancient orca geoglyph to untrained eyes.

The creators of the orca drew it on the hillside in negative relief by removing a thin layer of stones to form the outline of the figure. This is similar to the technique used by the people of the Nazca culture to create geoglyphs from about 100 B.C. to A.D. 800.

But some contrasting parts of the rediscovered pattern, such as the eyes, were created out of piles of stones, the researchers said. This technique was used by people of the older Paracas culture, who occupied the region from around 800 B.C. to 200 B.C.

Soil tests have indicated that the orca geoglyph dates from around 200 B.C. The style of the pattern and its location on a hillside, rather than on a plain, suggest that it may be one of the oldest geoglyphs in the region, said one of Isla’s colleagues, Markus Reindel of the German Archaeological Institute, in an interview in a German newspaper.

Isla said that before the restoration earlier this year, it would have been hard for a layperson to see the orca. “With the eyes of an archaeologist, and after having seen the photo in the catalog and later in Google Earth, it was not very difficult,” he said. “However, [for] the eyes of a person without these advantages, it was a bit difficult.” 

Mysterious Giant Stone Sculpture of Aramu muru north of Chucuito Peru

Mysterious Giant Stone Sculpture of Aramu muru north of Chucuito Peru

Many people here only see an unfinished work by ancient masons. Nevertheless, other local legends tell something else — Aramu Muru is called a gateway to a realm of spirit.

It is unclear when and who made Aramu Muru – but presumably before the Incas. No archaeological research has been done here.

This massive stone gateway is located in the uncommon location of Hayu Marca Stone Forest (‘the city of the Goods’), on the banks of Lake Titicaca. Giant crests of red granite rise from the dry soil of Altiplano here. Erosion processes have formed natural bridges, weird grottoes, and natural sculptures. Often it is hard to tell whether some weird shapes have been formed by nature or by humans.

Mysterious giant stone sculpture of Aramu Muru, north of Chucuito, Peru

Aramu Muru is cut in the side of one such granite crest. This portal is 7 m high and 7 m wide, with a “T” shaped alcove in the bottom middle. The surface of the portal is polished. Alcove is some 2 m high – one man can fit into it. In the center of the alcove is a smaller depression.

On the other side of the cliff in earlier times was located a tunnel, which is blocked now with stones to prevent mishaps with children. Some believe that this tunnel was going to Tiahuanaco.

Similar Monuments

It seems – there are no similar landmarks in the Americas. Often there is noted that Aramu Muru is similar to the Sun Gate in the nearby Tiwanaku – but Wondermondo does not see many similarities.

Gate of the Sun

Aramu Muru has some principal similarities to the unfinished rock-cut architecture in India. Son Bhandar Caves (Bihar) have an unfinished portal inside the rock-cut cave. Local legends there tell about incredible riches inside.

Son Bhandar Caves, India.

Local tourist guide Jose Luis Delgado Mamani had unusual dreams in the 1990s. He saw a weird, red mountain with a gate cut in it. The door of this portal was open and blue, shimmering light was shining out of it.

Mamani was surprised to find mountains similar to the ones in his dream. He asked the local old men whether there are some gates cut in these cliffs – and, yes, they confirmed – there is a gate. Some tried to dissuade Mamani from going there – “this is the true gate to the hell”.

When Mamani reached the gate, he almost passed out from excitement – this was the site that he saw in his dreams. This story made into local newspapers and somewhat later – into the international press. The old, exotic story about Aramu Muru became popular again.

Legend about Aramu Maru

According to a local legend (maybe – a bit embellished by some contemporary mystics), this gate leads to the spirit world or even – to the world of gods.

Portal for the Immortals

The portal was made in the distant past. In those times the great heroes could pass the portal and join the pantheon of gods. Sometimes though these gods return to the land through these gates “to inspect all the lands in the kingdom”.

Golden Discs 

Legends tell that the gate was open for a while in the 16th century. Back then Spanish Conquistadors were looting the immense treasures in Cusco city and slaughtering local people.

In the most important Inca temple – in Coricancha temple (now the Church of Santo Domingo stands there) – were located especially valuable relics – the golden discs.

According to the legend, these discs were given by gods to Inca. Discs had powerful healing abilities. Two of these discs were seized by Spaniards, but the third one – the largest – disappeared without a trace.

Escape from Cusco to… The Otherworld

A priest of Coricancha temple – Aramu Muru – managed to escape from the deadly havoc in Cusco. He took the large golden disc with him.

Aramu Muru reached the Hayu Marca hills and hid there for a while. He stumbled on Inca priests – guardians of the portal and when the guardians saw the golden disc, there was arranged a special ritual at the gate.

This secret ritual opened the giant portal and blue light was shining from it. Aramu Muru entered the portal and has never been seen again. The gate got his name.

An archeologist and his team of nine students have been arrested in Peru

A Team of Archeologists Has Been Arrested in Peru for Violating Lockdown to Excavate Pre-Columbian Tombs

In Peru, an archeologist and his team of nine students were arrested for excavating on a pre-Colombian cemetery, following the national lock-up of that nation.

The group led by archeologist Pieter van Dalen was caught exploring during a state of emergency on Sunday 4 April at the Macatón Cemetery in the town of Huaral.

The team from the Regional Mayor of San Marcos University was taken into custody for breaking Peru’s extreme lock-down laws, despite claiming that they merely protected the national heritage left exposed to them in compliance with the Ministry of Culture.

Ruins in Hural in the Peruvian Andes.

The Peruvian minister of culture, Sonia Guillén, who is herself an archeologist, told local news outlet Canal N that she “deplores” the group’s actions in a time of national emergency. “It is regrettable and shameful,” Guillén said.

The archeological team had been given a permit to excavate at the archeological site about 50 miles north of the capital city of Lima, but the ministry of culture says in a statement that the permit had been “suspended” as a result of the current confinement period to protect public health, calling the subsequent breach an “irresponsible and unjustified action.”

“We call on the general population to respect all government provisions and especially to show commitment and solidarity with others,” the ministry says. 

Since the lockdown was imposed on March 16, more than 51,000 people have been arrested for flouting the rules, the Peruvian president Martin Vizcarra said on Monday.

The country has so far recorded nearly 3,000 cases of the virus and more than 100 deaths since it first broke out there in March.

Image courtesy the Ministerio de Cultura del Perú on Facebook

Van Dalen defended himself to the archeology magazine Lima Gris, explaining that when the state of emergency was declared, many tombs remained open, leaving valuable funerary items exposed to the elements or thefts.

In the interview, Van Dalen also claimed that the ministry of culture was aware that the team was continuing to work on the site in order to protect national heritage.

The archeologist says that he was left “between a rock and a hard place” because he signed a letter taking responsibility for any damage to the site between February and October 2020.

“If any of the people who travel through the archeological zone every day take any of these materials or destroy them, the ministry of culture will denounce me for the destruction of cultural heritage,” he said, adding that “the ministry of culture has not developed any protocol to safeguard these materials.”