Category Archives: PERU

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”.

Archaeologists find 5,500-year-old plaza in Peru

Archaeologists find 5,500-year-old plaza in Peru

A recent discovery in Peru uncovered an ancient and very old settlement that dates back more than five thousand years to a period long before Europeans settled in the Americas.

Archaeologists say the site, uncovered amid a complex of ruins known as Sechin Bajo, is a major discovery that could help reshape their understanding of the continent’s pre-Columbian history.

Carbon dating by a German and Peruvian excavation team indicates that the circular plaza is at least 5,500 years old, dating to about 3,500 BC, said Cesar Perez, an archaeologist at Peru’s National Institute of Culture who supervised the dig.

Left: 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. El Comercio; Credits: gogeometry.com

That would make it older than the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Sechin Bajo, 230 miles north of the capital, Lima, thus eclipses the ancient Peruvian citadel of Caral, some 5,000 years old, as the New World’s oldest known settlement.

“This has tremendous importance, both in Peru and internationally,” Perez said by cellphone from the area. “We think it’s the oldest urban site found in the Americas.”

Word of the discovery was first published Sunday in the Peruvian daily El Comercio.

“The findings in Sechin Bajo, especially in the buried circular plaza, have demonstrated that there is construction from 5,500 years ago,” Peter R. Fuchs, a German archaeologist who worked at the site, told the newspaper. “Whoever built Sechin Bajo had a good knowledge of architecture and construction.”

Much of the hidden plaza was uncovered this year, and a great deal of excavation remains to be done, Perez said. Relatively little is known about the people who lived there.

The plaza, 33 to 39 feet across, may have been a site for gatherings, perhaps a kind of ceremonial centre. It was built of rocks and adobe bricks.

Successive cultures lived in the area and built over the site.

5,500-year-old ceremonial center and circular pyramid in Peru
A view of the ruins of Sechin Bajo, that was built 5,500 years ago, after it was discovered in Casma. Carbon dating shows it is one of the oldest structures ever found in the Americas. A team of Peruvian and German archaeologists uncovered the plaza, which was hidden beneath another piece of architecture at the ruins known as Sechin Bajo, in Casma, 229 miles north of Lima, the capital.

Earlier finds in the Sechin Bajo area, in the Casma Valley of Peru’s Ancash region, had been dated at more than 3,000 years old. But the circular plaza pushes the area’s settlement date back considerably.

Peru is perhaps best known to outsiders as the cradle of the Inca empire, which stretched from modern-day Chile to Ecuador. But the Incas were relative latecomers in Peru’s long history of human settlement, rising to prominence in the 15th century before being conquered by the Spanish in the early 16th century.

Before the Inca, Peru was home to various civilizations that left a rich legacy of ruins, pottery, tombs and artefacts. Teams of archaeologists are at work throughout the country, including the bustling capital.

Scientists say settlements were beginning to grow in Peru about the time of urbanization in such cradles of civilization as Mesopotamia, Egypt and India.

Archaeological Site in Peru Is Called Oldest City in the Americas

Archaeological Site in Peru Is Called Oldest City in the Americas

A complex of American pyramids that may be older than the pyramids of Egypt stands on a high, dry terrace overlooking a lush river valley in the Andes Mountains of Peru. These structures are remnants of the ancient city of Caral, which some have called the oldest society in the Americas.

According to groundbreaking research published in Science back in 2001, Caral was founded around 5,000 years ago. That origin date places it before the Egyptian pyramids in Africa and roughly 4,000 years before the Incan Empire rose to power on the South American continent. That history, and the sheer scope of the site, prompted UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural.

Caral sits in the Supe Valley, a region of Peru’s high desert nestled between the rainforest, mountains and the Pacific coast. The valley is brimming with ancient monumental architecture. And in the decades since Caral first made headlines, archaeologists working in the region have turned up about 18 nearby cities, some of which may be even older.

Taken together, these ancient people represent a complex culture now called Norte Chico. These people lived at a time when cities were on Earth, and perhaps non-existent elsewhere in the so-called New World. Even more incredible is that the civilization pre-dated the invention of ceramic pottery by some six centuries, yet they could master the technological prowess required to build monumental pyramids. 

Much remains a mystery about this culture, but if archaeologists can unlock the secrets of Caral and its ancient neighbours, they may be able to understand the origins of Andean civilizations — and the emergence of the first American cities. 

The Pyramids of Caral

A German archaeologist named Max Uhle first stumbled across Caral in 1905 during a wide-ranging study of ancient Peruvian cities and cemeteries. The site piqued his interest, but Uhle didn’t realize the large hills in front of him were actually pyramids. Archaeologists only made that discovery in the 1970s. And even then, it took another two decades before Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady kicked off systematic excavations of the region.

In 1993, working on weekends with the help of her students, Shady began a two-year survey of the Supe Valley that would ultimately yield a staggering 18 distinct settlements. No one knew how old they were, but the cities’ similarities and more primitive technologies implied a single, ancient culture that predated all others in the region.

By 1996, Shady’s work attracted a small fund from the National Geographic Society, which was enough to launch her Caral Archaeological Project working at the heart of the main city itself.

And when her team’s initial results were published in 2001, their study set the narrative for Caral as we still appreciate it today. The global press heralded it as the first city in the Americas. “Caral … was a thriving metropolis as Egypt’s great pyramids were being built,” Smithsonian Magazine reported. The BBC said the find offered hope to a century-long archaeological search for a “mother city” — a culture’s true first transition from tribal family units into urban life. Such a discovery could help explain why humanity made the leap.

Ruth’s work would make her an icon in Peruvian archaeology. As a 2006 feature in Discover put it, “She has dug [Caral’s] buildings out of the dust and pried cash from the grip of reluctant benefactors. She has endured poverty, political intrigue, and even gunfire (her bum knee is a souvenir of an apparent attempted carjacking near the dig site) in the pursuit of her mission.”

She continues to study the ancient society today, eking out new clues buried in the desert. Over decades, her long-running project has revealed that the “Sacred City of Caral-Supe” covers roughly 1,500 acres of surprisingly complex and well-preserved architecture. At its height, Caral was home to thousands of people and featured six pyramids, sunken circular courts, monumental stone architecture and large platform mounts made of earth. To researchers, these buildings are a testament to a forgotten ceremonial and religious system.

She now holds honorary doctorate degrees from five universities and a Medal of Honor from Peru’s congress. In November of 2020, the BBC named her to their 100 Women of 2020 list. 

But controversy has also emerged in the two decades since the seminal study. Shady had a falling out with her co-authors in the years after their publication that turned nasty. Soon, other researchers had also started producing radiocarbon dates from the ancient cities that surround Caral. Surprisingly, some of those dates suggest they could be even older. Those dates could simply be evidence that these cities all existed simultaneously as part of a larger culture in this valley in the Andes. Or, it could be a sign that the true oldest city has yet to be found. 

Influence on the Inca

Whichever city in the area is oldest, Norte Chico presents a puzzle for human history. Until recent years, conventional wisdom held that people first reached North America in earnest 13,000 years ago via a land bridge that appeared as the Ice Age thawed. A steady stream of sites older than that has since been found. In Peru, human remains have shown that hunter-gatherers lived in the region as far back as at least 12,000 years ago. And there are traces of settlements along the Pacific Coast from 7,000 years ago. The residents of Caral were likely the ancestors of these people who decided to settle down and build cities in the Supe Valley.

But why would the mother city of the Americas emerge so early in South America? Well-known sites in North America, like the cities of the Olmec, as well as Chaco Canyon and Moundville, weren’t built until thousands of years later.

To archaeologists, unlocking the story of Caral — and what became of the people who lived there — could carry implications for the story of the Americas as a whole. The Caral civilization survived for nearly a millennium, until, some researchers suspect, climate change wiped it out. But the people and their ideas didn’t disappear. Scientists see Caral’s influence in cultures that lived long after they were gone. All along the Peruvian coast, there are signs of mounds, circular structures and urban plans similar to those at Caral.

Archaeologists also found a khipu (or quipu) recording device at the site. For thousands of years after Caral’s demise, and throughout the Inca Empire, cultures in the Andes would use this system of knots as a kind of recorded language unlike any other known in the world.

The genetic heritage of the Caral people may also survive even today. A sweeping genetic study of modern Peru, published in Nature in 2013, showed that despite the Spanish influence, people in many regions of the nation can trace their genetic heritage all the way back to the first settlers of South America. It’s a line that runs right through Caral.

30,000-Year-Old Sacsayhuamán Secret Writing Method Discovered

30,000-Year-Old Sacsayhuamán Secret Writing Method Discovered

A researcher has suggested a highly thought-provoking theory that the fabulous Sacsayhuamán temple in Peru might involve secret 30 000-year-old writing. A discovery of this magnitude could easily re-write not only our understanding of the Stone Age but also world history.

In our article “Sacsayhuamán – Was It Built By ‘Demons’ Or Viracocha The Bearded God?” we examined the walls built by stones that our gigantic modern machinery could hardly move and put in place. Sacsayhuamán, located on the outskirts of the ancient Inca capital city of Cuzco is one of the most impressive and mysterious fortresses of the Andes.

Sacsayhuamán is still shrouded in mystery. The question of how the Sacsayhuamán stones have been transported remains unanswered. Will the corners of the stones maybe throw more light on the enigma of Sacsayhuamán? Dr. Derek Cunningham, a researcher has put forward a controversial and highly intriguing theory.

30,000-Year-Old Sacsayhuamán Secret Writing Method Discovered
The Sacsayhuamán complex

Based on his studies of the Sacsayhuamán complex, he concluded that the curious angles formed by these stones reveal ancient Inca knowledge of astronomical alignments of the moon, sun, and the earth, as well as knowledge of lunar and solar eclipses.

This should perhaps not be so surprising because many ancient temples were astronomically aligned. However, what Dr. Cunningham is suggesting is unorthodox because his hypothesis revolves around the thought that our ancient ancestors developed ‘writing’ at least 30,000 years ago from a geometrical form of text that is based on the motion of the moon and the sun.

He asserts that such ancient astronomical text, identical to that seen at Sacsayhuamán, is also found in both Lascaux and Chauvet caves in Europe, the African carved Ishango tally bone, and a circa 30,000-year-old carved stone found at the Shuidonggou Paleolithic Site in China.

Dr. Cunningham became interested in Sacsayhuamán when he first noted a series of unusual ground patterns located close to some Scottish sites.

This discovery drove him on to look at other ancient sites hoping to find some similarities and he did. He discovered that the Sacsayhuamán stone angles reveal something extraordinary.

“Each astronomical value (there are 9 standard values in total) was chosen by ancient astronomers to aid the prediction of eclipses. These astronomical terms are a mixture of values astronomers use to measure time (the 27.32-day sidereal month) and values to determine when the moon, earth, and sun align at nodes.

This includes the use of the 18.6-year nodal cycle of the moon, the 6.511 draconic months period between eclipse seasons, and also the 5.1-degree angle of inclination of the moon’s orbit.

The remaining values typically are either half-values of various lunar terms or values connected to the 11-day difference between the lunar and solar years,” Dr. Cunningham says.

Dr. Cunningham believes that scientists should focus their attention on the hidden writing discovered at Sacsayhuamán. “Now, substantial evidence has also been discovered that this archaic writing was used, perhaps almost continuously, until 500 years ago,” states Cunningham.

“Recently the analysis of the Muisca Tunjo figurines from Columbia uncovered evidence that they were constructed to the exact same astronomical design as Bronze Age figurines uncovered in Cyprus.

This discovery of such possible “recent” use of a Stone Age text thus prompted me to take a new look at circa 15th to 16th century Inca architecture, which is famous for its fabulous over-complex interlocking walls.

The question I asked was could the massive polygonal walls of Sacsayhuamán align to the exact same astronomical values used in the Columbian Muiscan figurines and the Atacama Giant of Chile? The surprising result is yes.”

“What is powerful about this new theory is that it is very simple and easy to test,” adds Cunningham.

“Further work is of course required. Satellite images cannot clearly take the place of direct fieldwork, and photographs placed online may have become distorted, but so far the data obtained appear highly consistent.” Dr. Cunningham is not afraid of criticism. “I honestly do not care whether I am right or wrong about this,” he concludes.

“All I have found so far is that the data is what it is. The potential of the idea to explain some things about so many sites from the pyramids of Egypt to the Atacama Giant in Chile is obviously very controversial, and it should be. But if correct, it could rewrite some aspects of our understanding of not only the Stone Age but also world history. If, on the other hand, scholars prove this specific astronomical theory wrong, then we can move on, knowing that it has been sufficiently tested.

9,000-Year-Old Remains Of Female Hunter Found In Peru

9,000-Year-Old Remains Of Female Hunter Found In Peru

Nine-thousand-year-old human remains discovered at the Andean highland site of Wilamaya Patjxa in Peru appear to have belonged to a woman hunter buried with a toolkit of projectile points and animal processing implements, according to a report in Science Magazine. 

9,000-Year-Old Remains Of Female Hunter Found In Peru
An artist’s depiction of a female hunter 9000 years ago in the Andean highlands of Peru

They were fascinated by a tool kit with 20 stone projectile points and blades lined neatly by the person’s side at a burial pit high in the Andes. Both signs led to a high-status hunter’s discovery.  “Everybody was talking about how this was a great chief, a big man,” says archaeologist Randy Haas of the University of California (UC), Davis.

Then, the University of Arizona bioarchaeologist Jim Watson observed that the bones were slender and light.  “I think your hunter might be female,” he told Haas.

Now, the researchers report that the burial was indeed that of a female, challenging the long-standing “man the hunter” hypothesis. Her existence led them to reexamine reports of other ancient burials in the Americas, and they found 10 additional women buried with projectile points who may also have been hunters. “The message [of the new finding] is that women have always been able to hunt and have in fact hunted,” says archaeologist Bonnie Pitblado of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, who was not part of the study.

The “man the hunter hypothesis,” which prevailed after an influential symposium in Chicago in 1966, held that during the course of human evolution, men hunted and women gathered—and they seldom switched those gender roles.

Some researchers challenged the notion, and ancient female warriors have been found recently, but archaeological evidence of women hunting has been scant. And the idea that all hunters were male has been bolstered by studies of the few present-day groups of hunter-gatherers, such as the Hadza of Tanzania and San of southern Africa. In those cultures, men hunt large animals and women gather tubers, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

Haas and his team, including local Aymara colleagues, weren’t intending to study female hunters. They discovered the fossilized remains of six individuals in burial pits at the archaeological site of Wilamaya Patjxa at 3925 meters’ altitude on the windswept altiplano of southern Peru. Two people were buried with stone tools.

The teenage girl was buried with what archaeologists believe was a hunting tool kit.

One person, likely 17 to 19 years old, was accompanied by four projectile points that would have been attached to short spears for hunting, several cutting blades, a possible knife, and scraper tools likely used for processing animal hides and meat.

The 20 stone tools and ochre, which can be used to tan hides, were neatly stacked next to the top of one individual’s thigh bone as if they had been held in a leather pouch that had disintegrated. Another person, likely 25 to 35 years old at death, was buried with two projectile points. The pits also held bone fragments of Andean deer and camelids, such as vicuña or guanaco.

The researchers figured out the sex of the bones using a new forensics method developed by co-author Glendon Parker of UC Davis. The technique analyzes whether an individual’s tooth enamel carries a male or female version of a protein called amelogenin.

The individual with the impressive toolkit was female; the other person with hunting tools was male. Studies of isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in the woman’s teeth showed she ate a typical hunter’s diet of animal meat and plants.

Others find the evidence of a female hunter convincing. “It’s a smoking gun,” says archaeologist Meg Conkey of UC Berkeley, who was not part of the study. “But skeptics might say it’s a one-off.”

Haas anticipated that concern: In a search of reports of burials at 107 other sites in the Americas older than 8,000 years, he found 10 other women and 16 men also buried with hunting tools. This meta-analysis suggests “early big-game hunting was likely gender-neutral,” he and his colleagues report today in Science Advances.

Robert Kelly of the University of Wyoming applauds the discovery of the female hunter but isn’t convinced by many of the other potential cases. He points out that having tools in the same grave as a person doesn’t always mean they used them in life. Two burials were female infants found with hunting implements, for example. Buried tools could also have been offerings from male hunters to express their sorrow, he says.

Pitblado says that even if not all of those female remains belonged to hunters, the meta-analysis suggests women have long been capable of hunting, and provides hints about where to look more closely for evidence.

It was one of many burials found that featured women hunters in the last 50 years.

Human ecologist Eugenia Gayo of the University of Chile agrees. Such research could help answer questions such as “What was the type of environments where everybody got involved in the hunting?” she says.

It shouldn’t be surprising that women could hunt, Pitblado adds. “These women were living high up in the Andes, at 13,000 feet full time,” she says. “If you can do that, surely you can bring down a deer.”

Two Inca Measurement Systems Calculated By Polish Architect

Two Inca Measurement Systems Calculated By Polish Architect

The Inca used two main units of measurement while constructing Machu Picchu, according to a Science in Poland report. Anna Kubicka of the Wrocław University of Science and Technology analyzed measurements of buildings at the site collected during field research conducted by the staff at Machu Picchu National Archaeological Park, the 3-D Scanning and Modeling Laboratory at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology, and the University of Warsaw between 2010 and 2017.

Dr Kubicka said that until now research on the Inca measurement system was based mainly on 16th and 17th-century chronicles written by colonising  Spaniards, and on their dictionaries of the Quechua language used by the Inca.

These sources contain information on anthropometric measures (measures based on human body parts). But the values assigned to them were not known.

Machu Picchu. Image: Public Domain

Scientists speculated that since the average Inca person was about 1.6 meters tall, Inca ell (arms) could be between 40 and 45 cm.

Field measurements were carried out by employees of the Machu Picchu National Archaeological Park together with the 3D Scanning and Modeling Laboratory team led by Professor Jacek Kościuk from the Wrocław University of Science and Technology.

Anna Kubicka, a PhD student at the time, joined his team. Kościuk’s team started working there in cooperation with Professor Mariusz Ziółkowski from the Center for Pre-Columbian Studies of the University of Warsaw.

The researcher determined that the Incas used two modules (or quanta) to measure their buildings. The basic module was 42 cm long and corresponded to the elbow length.

The second one, measuring 54 cm, is a so far unknown measure and does not result directly from the length of any part of the human body.

Kubicka calls it the ‘royal ell’ because the unit was used to measure structures of a higher rank. The ‘royal ell’ was associated with representative and residential building complexes of the Inca elite, while the other, basic one – with complexes of farm buildings, workshops and buildings for the yanaconas (the servants of the Inca elite).

Asked whether her finding has brought anything new to the knowledge of Machu Picchu, Kubicka says the complex was built at one point, in the first half of the 15th century. Therefore, the metrological data she has obtained is not needed to determine, for example, its age.

Kubicka said: “On the other hand, the question to observe was whether there were modular differences due to different building traditions of the people who came as labour from different regions of the Inca Empire.

At Machu Picchu we have different stonework styles, also used depending on the function of the building or complex of buildings.”

But it turned out that despite the differences in the construction method, only two measurement systems were used. Kubicka believes that this is evidence that the measuring of the Machu Picchu city plan was supervised by imperial engineers who used their own system of measures.

Further research will determine whether the measurement system identified by Dr Kubicka was also used in other places in Inca Peru as so far no one has looked into it. 

But according to Kubicka, it cannot be ruled out that the units of measurement changed overtime before the advent of the Incas. Perhaps, along with the stone processing technologies borrowed from the Tiwanaku culture, one common system of measures was adopted.

For her analyses, Dr Kubicka used the cosine quantogram method developed by the British researcher Kendall in 1974 to analyse length measures in megalithic structures. Simply put, it consists of searching for an indivisible unit of measurement (quantum) in a series of measurement data, the multiple of which is the length of individual elements of architecture.

The research in Machu Picchu was financed with a grant from the National Science Centre.

Sacrificial llamas found buried in Peru shed light on Incan rituals

Sacrificial llamas found buried in Peru shed light on Incan rituals

Archaeologists have long known about the common practice in ancient Incan culture to use human sacrifices as offerings to the gods. But it wasn’t until recently that they’d ever found a mummified llama sacrifice — let alone four of them.

According to the Guardian, a team of researchers led by archaeologist Lidio Valdez from the University of Calgary unearthed the mummified remains of four llamas during the excavation of Tambo Viejo, once an important administrative hub for the Incas.

The fur on the llama remains had matted together but still appeared relatively fluffy, highlighting how well-preserved the naturally mummified animals were. Their bodies were decorated in colorful strings and bracelets and are estimated to have been interred between 1432 and 1459.

The study noted that researchers could not identify any cuts or wounds on the llama bodies, suggesting that the animals may have been buried alive.

“Historical records indicate animal sacrifices were important to the Inca, who used them as special offerings to supernatural deities,” said Valdez, who uncovered the llama sacrifices with a team of archaeologists from San Cristóbal of Huamanga University. “This was especially the case of llamas, regarded second only to humans in sacrificial value.”

Sacrificial llamas found buried in Peru shed light on Incan rituals
The Incas dressed the llamas in ritual adornments, including necklaces and long, colourful strings of red, green, yellow, and purple, which hang from their ears as tassels
The llamas were likely sacrificed 500 years ago during a celebratory feast.

In addition to the four sacrificial llamas that were found, another decayed llama corpse was discovered separately, indicating there may have been an attempt to loot the burial, which was decorated with feathers from tropical birds. Archaeologists also found the carcasses of decorated guinea pigs at the site.

Further excavations of Tambo Viejo found traces of what seemed to be a massive feast. Researchers uncovered large ovens and other findings which pointed to some sort of celebration.

The new study — published in the journal Antiquity in late October 2020 — suggests that the estimated date of the llama sacrifice about five centuries ago happened during the period after the territory was peacefully annexed by the Incas.

The llamas were decorated with bracelets and colorful string, as shown here.

The finding supports the idea that the celebratory feast that took place was likely meant to appease the new resident subjects.

Besides being made as offerings to the gods to bring good health and a bountiful harvest, it seems that animal sacrifices were also used to stake a territorial claim for political purposes.

“The offerings likely were part of much larger feasts and gatherings, sponsored by the state,” said Valdez.

“The state befriended the local people with food and drink, cementing political alliances, whilst placing offerings allowed the Inca to claim the land as theirs.”

Excavation at Tambo Viejo first began in 2018. Since then, in addition to the llama burial discovery, researchers have found the remains of a large plaza and a distinct religious Inca structure called ushnu. They also unearthed a connecting road to the Nazca Valley, where the famous Nazca Lines geoglyphs are located.

Past studies have determined that llamas were significant to Inca culture. While the four-legged animals were hunted for their meat as food, they were also most frequently used as sacrificial offerings, more so than human sacrifices.

The Inca rituals were performed at specific times of the year. A hundred llamas were sacrificed in October to promote a healthy rainy season, and in February another 100 llamas were sacrificed to bring the rainstorms to a stop.

Bernabé Cobo, a colonial-period Spanish chronicler, wrote that the animals were used for different sacrifices based on their colouring. Brown-furred llamas were sacrificed to the creator god, Viracocha, while white llamas were presented as offerings to the sun. Llamas with mixed-coloured coats were sacrificed to the thunder.

It’s clear that each offering made by the Incas had its own significance and purpose.

As the researchers wrote in their study, “Through these ceremonies, the Inca created new orders, new understandings and meanings that helped to legitimise and justify their actions to both the conquerors and the conquered.”