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Peruvian History & Archaeology

Another mass killing of children,

Archaeologists in Peru have unearthed what is believed to be the largest single mass child sacrifice in history.

The bodies of 227 victims, aged between five and 14, were found near the coastal town of Huanchaco, north of Peru's capital Lima. The children were believed to have been sacrificed over 500 years ago. The discovery comes barely a year after 200 child victims of human sacrifice were found at two other sites in the country.

Archaeologists told AFP news agency that some of the bodies in this latest collection still had hair and skin when they were dug up. The children show signs of being killed during wet weather, and were buried facing the sea, meaning they were probably sacrificed to appease the Chimú's gods. It is unclear in which year the incident took place.


More Chimú discoveries.

Archaeologists in Peru have uncovered the remains of 25 people in the ancient city of Chan Chan.

The skeletons were found in a small space measuring 10 sq m in what was once the capital of the Chimú empire. The Chimú ruled parts of present-day Peru. Their empire reached its height in the 15th Century before their defeat by the Incas. Chan Chan, where the mass grave was found, was the largest mud citadel in pre-Columbian America.

Experts think that the mass grave may have been a burial place where members of the Chimú elite were laid to rest.

Archaeologist Sinthya Cueva told Reuters news agency said that most of the remains belonged to young women. "None of them are over 30 years old."

While it is known that the Chimú carried out human sacrifices, including of children, archaeologist Jorge Meneses Bartra said that there was no evidence those in the newly discovered grave died that way. ...


Why Did 16th-Century Andean Villagers String Together the Bones of Their Ancestors?

Nearly 200 sticks strung up with human vertebrae have been discovered by archeologists exploring tombs in Peru's Chincha Valley. Dating back to the turbulent period of early colonization about 500 years ago, these reconstructed spines may represent attempts by Indigenous groups to salvage and put back together the remains of their ancestors. The archaeologists argue that this practice may have been a response to tomb destruction by Europeans who mounted campaigns to stamp out Andean religious practices in the 16th century.


One day the group surveyed the less-studied part of the middle valley. There, they found the ruins of hundreds of stone burial chambers known as chullpas which had not been systematically investigated before. Inside some of these tombs, they discovered several reed posts curiously threaded with human vertebrae.

“We weren't really sure what to make of it,” Bongers says. “We initially thought probably some looters came in here and made a joke. Then we kept finding more.” They documented 192 examples of vertebrae on sticks found alongside other bones and occasionally other artifacts like textile bundles.

The bones come from adults and children alike, and appear to have been taken from already decomposed remains; the vertebrae don’t show evidence of cut marks and many of them are strung up out of order, according to the study. Bongers says he spoke to farmers in the region about the tombs. They had come across the bones on sticks and assured him these were not the work of recent looters or vandals. The farmers were convinced these specimens were old, though how old was unclear. (It also just seemed unlikely that modern looters would spend so much time and effort to create these items.) Confirmation of the age of these remains came through radiocarbon dating of a few samples.


The dates the researchers obtained from the vertebrae fall in a range between 1520 and 1550 C.E. The reeds, meanwhile, date from about 1550 to 1590, which coincides with the time period the Spanish arrived in Chincha. To Bongers and his colleagues, this timeline points to a tentative explanation: The vertebrae were collected from previously buried, disjointed human remains and put on reeds as a deliberate mortuary practice, developed perhaps in response to European destruction of the tombs.


maximus otter
Ongoing discoveries of psychoactive vilca symbology and seeds suggest the Wari culture employed hallucinogens to foster social cohesion and maintenance of authorities' privileges.
Wari leaders used hallucinogen to keep followers loyal 1,200 years ago, archaeologists say

The Wari leaders of a 1,200-year-old town now called Quilcapampa may have used their access to the psychoactive substance vilca to help keep their people loyal, a team of archaeologists says.

Recent excavations at the center of Quilcapampa, a site in southern Peru, revealed 16 vilca seeds alongside the remains of a drink made from fermented fruit that scientists refer to as "chicha de molle." The archaeologists found the seeds and drink in an area of the site that contains buildings that were likely used for feasting, the team of researchers wrote in a paper published Jan. 12 in the journal Antiquity.

Vilca is a psychoactive substance that can induce hallucinations. When it is served with chicha de molle, vilca can be even more potent than on its own ...

By mixing vilca and the drink, the Wari people would have experienced hallucinations that they would likely have considered a spiritual experience. ...

The leaders of the community would have been able to access vilca and likely used this ability to help win over the loyalty of members of the community. "It was an important part of creating social bonds between Wari hosts and local guests. ...

"The vilca-infused brew brought people together in a shared psychotropic experience, while ensuring the privileged position of Wari leaders within the social hierarchy as the providers of the hallucinogen" ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/wari-hallucinogen-to-keep-followers-loyal
Pretty advanced tools/instruments for that time.

Ancient surgeon found buried with his scalpels, awls, needles, and other tools of the trade​


Archaeologists in Lambayeque, Peru discovered the 1,000-year-old tomb of a surgeon who was buried with his scalpels, needles, and other implements. According to the director of the Sicán National Museum, the particular assortment of tools suggest that the surgeon was an expert in trepanation, drilling a hole in a patient's head to treat a variety of maladies. (I wrote about modern trepanation advocates for Boing Boing Digital back in 1999!) From Ancient Origins:
The deceased surgeon had been placed in seated position with his legs crossed. Within the grave, archaeologists found various grave goods including a golden mask with feathered eyes, a large bronze breastplate, and gilt copper bowls, which speak of his high status, as well as the surgical implements.
According to Arkeonews, the tomb contained "about 50 knives in total, some with a single cutting edge. Most are a bronze alloy with high arsenic content. Some have wooden handles. There is also a tumi, a ceremonial knife with a half-moon blade. By the tumi was a metal planchette with a symbol associated with surgical instruments. Two frontal bones, one adult and one juvenile, were found next to the planchette. Marks on the bones indicate they were deliberately cut with trepanation techniques."
images: National Museum of Sican

Possible Traces of Calming Drug Found in Sacrificed Inca Children

Science News reports that bioarchaeologist Dagmara Socha of the University of Warsaw and her colleagues have detected traces of harmine and harmaline in the hair and fingernails of two Inca children who were sacrificed some 500 years ago and buried on Peru’s Ampato Mountain.

The presence of these chemicals in the children’s remains suggest that they may have ingested the vine Banisteriopsis caapi [AKA ayahuasca] in the days or weeks before their deaths, Socha explained.

Tests of the effects of harmine in rodents suggest that it may work like an antidepressant, so a drink made with Banisteriopsis caapi may have been given to the children in order to calm their nerves as they traveled from their homes to the capital city of Cuzco for official ceremonies and then on to Ampato Mountain.


maximus otter
Recently explored tunnels within the Chavín de Huántar temple complex suggest an elaborate network of spaces and passages dedicated to religious practices.
Secret passageways used by ancient Andean culture may have been used in rituals involving psychedelics

Archaeologists have revealed a complex of hidden passageways and galleries deep inside the ancient Chavín de Huántar temple complex in the Peruvian Andes. The researchers think the network of chambers and galleries was used in religious rituals, possibly involving psychedelic drugs.

It's the first time in about 3,000 years that these particular hidden structures have been explored; some of the dark and isolated chambers may have been used for sensory deprivation, while some of the larger galleries seem to have been used for the worship of idols, said John Rick, a Stanford University archaeologist who is leading the research.

"These are stone-lined passageways, corridors, rooms, cells, and niches, big enough to walk through, roofed with stone beams," he told Live Science in an email. "The galleries have a diversity of function from what we can tell, [but] all are related to ritual activity." ...

Rick explained that the newly discovered passageways weren't strictly tunnels, because they hadn't been dug into the ground. Instead, they were deliberately constructed inside the mass of the enormous temple complex as it was built in stages between 1200 B.C. and 200 B.C.

Some of the chambers seem to have originally been rooms near the surface that were kept accessible for a time with heavy-duty roofs and extended entrance passages ... The passageways are up to 300 feet (100 meters) long, but many are twisting, with right-angled corners and multiple levels.

A total of 36 galleries and their associated passageways have now been found at Chavín de Huántar over 15 years of excavations, but this latest network was detected only a few years ago and was not explored until this year ...

Archaeologists think Chavín de Huántar was a religious center for the mysterious Chavín people, who lived in the northern and central parts of what's now Peru between 3,200 and 2,200 years ago ... The complex is about 270 miles (430 kilometers) north of Lima, in a mountain valley at a height of more than 10,000 feet (3,000 m), and it's the largest of several Chavín religious sites found so far. ...

Little is known about Chavín beliefs, but the newly discovered passages and gallery seem to have had a religious purpose, like other chambers found in the past at Chavín de Huántar. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/secret-passages-ancient-temple-peruvian-andes
Built to keep floods out rather than Incas

1,000-year-old wall in Peru was built to protect against El Niño floods, research suggests
By Tom Metcalfe published 1 day ago​

The research found flood sediments only on the eastern side of a desert wall built almost 1,000 years ago.

We see a bird's-eye view image of the sandy and rocky desert of northern Peru. Running diagonally in the photo is a high stone wall.

The ancient earthen wall runs for 6 miles (10 kilometers) across the desert and two dry river beds near Trujillo in northern Peru. (Image credit: Gabriel Prieto/Huanchaco Archaeological Project)

An ancient desert wall in northern Peru was built to protect precious farmlands and canals from the ravages of El Niño floods, according to new research.

Many archaeologists had suggested that the wall, known as the Muralla La Cumbre and located near Trujillo, was built by the Chimú people to protect their lands from invasions by the Incas, with whom they had a long-standing enmity. But the latest research affirms a theory that the earthen wall, which stretches 6 miles (10 kilometers) across the desert, was built to hold back devastating floods during the wettest phases of northern Peru's weather cycle.

These phases are now known as El Niño — Spanish for "The Boy," a reference to the child Jesus — because they bring heavy rain to the region around Christmastime every few years.

We see the brownish ground with paper tags marking different layers of flood sediments.

Archaeologists have found distinctive layers of flood sediments only on the east side of the ancient wall. (Image credit: Gabriel Prieto/Huanchaco Archaeological Project)

Although El Niño brings drought to some other parts of the world, it brings heavy rains to Ecuador and northern Peru. El Niño floods are thought to have occurred there for thousands of years, and they would have been a serious danger to the Chimú, Gabriel Prieto, an archaeologist at the University of Florida, told Live Science.

"The annual rainfall there in a regular year is very low — almost no rain at all," he said. "So when the rainfall was very high, that caused a lot of damage." ...

Stomping the night away.

Roughly a century before the Inca empire came to power in A.D. 1400, blasts of human-produced thunder may have rumbled off a ridge high in the Andes Mountains.

New evidence indicates that people who lived there around 700 years ago stomped rhythmically on a special dance floor that amplified their pounding into a thunderous boom as they worshipped a thunder god.

Excavations at a high-altitude site in Peru called Viejo Sangayaico have revealed how members of a regional farming and herding group, the Chocorvos, constructed this reverberating platform, says archaeologist Kevin Lane of the University of Buenos Aires. Different layers of soil, ash and guano created a floor that absorbed shocks while emitting resonant sounds when people stomped on it. This ceremonial surface worked like a large drum that groups of 20 to 25 people could have played with their feet, Lane reports in the September Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

Father Ted of The Andes.

A tomb which had lain undisturbed for 3,000 years has been unearthed during excavations in northern Peru, authorities say.

The occupant of the grave was dubbed the Priest of Pacopampa by archaeologists after the highland area where it was found. Researchers dug through six layers of ash mixed with black earth to reach his skeleton, which was accompanied by two seals and other sacred offerings. They described the find as important.

Pieces of pottery from the 3,000-year-old tomb
IMAGE SOURCE, REUTERS Image caption, Pieces of pottery were recovered from the 3,000-year-old tomb

The seals indicated the presence of ancient ritual body paint used for people of elite status, Peru's culture ministry said in a statement.
Project leader Yuji Seki told Reuters news agency that the large size of the tomb, nearly 2m (2.2 yards) in diameter and 1m deep, was "very peculiar," as was the position of the body lying face down with one half of his body extended and feet crossed.

"I think this was a leader in his time," he added.

Archaeologists of the Pacopampa Archaeological Project work on the site of the 3,000-year-old tomb
IMAGE SOURCE, REUTERS Image caption, Ceramic bowls and other artefacts were found next to the body

"The find is extremely important because he is one of the first priests to begin to control the temples in the country's northern Andes," Mr Seki told AFP news agency.

The Pacopampa site, 2,500m above sea level, includes nine monumental ceremonial buildings of carved and polished stone. They are estimated to date from about 700 to 600 years BC.

The excavation is a joint endeavour involving archaeologists from the National Museum of Ethnology in Japan and from Peru's National University of San Marcos.

Larger style of buildings and settlement unearthed.

A new type of settlement from the time of the Wari State found in Peru​

A new type of settlement from the time of the Wari State found in Peru
Credit: Autonomous University of Barcelona/University of Almeria

A research team from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the University of Almeria discovered in the latest excavations carried out at the site of El Trigal III, in the archaeological area of La Puntilla (Nasca, Ica, Peru), a new type of settlement. It is an architectural complex of large dimensions, consisting of a two-story building and a courtyard with warehouses from the time of the Wari State

Researchers made the discovery thanks to the digs they conducted at the end of 2022, under the framework of the La Puntilla Archaeological Research Project. Since 2005, the team or researchers have been working on the sites of El Trigal, next to the Aja River, on the northern slope of the La Puntilla mountain range. The archaeological site is located near the Orcona community (Nasca Province, Department of Ica, Peru).

Since 2012 the digs have focused on El Trigal III, where a settlement was discovered from the period of the Cahuachi State, dating back to between the 1st and 5th century CE, a period that corresponds to the making of geoglyphs with animal figures known at the Nasca Lines. In 2021, digs began in what is known as the North Precinct, and in 2022 researchers confirmed that the building had been constructed at a later time, during the time of the Wari State. Pending confirmation of the dates obtained by carbon 14, it is estimated that its chronology is between the 7th and 10th centuries CE.

The Wari State had its center in the city of Wari, located in the Andean highlands, in the Peruvian department of Ayacucho. From the 7th century onwards, it extended its political control from that region to territories in the highlands and the coast, up to the north of Peru. It is considered that this political expansion constituted an empire, with an important weight of the military activity of territorial conquest, but also with alliances and pacts with dominant groups of different regions, as could be the case of the Nasca valley. ...

The Archers have been around for a long time.

Rise of archery in Andes Mountains dated to 5,000 years ago—earlier than previous research​

Rise of archery in Andes Mountains dated to 5,000 years ago—earlier than previous research
Focusing on the Lake Titicaca Basin in the Andes mountains, a team of anthropologists found through analysis of 1,179 projectile points that the rise of archery technology dates to around 5,000 years ago. Credit: Luis Flores-Blanco

When did archery arise in the Americas? And what were the effects of this technology on society?

These questions have long been debated among anthropologists and archaeologists. But a study led by a University of California, Davis, anthropologist, is shining light on this mystery. The work is published in Quaternary International.

Focusing on the Lake Titicaca Basin in the Andes mountains, anthropologists found through analysis of 1,179 projectile points that the rise of archery technology dates to around 5,000 years ago. Previous research held that archery in the Andes emerged around 3,000 years ago.
The new research indicates that the adoption of bow-and-arrow technology coincided with both the expansion of exchange networks and the growing tendency for people to reside in villages.

"We think our paper is groundbreaking because it gives us a chance to see how society changed throughout the Andes throughout ancient times by presenting a huge number of artifacts from a vast area of South America," said Luis Flores-Blanco, an anthropology doctoral student and corresponding author of the paper. "This is among the first instances in which Andean archaeologists have investigated social complexity through the quantitative analysis of stone tools."

Researchers said increasing social complexity in the region is usually investigated through analysis of monumental architecture and ceramics rather than projectile points, which are historically linked to foraging communities.

For the study, the team examined more than a thousand projectile points created over 10,000 years. Each projectile point originated in the Lake Titicaca Basin, specifically the Ilave and Ramis valleys, which are located southwest and northwest of the basin, respectively.

Flores-Blanco said it's among the highest plateau lands explored and conquered by humans, with Lake Titicaca sitting at an elevation of 12,500 feet. ...

A contemporary of Stonehenge.

Ancient Megalith Found in Peru Is One of The Oldest in The Americas​


Remains of the circular plaza. (Toohey et al., Science Advances, 2024)

A century or so before the pyramids graced the Egyptian horizon, around the same time as the erection of Stonehenge, hunters and gatherers half a world away were building megalithic stone structures to rival those of farmers.

One of the earliest examples to date – an 18 meter (about 60 foot) wide circular plaza made from large upright stones – was recently excavated in a valley of northern Peru called Callacpuma. Findings from the ancient site, which was originally found nearly six decades before, now suggest that the plaza is around 4,750 years old. That makes it one of the oldest monolithic structures found in all of the Americas.

Not only was the monumental structure built before the true rise of farming in this region, it also predates technology like ceramics.

"In the northern highlands of Peru, the people that built the plaza at Callacpuma may have begun to experiment with food production, but they were also probably still relatively mobile hunter-gatherers," write the archaeologists behind the study. ...