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Discovering the millennial Perù

by Pablo Hurtado

 

 A trip to Peru is a unique experience in a thousand-year-old land, rich in archaeological finds, history and traditions.

From the most ancient civilization of America to the largest and most powerful empire in the south of the continent, Peru preserves the architectural vestiges of fascinating cultures. Discovering them is really a moving experience. We see some places not to be missed for a trip to discover the sacred places of  Millenary Perù.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is an Inca city surrounded by temples, terracing and water channels, built at the highest point of a mountain. The building was built with large blocks of dry stones. It is currently considered the cultural heritage of humanity, as an important political, religious and administrative center during the Inca period. The name "Machu Picchu" which means "old mountain" is linked to the location of the Inca town. According to historians, the archaeological site was built around the 15th century by the Inca Pachacutec. To be precise, the archaeological site is located in the district of Machu Picchu, Urubamba province, 112 km north-east of the city of Cusco.

Machu Picchu was connected to the entire Inca empire by the famous Inca trail "Qhapaq Nan. The annual temperature is between 6th and 21st and September and October are the best months to visit it.The town is divided into two sectors: the agricultural one characterized by terracing, and the urban one for administrative functions.The altitude is 2453 meters above sea level.The mountains Wayna Picchu and Macchu Picchu are ideal for taking panoramic photographs of the entire architectural site.

City of Cusco

The massive walls and buildings built by the Incas testify of the colossal architecture of the capital of Tahuantinsuyo, and it is wonderful to walk through the streets of Cusco, and retrace the history of the Spanish conquerors and when they arrived, using the Inca constructions made up of overlapping stones of how they built on it, churches, convents, and country residences. This created a peculiar symbiosis that gave a unique character to the city of Cusco, which was declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 1983. The many works of art of the Viceroy period that can be admired, are mainly built by religious paintings with frames in gold leaf that transport us in a time when the meeting of the Andean culture with the Spanish one, gave birth to the famous Cusquena School. Heirs of this art are the artists who still live in the laboratory houses of the traditional district of San Blas, and who express through their paintings, sculptures, and different forms of craftsmanship the most representative spirit of Cusquena art.

Chavin de Huantar

Chavin was one of the most important cultures of the pre-Inca era and its main temple, located in the Ancash department, was one of Peru's main oracles. It dates back to 1400 BC while its decline occurred around the year 500 BC. during the period known as Formative. It is a center where the ancients flocked to receive the answers of their deities and to leave offerings to their gods. Their supreme deity was represented by the Dios Wari, a large monolith sculpted almost 4 meters high in the shape of a spear point, which is accessed through narrow passages. The visit to the complex includes the route through some of its galleries and squares. On the outer walls one can still see one of the nailed heads: Zoomorphic faces carved in the stone that guarded the temple. Also noteworthy in the area are the Tello Pyramid, the Circular Square, the Rectangular Square, the North and South North Platforms, the New Temple and the Old Temple. In the village of Chavin de Huantar, just a few minutes from the complex, there is the museum of the site which displays archaeological finds and provides important information. The road to get to the village is not really easy, but the scenery is incredible. You cross the Cordillera Blanca and along the way you can observe snowfields and lagoons.

Chan Chan

A city that is one of the most important archaeological sites in Peru. Chan Chan is a World Heritage Site and the largest mud city in America. In native language, his name is Jang-Jang, which means Sun-Sun. It was the capital of the lordship Chimù, which extended throughout the north coast between 1,100 AD. and 1450 AD before being conquered by the Inca. The center of the city is a group of ten walled citadels. One of the most striking details is its walls decorated with high reliefs with geometric patterns of fish and birds, among others. The archaeological complex includes the popular neighborhoods, the walls, sidewalks, canals, cemeteries and other elements of the ancient city. The complexity of Chan Chan shows that it reached a high degree of economic, social and urban development.

Caral

The sacred city of Caral represents the origin of the Andean culture and is the oldest civilization of America with an history of more than 5,000 years. The complex is made up of buildings among which there are the six pyramids and its circular squares. The remains found reveal that its inhabitants devoted themselves mostly to fishing and agriculture. Among the most important remains are the oldest quipu (information recording tool) and 32 flutes made of condor and pelican bone.

Nasca Lines

In the coastal desert, in the Pampas of Juanma, there are huge figures of animals, birds and deities. call Nasca Lines. They are the main legacy of the Nasca culture, which developed between 100 BC. and 600 d.C. To date, the technology used has not been determined, nor the reason why it was plotted. Because of their large size (some reach 300 meters in length) they can only be appreciated from the sky. Since their discovery in 1927, many theories have been advanced. Maria Reiche, the German scholar who dedicated her life to the study of the Lines, hypothesized that they were an astronomical calendar whose figures marked the different solar cycles. It was the Reiche who discovered the ancient practice of tracing furrows on the hard and dry soil of the desert, which were then covered with stones extracted in distant areas. The natural chalk component present in the region would have helped to fix the figures over thousands of years. Among the most famous images stand out the hummingbird, the spider, the condor and the monkey. More than 800 representations are outlined. The best way to observe the route is by flying over the vast pampas in one of the small aircraft that depart from the Nasca airfield. Along the Panamericana South there are also some lookouts, from which it is possible to see only some of the figures.

Kuelap

On the Amazonian Andes in the north of Peru, at 3000 meters above sea level, stands the imposing Kuelap Fortress, built by the Chachapoyas, pre-Inca culture that developed from the 1800s to 1470 AD the position and the structure of the complex show which was designed to defend itself against other ethnic groups, only to be conquered by the Incas. Among the green mountains you can appreciate from a distance, the large stone walls, 20 meters high that protect the city, which was accessed only through three entrances in the form of narrow walled alleys. Inside Kuelap you can admire over 420 circular stone houses with rhomboid and zig-zag friezes. From above, the green landscape shows us how nature has favored this place. Reaching the archaeological complex is an adventurous journey but worth taking.

Lima

The history of Lima, City of the King, dates back to the 16th century. Since its foundation in Spain and during the Viceroyalty of Peru, it was a political and cultural center of the first order in the new continent. Proof of this is the historic center that preserves churches, convents and country residences with elegant balconies, in various styles such as the baroque, the Renaissance and the neoclassical. At each step the city shows a unique combination of ancient and modern, highlighting the conservation of traditions in gastronomy, music, dance and other forms of art. In 1988, the Convent of San Francesco was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and in 1911 the historic center of Lima received the same recognition. Officially Lima was designated as a Millennium City in recognition of its past, with remains of buildings dating back more than 4,000 years ago, which were abandoned and subsequently the culture Lima and Ichma (1,100 AD-1,450 AD) transformed into huge temples: the water that crossed the city was channeled into tracks known as Aecquias.

The Plaza Mayor area (Main Square) was surrounded by huge temples. Where the cathedral stands today, a temple called Puma Inti was located. The current Government building was built on the palace of Taulishusco, and the Huaca del Cabildo is nowadays the Municipal Palace. In various districts of the city the urbanization process, thanks to the efforts of archaeologists and some inhabitants of the area, has been able to keep the countless Huacas, archaeological remains that stand out in the big city, many of which are undergoing valorization. In the heart of San Isidro Huaca Huallamarca was found, a Quechua word that means the territory of the Huallas, the people who lived in the area. It is a large truncated pyramid 35 meters high, built with thousands of "adobitos", raw bricks "and where pre-Hispanic tombs were found, whose remains are now exhibited in the Museum of the Site, along with textiles, ceramics and even musical instruments. a few minutes, in Miraflores, there is the Huaca Pucclana, an archaeological project born over 30 years ago that presents a Ceremonial Center whose main building is the Great Pyramid formed by seven stepped platforms.The studies have shown that this millenary architecture is earthquake-proof. In the Museum the most important remains are exposed as ceramics, texts and instruments with explanations on the development of the culture of Lima.

The city of Arequipa

Arequipa, one of the main cities in southern Peru, is known as the Ciudad Blanca (White City) because most of its buildings were built in sillar, white stone coming from the large caves formed by the lava of the volcanoes that dominates the city. A walk through the historic center of Arequipa will allow you to relive the colonial era of great country residences, convents and churches full of magnificent works of art. It is even said that the great Santa Catalina Monastery is a city in the city. There is no doubt that food is one of the cornerstones in the region and you can not miss a typical lunch in a traditional "picanteria". Arequipa has been registered in the World Heritage since 2000.

Sipan archaeological complex

In 1987 the archaeologist Walter Alva discovered the tomb of one of the most powerful men of ancient Peru: the Lord of Sipan who had been one of the moche or Mochica rulers, the culture that dominated the northern coast between 100 and 800 AD. and who built pyramids decorated with colored murals, some in excellent condition. The Lord of Sipan was covered with stunning ornaments in gold, silver, turquoise and spondylus (type of mollusc). In the tomb were found bones of women, children, warriors and animals that were sacrificed and buried to accompany him in the other dimension. His discovery had a great impact on the international level as it was the first tomb of a ruler of ancient Peru to be recovered intact. The Archaeological Complex of Sipan, also known as Huaca Rajada, has a museum of the site that exposes the archaeological finds found on the site. The bones, jewels, ceramics and other archaeological finds found in the tomb are preserved in the Tumbas Reales Museum of Sipan in the city of Lambayeque.

 

Cutimbo archaeological complex

It is one of the most important pre-Columbian funerary centers, which belonged to the Lupaca and Colla kingdoms. Although there are traces of rock paintings dating back to 8000 years ago, the main structures date back to the years between 1100 and 1450 AD. There are also remains of the Inca period. The landscape is dominated by chullpas or puculios, large funerary turrets.

 

Sillustani archaeological complex

The complex is located on the shores of the Umayo lagoon. It is famous for its chullpas, circular stone turrets built to protect the funeral remains of the main personalities of the ancient peoples of Collao. Some are also 12 meters and are characterized by a base with a smaller diameter than the top. A short distance from the archaeological complex is the local museum where several artefacts from the Cola, Tiahuanaco and Inca cultures are kept.

 

Worship centers of Qenqo and Tambomachay

Two sites in the Cusco area that are characterized by their ritual architecture. Qenqo is a vast rocky promontory with sculpted steps, external pits and canals, probably destined to deposit the chicha (corn drink) consumed during Inca rituals. The site consists of a semi-circular courtyard defined by an isometric parameter with several large niches surrounding a thin stone or Wanka enclosed in an enclosure, a sort of image inside a chapel.

Tambomachay denotes a refined architecture characterized by platforms, niches and water sources coming from a source present in the upper part. At the time of the Incas it was a sacred place for the worship of water, one of the centers of worship that constituted the Cusco system of cusco, a set of imaginary lines that indicated the time and place of the ceremonies.

 

Fortress of Ollantaytambo

A living example of an Inca village, it preserves houses, streets and canals from the time of the Tahuantisyo. The name of the village and the archaeological area is linked to the lord Ollanta, who according to oral tradition, fell in love with a princess daughter of the Inca Pachacutec and was therefore severely punished. In the complex of Ollantaytambo, located on the hill overlooking the village, buildings stand out like the Temple of the Sun and its gigantic monoliths. the Manaracay or Royal Salon, the Incahuatana and the Princess Baths. On the upper part stands a fortress with a series of worked stone terraces, built to protect the valley from the possible invasions of ethnic groups coming from the forests. One of the best preserved areas extends to the north of Hanan Huacaypayta Square: a total of 15 blocks of stately homes built on stone walls.

 

Moray archaeological complex

It is located 74 km from the city of Cusco at 3500 meters above sea level. The archaeological area stands out for its unique circular terraces that look like amphitheatres. The largest presents 12 andenerias (agricultural terraces) of depth of 100 meters.

For scholars, the circular terraces of Moray served as an agricultural research center, where each level offered a different climatic environment and served to cultivate different plants in experimental form. The andenerias were built on containment walls filled with fertile land. They were irrigated by complex irrigation systems. At the bottom of the terraces there is a system of storage of water coming from the rains. Thanks to all this system it was possible to grow more than 250 plant species. Other studies indicate that the place was used for astronomical observation and to monitor the climatic changes that could have occurred, scanning the sunlight and the shadows that appeared from the high mountains of this area.

Temple of the Koricancha

Koricancha presents the overwhelming evidence of the fusion of Hispanic and Inca cultures. At the base of what was the Temple of the Sun of the ancient inhabitants of Peru, the church and convent of Santo Domingo were built. the Temple is a symbol of Western supremacy, a living example of the coexistence of the autochthonous past with European architecture. The temple was built with finely worked stones. Inside, the walls of the various enclosures were covered with gold and silver plates. The large stones of the Inca walls attract attention, three of which have more than 30 corners. Furthermore, a block of 24 corners and 6 sides stands out. The great Inca tower dominates the place with grandeur and stands out for one of the ceremonial niches with bas-relief flowers in connection with the winter solstice. True the lower part, there are sources and gardens where the conquered tribes came to deliver their offers. The worship inside the temple was reserved for the highest personalities of the time and in the place people came from all areas of the Empire to venerate the gods of the Tahuantinsuyo.

 

Choquequirao Archaeological Park

Located at 3,050 meters above sea level, on the top of a green mountain, on the border between the departments of Cusco and Apurimarc, the Choquequirao Archaeological Park impresses with the majesty of the Inca architecture with terraces, squares, fences, stairways with niches, and other facilities.

The construction of Choquequirao can be attributed to the successors of the Inca Pachacutec, Tupac Inca Yupanqui or Huayna Capac, between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The place seems to have been destined for public and ceremonial functions, with worship of the Sun God, the earth, water, as well as other deities. It may also have been a checkpoint for access to the Vilcabamba area. Thanks to its rich flora and fauna, the National System of Protected Areas by the State declared Choquequirao a Regional Conservation Area, with an area of 103.814.39 hectares.

 


The Querulpa dinosaurs

Querulpa is a hill just a few minutes from Toro Muerto. Tourists have made sure that both places become part of a circuit not to be missed when visiting Arequipa. There are traces of different sizes: 75 cm in length, 54 cm in height and 25 cm in width. Some measure about 60 cm in width and 10 cm in depth and are presumably Plintosaurios, huge animals weighing 8-10 tons. The area is not extensive, but has many footprints and it is assumed that there are other hidden ones. Now the area is known as the Jurassic Park of Querulpa. The area also contains fossils of fish and a crocodile, as well as sepulchres and centenarian mummies. In the Jurassic Park the visitor will find dinosaur representations in fiberglass and a Museum of the Site with important paleontological finds.

 

Peroglyphs of Toro Muerto

In this arid landscape one can admire what is considered one of the greatest examples of rock art in the world. It is estimated there are about 5000 volcanic tuff stones with zoomorphic, anthropomorphic and geometric figures, probably engraved between 500 and 1300 AD.

Toro Muerto in the province of Castilla, is located very close to the river Majes, whose incomparable shrimp are the main ingredient of the culinary delights of the Ciudad Blanca. The wide variety of animal designs, sculpted in stone, such as condors, foxes, alpacas, snakes and fish, blend with geometric figures and dancers, still intact despite the centuries. The biggest enemy of the complex are some of the visitors, who especially in the past, did not hesitate to break the stones to remove the beautiful designs. Today the guides recall that up to 152 drawings were discovered on a single rock. The Chincha culture predominated between 900 and 1450 AD. They were great traders, sailors and road builders. They survive as evidence of the level of development reached, the Huaca, La Centinela, a group of pyramids with a rectangular base, characterized by high walls of mud, and the Huacas of Thabo de Mora. Both archaeological sites are very close to the sea. The Chinchas were conquered by the Incas who recognized their experience in navigation and commerce, especially the precious spondylus. Also in the area were found some remains dating back to the Inca period and was set up an exhibition hall with ceramics and other objects. Continuing south-east and taking the Los Libertadores road, which heads towards the central plateau you come across the Tambo Colorado, a building considered the residence of the Inca or some authority that represented it in the locality. The archaeological site consists of a large trapezoidal square with platforms, surrounded by high walls and located near the side of a hill. Inside there are buildings, separate living units with trapezoidal windows, which still retain some parts with remains of red, yellow and white paint. One of the large buildings has trapezoidal windows and niches, features of Inca architecture. There is an area known as Acllahuasi or Tempio delle Vergini, similar to the one in other places where Inca culture developed. At Parcas, from the boats heading to the Ballestas Islands, one can observe one of the enigmas of the area: the large figure of the candlestick, traced on one of the slopes of the arid hills of Ica. After visiting the islands, the traditional circuit leads to a part of the remains of the necropolis belonging to the Paracas culture (200 BC - 600 AD), whose textile art still surprises the whole world today.

 

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