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History of Peru Series

TOUR 3000 BC to 500 AD[]

First published July 3, 2010 by Andean Air Mail & PERUVIAN TIMES

"The second in a series on Peru’s history, incorporating stories from the Peruvian Times archives, as well as links to videos, audio and other external sources to provide a rich background of information. The first article, on the Dawn of Urbanization, was published June 23."

The idea of “living history tours” to touch the stones of our ancestors is not new for readers of the Peruvian Times. Dipping into the archives reveals articles written by Peggy Massey (1964) and many others some time back on key early history sites (Huallamarca in this case, which you can read online).

First tour

To these sites have been added the more recently investigated Caral and the neglected but monumental Garagay to make up our “first tour.”

A detour to the oldest and largest of Lima’s archaeological sites from the age of “grand monumental architecture” (El Paraíso) is also shown on the map of the “time tour.”

If you are new to Lima and know little of the earlier history of the area, this is one tour you can do — without paying a fortune to a travel agency — that takes you to four (five, if you are super-energetic) important historical sites in two days. Together these sites summarize the “first 3500 years” or so of Peruvian history, since cities began about 5000 years ago. Moreover, they interlock with each other in the complex rompecabezas (jigsaw puzzle / brain teaser) which is Peruvian time and space (but as you’ll see, there are some missing pieces before 200 BC).

This leaves a cool 1510 years to be “done” in further history-journeys covering the period since the fourth site to be visited, Pucllana, was abandoned and converted into a cemetery for the Wari Empire.

How to get there (if you live far from the Lima area or find mobility difficult, future articles will provide a virtual tour.)

  1. Caral 3000 BC (as a separate day trip – Caral was also the subject of Part I) Up-to-date
    information on Caral is provided on the Caral-Supe website An inter-provincial bus towards Barranca stops at Supe Pueblo (altura del Mercado de Supe) on the Panamericana Norte Km 187. From there a taxi-colectivo (3.50 soles) goes to Caral pueblo with a walk of 20 minutes to the site. There are also organized bus-trips (details on the Caral website) direct from the Museo de la Nación in San Borja, which are well-worth taking. You get an eloquent talk and a video to brief you before you arrive.
  2. Garagay 1340 BC. Note that this site has little security and is in a relatively deprived part of town. Although the site is open to wander around, the interior is not open to the general public. Try to go on a visit organized by the INC (Instituto Nacional de Cultura, details below ) or by the San Marcos
    or Católica universities, which are, after all, on the same road (one of the longest in Lima). We took a micro (smallish bus, sometimes called a Coaster pronounced Cooster) to the Universidad Católica on Avenida Universitaria not far from the San Miguel shopping center and the Avenida de la Marina. From the taxi stand at the Católica take an official taxi (the yellow ones outside the main gate) to Garagay (block 28 of the same avenue, Avenida Universitaria, having crossed the Rio Rimac) near the intersection with Gamarra, San Martín de Porres. It’s difficult to find because many locals think it’s just another hill or mound, although the site is vast. The huaca has an electricity pylon (torre de alta tensión) on top. Get the taxi to do the round trip. If you speak Spanish and know Lima you can do the whole excursion more cheaply. To visit Garagay through the INC, contact the archaeologist Moisés Ríos at 476-9873.
  3. Huallamarca 200 BC in San Isidro is three blocks from the Virgen del Pilar church and óvalo (traffic circle). If coming from Garagay, get the taxi on the return leg to take you right down past the Católica to the Avenida de la Marina. From there, if you would like to “save a few bob,” take a micro to the Camino Real intersection with Choquehuanca, San Isidro. Walk west down
    Choquehuanca three blocks. The huaca is also known as the “Sugarloaf” or Pan de Azucar – the name, I believe, of the hacienda or country estate which had been here prior to being built over. Thousands have passed by Huallamarca without realizing its significance. Some believe it’s not genuine – it looks too pristine, precise: what you see is an outer covering of maize-shaped adobe blocks applied in the 1950-60’s but the compact but informative on-site museum provides clues to its role in the remarkable transformation from the age of “grand monumental architecture” to a “Lima culture” which was emerging as Huallamarca came to be converted to a cemetery around 200 AD. Huallamarca is a contemporary of the latter part of the Paracas culture, made magnificent by its superb embroider. The Huallas were among the people (Limeños in all but name) on whose shoulders the Lima culture rested.
  4. Pucllana 400 AD (median date). From Huallamarca walk back to Camino Real and take a micro
    south to one stop (paradero) beyond the Ovalo Gutierrez. Alternatively, a taxi ride is comparatively short and here the drivers will know the huaca (probably!). Pucllana was previously known as the Huaca Juliana – old hands prefer this name – but Pucllana was in fact the name used at least in the 16th century. The centuries following the building of this huaca were to prove a period of exceptional development contemporary with the brilliant Moche and Nazca cultures. One of the great “belles époques” of Lima.
  5. El Paraíso 2000 BC. If you have just that bit of extra energy you might consider adding El Paraíso (paradise) – the earliest and largest of the monumental sites overlooking the River Chillón – to this list. Or substitute it for Garagay. Micros (buses) – Ventanilla buses passing Jorge Chavez airport will take you to the access routes:
    1. Get off at the Jardines de Oquendo, part of the old, wealthy Fundo de Oquendo, and walk up the hillside behind the “gardens.” Go at weekends and there may be other people around, particularly the mountain bikers that use the ruins as a practice circuit – ideal and suitably sacrilegious, but be quick to step out of their way. At solstice time, modern-day indigenistas / neo-druids / lovers of Peruvian traditions will parade the grounds á la Stonehenge and Inti Raymi at Cusco. Why not join them? From time to time the more enthusiastic (reckless?) and heritage-minded of teachers will guide their school-kids up onto the sacred site where they will go berserk hiding from each other and also presumably from the teacher.
    2. Stay on the bus until just before the river crossing. There you may be able to pick up a one-sol moto-taxi to take you part of the way up the incline. I have not done route 2 personally so cannot give it the all-clear. There is always this thing that certain zones are supposed to be death-traps for pitucas and gringos. In fact it is the local population that suffers the brunt of the crime. El Paraíso is a detour from the main route and our advice is go with a group or an organized tour. You cannot see El Paraíso from the road as you can Garagay.

In our time-tour El Paraíso provides a “longer missing link” (between 2000 BC and 200 BC). Garagay on the other hand appears to have been hit by flooding or a huaico (mud-slide) by about 1000 BC. However, understanding Garagay is fundamental to the development of a cohesive history of Lima and the neglect it has suffered since the excavations of the 1970’s led by Rogger Ravines and his team is a disaster for Peru. Garagay has iconographic and perhaps religious links with Chavin.

Part 3: If 2500BC to 500BC (approx.) is the age of monumental architecture (truncated pyramid platforms arranged in a U shape) then surely the bigger they are, the better they are. We assemble the satellite images of the four key sites 3000 BC to 700 AD in the Time-Tour to compare dimensions. Plus a sideways look is taken towards the Egyptian pyramids and we wonder if working as corporate labor, slaves or indentured monumental masons wasn’t perhaps all that much fun. Either way, early-Peruvians of the Chavin period – or thereabouts – left a legacy of giant stone and/or adobe constructions, the scale of which has seldom been equaled, even up to this day.