Academic Publishing Wiki
Research and Study Network

The article which was transferred to form the stub or original of this open collaboratively edited document was first published July 18, 2010 by Andean Air Mail & PERUVIAN TIMES

History of Peru Series


Across the world, the period 3000 BC to 500 BC (approx.) was an era of monumental architecture. Think Stonehenge (UK), Carnac (France) or the pyramids of Egypt. In the case of Peru the giant structures took on the form of truncated, flat-topped pyramid platforms – sometimes arranged in a U shape.

In this part we assemble the satellite images of the four key sites 3000 BC to 700 AD


Median pyramid superimposed on U-shaped Peruvian structure. Base isometric drawing – Jacobs op.cit

mentioned in the Time-Tour (see Part 2), to compare dimensions and other aspects of these “mysterious” and awe-inspiring structures. 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 and before left a legacy of giant stone and/or adobe constructions, the scale of which has seldom been equalled, even to this day. One particularly useful online resource in English deals with the earlier part of this period: James Q. Jacobs’ Early Monumental Architecture of the Peruvian Coast. An online reference in Spanish, mentioned in Part 1, can be found in Lizardo Tavera’s Archaeology of Peru. Many archaeologists divide the period into the pre-ceramic, which includes the years up to 1800 BC when pottery technology was introduced -apparently from the North- and the formative period when icons and designs could be disseminated on clay.

Missing links

The unexpectedly early carbon-dating given to Caral in the Supe valley, and even earlier dates (3500 BC) in


adjacent valleys (See Peruvian Times February 25, 2008), leaves a gap between the early cities there with their dispersed mounds or truncated pyramids and the monumental phase in the Rimac and nearby valleys represented in our tour by the archaeological sites El Paraíso (Chuquitanta) approx. 2000 BC and Garagay approx. 1350 BC. Garagay was flooded and abandoned by about 1000 BC, so another gap opens up before we arrive at Huallamarca in 200 BC (See tour Part 2). Another challenge to the school texts has also appeared which casts doubts over the dates and direction of the Chavin (Ancash) era of influence. (See Jacobs: Understanding Chavín and the Origins of Andean Civilization regarding this controversy). More about this in later episodes.

What is monumental?

The phrase “monumental architecture” has come to mean “massive structures.” A monument may also be a memorial – perhaps in memory of some great leader. But how big is “big”? To measure up, each of these aerial shots below are to the same scale – each image represents 1 km (and a bit) in width. Garagay, with its characteristic “right arm” significantly smaller than its left, nevertheless comes across as a veritable giant, its central plaza occupying almost 10 hectares.

Aerial view of four sites to the same scale (500m), with timeline details[]



Caral in the Supe valley was the first stop of the tour in Part 2 and the subject of Part 1. Supe is but one of the valleys which make up this magnificent area called the Norte Chico. There are interlinked sites of “pirámides truncadas” flat topped, terraced pyramid-mounds. In the case of the Caral site there are six flat-topped pyramids (some specialists prefer the word “montículos”) that adorn the desert – it is only the Supe valley floor that is irrigated. There are some civilian residential foundations and this with good carbon-dating supports claims of the “formation of the first towns and cities.” Caral appears to have been abandoned before the use of ceramics around 1800 BC.

EGYPT – Great Pyramid 2560 BC


Outlined in green, the largest of the pyramids stands out clearly through the cloudless sky. Keeping to the same scale as the sites in Peru (the marker, bottom left, shows 500 meters and 1000 feet) and a N-S orientation. The pyramid’s base (red line) is 230 meters with a height of 146 meters. See a larger view.



Garagay, the second site visited in the Time Tour (see Part 2) was influenced by the Chavin cultural and religious expansion and, it is thought, vice versa. Garagay represents a “boom” in monumental U-shaped worship arenas or – according to another explanation - protected huertas. These huertas or nurseries produced high value, sacred or life-critical crops. This was the first archaeological period in which one culture had a wide regional spread. It is also known as the Early Horizon period. The green line superimposes the size of the great pyramid and the yellow is the line of the 1970s cerco or perimeter wall which – in the 1980s – was broken through. See the enlarged photo to appreciate the damage to the south-east corner (the shoulder and upper right arm). The Huaca La Florida (behind the Engineering University but not in the tour) and Huaca El Paraíso were competitors for the second spot in our tour. Click on the photo for a larger image, and here for a wider setting.

HUALLAMARCA (Pan de Azúcar) – 200 BC to 200 AD


Thought to be a transition period between the “monumental period” or the period of the “early horizon / Chavin influence” and a period of more local autonomy in which the Lima Culture flourished, alongside that of Paracas/Nazca to the south and the Moche to the north. During this intervening period “constructed huacas” became (slightly) more intimate with long ramps and “molded /tapia” walls. Huallamarca is alongside an important watercourse and irrigation canal of the Rimac drainage (Lima valley).

PUCLLANA (Huaca Juliana) – 200 to 700 AD


We are now in a period of archaeological classification which is called the “early intermediate” – intermediate between early (Chavin) and middle horizon (Wari Empire). Parallel development was taking place in Maranga, which can be viewed when visiting the Zoo and the Parque de las Leyendas. The Moche to the north and the Nazca to the south are better-known cultures, also flourishing and producing stunning art. The Moche were at this time forming the first “state” in Andean South America. Currently, Pucllana is one of the better conserved huacas, after initial “invasions” (by middle-class developers) of the site in the 1940s. See a larger view.

Looking Back (From the archives of The West Coast Leader, The Lima Times* and Peruvian Times.)

In Part 2 we noted that the monumental site of Garagay had some of the best iconographic connections in the Rimac valley to the Chavin culture. The next valley over to the north is that of the River Chillón. Presiding over its mouth is the older and even vaster El Paraíso (also and more suitably known as Chuquitanta): the fifth (optional) archaeological site in our Time –Tour No 1 and partly contemporary to Garagay. James Vreeland reported on excavations at the site for the Lima Times* (November 28, 1975). Unfortunately since then the site has been mostly neglected (as is the case with Garagay) but fortunately the detail in the article – now 35 years old – permits us to recapture some of its former glory. To read the article online go to “Looking Back” in News drop-down menu or click here.

Finally we might ask the question: Are these sites typical or are they just “one-offs”? Perhaps there are no others in the Lima area? In fact, Lima was “covered” with canals, huacas and their associated settlements and “huertas.” Well over 100 either remain or did so within living memory before contemporary Lima expanded and destroyed many of them. A map compiled by Rogger Ravines and published in the Boletin de Lima is reproduced below.


Next Part: Part 4 – With an article published in the Peruvian Times of 1964 to mark out the way for us we revisit the Pan de Azúcar via the colonial hacienda which is now central to San Isidro to see how much things have changed.