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PostPosted: 18-08-2004 19:31    Post subject: Peruvian archaeology Reply with quote


Explorers Find Ancient City in Remote Peru Jungle
Tue Aug 17, 2004 07:28 PM ET

By Marco Aquino
LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - An ancient walled city complex inhabited some 1,300 years ago by a culture later conquered by the Incas has been discovered deep in Peru's Amazon jungle, explorers said on Tuesday.

U.S. and Peruvian explorers uncovered the city, which may have been home to up to 10,000 people, after a month trekking in Peru's northern rain forest and following up on years of investigation about a possible lost metropolis in the region.

The stone city, made up of five citadels at 9,186 feet above sea level, stretches over around 39 square miles and contains walls covered in carvings and figure paintings, exploration leader Sean Savoy told Reuters.

"It is a tremendous city ... containing areas with stone etchings and 10-meter (33-foot) high walls," said Savoy, who had to hack through trees and thick foliage to finally reach the site on Aug. 15.

Covered in matted tree branches and interspersed with lakes and waterfalls, the settlement sites also contain well-preserved graveyards with mummies with teeth "in almost perfect condition," Savoy said.

Replete with stone agricultural terraces and water canals, the city complex is thought to have been home to the little-known Chachapoyas culture.

According to early accounts by Spanish conquistadors who arrived in Peru in the early 1500s, the Chachapoyas were a fair-skinned warrior tribe famous for their tall stature. Today they are known for the giant burial coffins sculpted into human figures found in the northern jungle region.

Savoy said his team also found an Inca settlement within the city complex that could prove theories the Chachapoyas were conquered by the Incas, who ruled an area stretching from Ecuador to northern Chile between 1300 and 1500.

Savoy, a Peruvian-American, accompanied on the expedition by his U.S. father, Gene Savoy, named the site Gran Saposoa after the nearby village Saposoa and his team has already mapped the area with preliminary drawings.

The discovery is the third notable ruin Gene Savoy has helped uncover in Peru. In 1964, Savoy found the site of the Incas' last refuge in the Cuzco region of southern Peru. A year later he took part in the discovery of the sacred city of Gran Pajaten in northern Peru.

American Hiram Bingham made Peru's most famous archeological discovery -- the fabled Inca ruins of Machu Picchu near Cuzco -- in 1911. Machu Picchu today attracts almost half a million tourists every year and is South America's best known archeological site.
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PostPosted: 19-08-2004 08:14    Post subject: Reply with quote

This sounds great. Good that discoveries like that can still be made. But I would have loved to be on an expedition like that. Walking through thick jungle looking for an ancient lost city.
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PostPosted: 27-10-2004 15:28    Post subject: Kuelap; Pre-Incan Peruvian Fortress Reply with quote


Ancient city emerges from the clouds
October 26 2004 at 05:08PM

By Roberto Cortijo

The Peruvian government has presented ambitious plans to turn the stone fortress of Kuelap, a remote pre-Inca site in northern Peru, into one of the country's main tourism attractions.

Kuelap is located on a mountain top on the eastern ridge of the Andes, 3 000m above sea level and about 700km north of Lima.

The original inhabitants, the Sachapuyo or Chachapoyas, were known as the "people of the clouds" because their stone cities were built on a site where the cold Andean air meets the warm tropical air from the Amazon basin, resulting in a semi-permanent layer of mist and fog.

Air links between Lima and Chachapoyas are spotty, and land access on dirt roads is difficult.

It currently takes more than an hour to get from the floor of the Utcubamba valley up a steep zig-zagging road to the site itself - and the view is so spectacular visitors have dubbed it the Machu Picchu of the north.

Peruvian tourism officials are convinced that Kuelap can become one of the country's main tourist sites, and have devised an ambitious -million (R305-million) plan for that purpose.

The plan, which is to start in the next months, includes -million (R132.3 million) to build eight tourist stops with museums and an archaeological research centre in the area.

A second phase is to build a 53km long road linking the towns of Pedro Ruiz and Leimebamba, improve tourist access to the Utcubamba valley, where several Chachapoyas sites, including Kuelap and the Gran Pajaten, are located.

And -million (R25,2-million) will be assigned to build a 2,7km-long cable car to carry tourists from the valley floor of Kuelap, cutting the wait to 15 minutes.

The government is seeking private partners, including local communities, to join in the effort for a cut in the profits. Kuelap is about 450ha of stone structures surrounded by a rock wall 20m high.

The site was inhabited, initially by about 500 people. During its heyday around 3 000 people are believed to have lived there.

In the 1470s the Chachapoyas were conquered, after fierce resistance, by the Incas, who in turn were defeated by Spanish conquistadors in the 1530s. Kuelap was abandoned around that time and only re-discovered in 1843.

Of the more than one million tourists who visit Peru each year, seven percent travel to the southern Andean city of Cuzco, the capital of the former Inca empire, and on to the much-visited ruins of Machu Picchu.

Fourteen percent travel to northern Peru - mainly mountain climbers heading to the country's highest mountain chain in Ancash, north of Lima - and 13 percent to central Peru.
I want to go. Smile
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PostPosted: 16-11-2005 17:23    Post subject: Peruvian brewmasters pinned down Reply with quote


Published online: 14 November 2005;
| doi:10.1038/news051114-2
Peruvian brewmasters pinned down
Clues hint that elite women partook in ancient drinking ceremonies.
Roxanne Khamsi

Shawl pins found on the floor of an excavated brewery have helped archaeologists to weave together a picture of ancient life in Peru. The pins belonged to elite women of the Wari Empire and support the idea that the site, which sits atop a 600-metre-high rock mesa called Cerro Baúl, served as a centre of diplomacy.

The 25-hectare summit of Cerro Baúl is known to have once been a bustling city, packed with houses and ceremonial buildings. Although archaeologists have known about these ruins since the 1970s, the exact purpose of the ceremonial areas has remained unclear.

The puzzle attracted the interest of Michael Moseley, an anthropologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Moseley has closely studied the Wari Empire, which ruled much of what is now modern-day Peru before being overtaken by the Incas around AD 1000.

Through careful excavation and analysis of the site, Moseley and his fellow researchers have pieced together a story of what they think happened there: the inhabitants were beer-makers, they say. And the workers involved were probably high-class women. The researchers say the booze was probably produced for drinking ceremonies with the neighbouring Tiwanaku people, with whom the Wari competed for scarce resources in the desert environment.

The Wari have been described as relatively secular and militaristic. The Cerro Baúl site represents a unique location where they had direct contact with members of the Tiwanaku state to the south.

Berries in the ashes

The team describe in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1 how the ceremonial area of Cerro Baúl is composed of a series of rooms where ash deposits suggest the presence of numerous fire pits. Berry seeds in the deposits, along with many fragments of ceramic vats and ceremonial cups, support the idea that the facility served as a brewery.

In the same region today, brewers of the traditional, beer-like 'chicha' drink boil spicy berries to create a syrupy mash that is later fermented.

The archaeologists tried their hand at recreating the ancient chicha recipe while visiting the region, though given the results Moseley says: "I'm not sure our ethnobotanist got the recipe right." The result was so spicy they had to mix it with modern beer to make it drinkable.

Moseley and his colleagues also found nearly a dozen shawl pins embedded in the brewery floor. These pins, which look like long needles with flattened heads, are thought to have belonged to the most privileged Wari women.


This hints that brewing was not a slave's task but part of a wealthy woman's sphere of activity. It also reinforces the idea that the elite class occupied Cerro Baúl and could have held drinking ceremonies with Tiwanaku representatives.

The archaeologists admit that the women could have thrown their pins on the floor as part of a ritual once the brewing was completed by someone else. But they point out that the pins are found throughout the ash deposits. Alternatively, the heat from the boiling vats could have made the women remove their shawls, they suggest, and the pins were lost in the process.

Moseley M., et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci., Published online. doi:10.1073/pnas.0508673102 (2005).

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PostPosted: 19-01-2007 13:52    Post subject: Pre-Columbian Ruin Discovered In Peru Reply with quote

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Source: Discovery Channel
Date: January 18, 2007

Pre-Columbian Ruin Discovered In Peru

Science Daily — Explorer Keith Muscutt has announced the existence of a previously unknown pre-Columbian ruin in Peru: the Huaca La Penitenciaría de la Meseta, which will be featured in Discovery Channel's new series, CHASING MUMMIES, premiering January 2008.

Located in the cloud-forested eastern slope of the Andes mountains, the ruin is believed to belong to the ancient Chachapoya -- a civilization that flourished in the upper Amazon, between its Huallaga and the Marañón tributaries, from about the ninth to the fifteenth century AD. Muscutt delivered the news at the annual Institute for Andean Studies conference at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Chachapoya are renowned for their mountain-top citadels, such as Kuelap, Gran Pajatén and Vira Vira, and for well-preserved mummies recovered from cliff tombs at the Lake of the Condors and Lake Huayabamba. The ruin, consisting of a ceremonial platform (approximately 100 ft. x 200 ft. x 24 ft.) overlooking a plaza (approximately 200 ft. x 300 ft.), as well as numerous rectangular and circular buildings, is of particular interest because of its unprecedented form, size, and the remoteness of the area in which it was found.

First discovered by local pioneers, Octavio, Merlin and Edison Añazco, the site was nicknamed the "Huaca La Penitenciaría" (Penitenciary Ruin) because of its impregnable appearance. News of their discovery was relayed by them to Muscutt who, guided by the Añazcos, arrived at the site and made a preliminary survey of it in August of 2006.

"This is an exciting development for Chachapoya archaeology. The main building is a stepped, rectangular structure made up of three tiers. This building is about two-hundred feet long, a hundred feet wide, twenty-four feet high, and oriented to the cardinal points of the compass. As far as I can tell, apart from some drainage shafts, it's completely solid. I imagine it served as a ceremonial platform -- a stage for Chachapoya rituals," said Muscutt.

Summary of Facts

Discoverers: Octavio, Merlin and Edison Añazco, descendents of the pioneer Benigno Añazco, who first reached and settled La Meseta in the 1980s.

Members of the August 2006 Expedition: Eyner Añazco, Robinson Añazco, Patrocino Añazco, Clever Añazco, Alan Añazco, Merlin Añazco, Edison Añazco, Cheyver Garrido, Keith Muscutt.

Location: La Meseta, a plateau in otherwise mountainous territory, between the Río Verde (also known as Río Chilchos) and Río Huabayacu, both tributaries of the Río Huallabamba, in the Department of San Martín, Peru; approximately 7 degrees South of the Equator, and 77 degrees and 30 minutes West of Greenwich. The village of La Morada, an annex of Chuquibamba, Chachapoyas, Amazonas, is two days on foot or by mule from La Meseta.

Elevation: 2,000 meters above sea level (approx. 6,000 feet).

Natural Environment: Lower mountain cloud forest. High rainfall and humidity. Vegetation: trees, thorny shrubs, bamboos, palms, vines, bromeliads, orchids, tree-ferns. Large animals include jaguar, spectacled bear, spider monkey. Birds include toucans, turkeys and parakeets.

Cultural Affiliation: Chachapoya

Date: 850AD to 1475AD.

Who were the Chachapoya?: An agriculturally-based, stone-building, metal-working culture that occupied the highlands and the cloud forests, or "ceja de la montaña" (eyebrow of the jungle), along the spine of the Andes, between the Marañón and Huallaga drainages, in North-Eastern Peru. They flourished for several centuries, probably acting as middle-men in the trade of items such as coca leaves and feathers between the lowland tribes and the coastal civilizations. They were overwhelmed by the Inca empire in the late 15th century. Always rebellious, they quickly allied themselves with Spanish conquistadores to throw off the Inca yoke, but they themselves soon fell victim to European epidemic diseases. Their population decimated, their culture disappeared entirely except for the ruins and artifacts they left behind. Archaeological research into the Chachapoya is scant. Scarcity of scientific information about them has unfortunately caused them to become the object of much speculation and fantasy – with unsubstantiated reports of vast Chachapoya metropolises, claims that the Chachapoya realm was El Dorado, and so forth. They have also been fictionalized in Clive Custler's novel "Inca Gold."

Keith Muscutt

Keith Muscutt has been exploring the upper Utcubamba, Pusac, Huabayacu, Huayabamba, Yonan, Huambo, Imaza, and Lejia drainages, in the Peruvian Departments of Amazonas, San Martín and La Libertad since 1981. Among the sites he was the first to document are: the walled citadel of Vira Vira; Pampa Hermosa; and the cliff tombs of Laguna Huayabamba, Cueva de Osiris, Casa de Oro, Brillante Luna, Tres Ojos, and Casa Blanca. He was a member of the official reconnaissance expedition that recorded the looted Chachapoya-Inca burial sites at the Lake of the Condors. Founder of an NGO, Fundacíon Benéfica Niños Pobres de Chuquibamba, he is Assistant Dean of the Arts at UC Santa Cruz, a member of the Institute for Andean Studies, and a Research Associate of the Museum of Man in San Diego.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Discovery Channel.

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PostPosted: 26-01-2007 14:41    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pre-Columbian ruin discovered in Peru

U.S. explorer Keith Muscutt says archeologists discovered a pre-Columbian ruin in Peru.

Muscutt said the ruin, located in the cloud-forested eastern slope of the Andes, is believed to belong to the ancient Chachapoya, a civilization that flourished in the upper Amazon between the ninth and 15th centuries.

Muscutt made the announcement this month during the annual meeting of the Institute for Andean Studies at the University of California-Berkeley.

Discovered by Octavio, Merlin and Edison Anazco, news of the discovery was relayed to Muscutt who, guided by the Anazcos, arrived at the site and conducted a preliminary survey last August.

"This is an exciting development for Chachapoya archaeology," said Muscutt. "The main building is a stepped, rectangular structure made up of three tiers. This building is about 200 feet long, 100 feet wide, 24 feet high and oriented to the cardinal points of the compass. As far as I can tell, apart from some drainage shafts, it's completely solid."

The ruin will be featured in the Discovery Channel's series "Chasing Mummies," which is to premier next year.
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PostPosted: 29-01-2007 17:38    Post subject: Trophy Skull Sheds Light On Ancient Wari Empire Reply with quote


Source: Earthwatch Institute
Date: January 28, 2007

Trophy Skull Sheds Light On Ancient Wari Empire

Science Daily — A team of archaeologists and Earthwatch volunteers led by Dr. Mary Glowacki and Louis Tesar uncovered an elite Wari cemetery at Cotocotuyoc this past summer in Peru's Huaro Valley, near Cuzco. Among their finds was a "trophy skull," which offers insight into warfare in the Wari Empire based here from 1,500 to 1,000 years ago.

Cotocotuyoc trophy skull showing cut nasal area and gold alloy pins used to fasten the scalp back on for public desplay. This Wari warrior, excavated by Earthwatch volunteers working with Dr. Mary Glowacki, was approximately 30 years old and had survived several head injuries. (Courtesy of Mary Glowacki) Ads by Google Advertise on this site

The trophy skull was found in what the archaeologists consider the VIP area of the cemetery. Special placement of llama bones, a distinguishing feature of Wari remains, alerted the archaeologists and volunteers that something special might be underneath. The skull had a large circular hole cut in its base, suggesting that it may have been put or held on a pole. A large hole in the back of the skull indicates that it may have been worn during special ceremonies like a large pendant. The skull also features a line cut across the frontal bone, which indicates removal of the scalp possibly for the cleaning, perhaps for use as a ceremonial vessel, and was later reattached to the skull with gold alloy pins.

The skull was likely that of a warrior, as indicated by the many scars and abrasions on various parts of the skull that showed evidence of healing. Archaeologists estimate the man was around the age of 30 at his death, and that he must have been a warrior of repute for the Wari to remove his head and display the skull.

"The trophy skull adds a new dimension to our understanding of the role of warriors and warfare in Wari culture," says Glowacki, principal investigator of Earthwatch's Archaeology of Peru's Wari Empire expedition. Volunteers may join Glowacki to help unearth more of cemetery this summer on the expedition. "I hope to be able to find the edges of the cemetery. We think we know where the center is, but don't know how far it goes," says Glowacki.

In addition to the trophy skull, the excavation teams also found whole ceramic pots accompanying the tombs of women in other parts of the cemetery. The teams have only uncovered one definitive male in the cemetery, and Glowacki suspects that he was probably a guardian since his remains show many injuries and his stone-lined burial tomb was built into the cemetery wall. Some of the ceramic vessels were elaborately decorated with owls, which early historic records indicate were the alter ego of female shamans elsewhere in Peru.

While another Wari cemetery was discovered some years ago nearby in Huaro, the burials at Cotocotuyoc are unique. The Cotocotuyoc cemetery demonstrates a very early Wari presence in the valley. Cotocotuyoc, which sits high above the Huaro Valley floor, is believed to have later served as a stronghold for the Wari as their political control weakened and the empire eventually collapsed.

Earthwatch Institute is a global volunteer organization that supports scientific research by offering members of the public unique opportunities to work alongside leading field scientists and researchers. Founded in 1971, Earthwatch's mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.

These findings and others will be presented at a symposium entitled "The Wari and Their Descendants: Imperial Transformation in Cuzco, Peru," at the 72nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) in Austin, Texas, in April 2007.

For more information on how to volunteer on Archaeology of Peru's Wari Empire, go to

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PostPosted: 05-02-2007 11:25    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bridge stirs the waters in Machu Picchu
By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Peru

In the year that Peru is trying to get Machu Picchu voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, there are growing tensions over the country's greatest tourist attraction.

Machu Picchu is located high in the Andes Mountains

Enlarge Image

A former mayor has built a bridge which creates a new route to the World Heritage site, threatening to bring more tourists and, some say, open up a new route for drug traffickers.

The 80-metre long Carilluchayoc bridge, which crosses the Vilcanota river near the base of the 15th-Century Inca citadel, is to be inaugurated in February, despite a court order prohibiting its construction and protests from the government and environmentalists.

There is concern that - with around 2,500 visitors a day - there are already too many tourists tramping around the ruins. The UN's cultural division, Unesco, is due to inspect the site this year to decide whether it should be classed as an endangered heritage site.

But the former mayor of La Convencion province, Fedia Castro, whose term ended recently, says the village of Santa Teresa needs the bridge to end its isolation and bring commerce and tourism.

The villagers currently have to undertake a 15-hour journey along treacherous roads to take their agricultural produce to market in the regional capital, Cusco. The bridge will allow them to take it by lorry in just three hours.


The bridge has strong support in La Convencion province and across the region from people who believe the inhabitants of Santa Teresa should be able to benefit from Cusco region's booming tourism industry.

The companies... are thinking of profit. My task is to give to the next generation the opportunity to continue seeing this wonder for the centuries to come

David Ugarte
Cusco National Cultural Institute
But there are others who have voiced concern, particularly those charged with protecting Peru's archaeological and cultural heritage.

The director of Cusco's National Cultural Institute, David Ugarte, says he is not opposed to the bridge in principle but he is worried about the potential increase in tourism.

"We don't deny that they need a proper road for this area, but the mayor's slogan that it's 'the bridge or death' lacks credibility and seriousness," he says.

Mr Ugarte says the site was not designed for the number of tourists who now visit it and could not sustain more.

"The companies... are thinking of profit. My task is to give to the next generation the opportunity to continue seeing this wonder for the centuries to come," he says.

"The tourism companies take around 2,500 people up there every day. They want to take 5,000 a day or more. If that happens, in 10 years' time there will be no longer be a Machu Picchu. It's not only part of our heritage, it's part of humanity's."

'Proper management'

There is currently only one route to Machu Picchu from the city of Cusco and that is by train. PeruRail, which is owned by the British company Orient Express Hotels has had a monopoly on transport through the Sacred Valley since 1999. Tourists can pay between $70 (£35) and $450 for a return trip.

The bridge is due to be completed in February
But when the Carilluchayoc bridge is completed, backpackers will be able to take a $4 bus ride to the foot of the site using a different route.

Patricio Zucconi, who manages the Orient Express-run Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge Hotel, says with proper management the site could sustain many more tourists.

He says the Inca ruins simply need more than one entrance and exit point and he estimates as many as 4,000 visitors could come and go every day.

"The problem is the way Machu Picchu is managed. There are too many state bodies in charge of it," he says.

Mr Zucconi warns without proper controls on the bridge, the flora and fauna in the national park which surrounds the ruins will suffer because of the increased number of tours.

But Orient Express Hotels has angered some local leaders.

"They just take all the money out of the region," says the newly-elected Regional President of Cusco, Hugo Gonzales.

"The constitution of Peru prohibits monopolies. PeruRail has a monopoly because 92% of the tourists who visit Machu Picchu go by the railway."

Mr Gonzales says he fully supports the building of the bridge but the company has opposed it because it wants to hold on to its monopoly on the rail route.

More visitors

The problem dates back to 1998 when the old village of Santa Teresa, located near the railway, was destroyed in a landslide. The villagers were forced to relocate when the government refused to rebuild it.

Despite its opposition to the bridge, the government has done nothing to prevent its building.

Officials have said the bridge will provide a new route for cocaine traffickers in La Convencion province, which is under a state of emergency because of its coca production.

Mr Gonzales acknowledges there may be a drug-trafficking problem but says without the bridge the villagers are forced to carry their produce by foot for miles.

"It's not acceptable that there are big profits for the owners of the railway line and hotels, yet five minutes from Cusco we have extreme poverty," he said.

A spokeswoman for Orient Express Hotels, Yasmine Martin, says her company rescued the site from mismanagement by the regional authorities and provides community projects, employment and rubbish collection.

"We provide a subsidised train service for the local people twice a day at the cost of $800,000 a year," she says. " Show me the company which offers even $10,000 year for the local population"

With the imminent opening of the bridge there is every indication that 2007 will bring more visitors to Machu Picchu.

As the various companies and state bodies struggle for dominion over this once-lost city, it seems that ultimately no-one wants to kill the goose which lays the golden egg.

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PostPosted: 02-03-2007 08:57    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ancient towers in Peru were a 'solar calendar'
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 02 March 2007

Scientists have discovered the oldest solar observatory in the Americas and, in the process, may have solved a centuries-old puzzle about the purpose of an ancient stone fort on a remote hilltop in Peru.

The researchers have shown that an enigmatic wall of 13 stone towers within the Chankillo complex, a 2,300-year-old ruin nearly 250 miles north of Lima, worked as a solar calendar to monitor the winter and summer solstices.

They believe that the solar observatory proves the existence of a sophisticated Sun cult in the region more than 1,000 years before the Inca civilisation built its famous Sun temple in the Peruvian mountain city of Cusco, prior to the Spanish conquest.

Ivan Ghezzi of the Pontificia Universiadad Catolica del Peru in Lima and Clive Ruggles of Leicester University have found that the line of 13 towers at Chankillo can be used to precisely observe the Sun as it rises and sets at different positions along the horizon throughout the year.

Historical accounts suggest that the Inca Sun pillars at Cusco - which have vanished without trace - were used until the 16th century AD to mark planting times of crops and to observe seasonal ceremonies, Ghezzi and Ruggles say in their study published today in the journal Science.

They believe that the discovery means that the massive Chankillo complex - dated to the 4th century BC - must have played an important role in the ceremonial rituals associated with the annual cycles of the Sun.

Archaeologists have puzzled over the purpose of Chankillo since it was first discovered in the 19th century. They suggested it may have been used as a fort, a temple or even a setting for ceremonial battles.

One of the biggest mysteries of Chankillo was the purpose of a low ridge composed of 16 relatively small stone towers which together formed an artificial toothed horizon for no apparent reason.

However, Ghezzi and Ruggles show that the gaps formed between the towers match the annual rising and setting arcs of the Sun while it dips below the horizon during the winter and summer solstices.

The line of towers, which range in height from about 6ft to 20ft, were built along a north-south axis and can be viewed full-on from two other stone positions, one to the east and one to the west of the ridge.

"Viewed from the two observing points, the spread of the towers along the horizon corresponds very closely to the range of movement of the rising and setting positions of the sun over the year," say Ghezzi and Ruggles in their study.

"This in itself argues strongly that the towers were used for solar observation," they say.

In their study, the scientists demonstrated that the setting sun at the winter solstice can be viewed from the eastern observation point as it falls to the left side of the southernmost tower.

Meanwhile, from the western observing point, the same midwinter sun the following morning could be viewed rising from the last tower on the right of the observer. During the course of the year, the setting and rising sun moves through the different "teeth" of the artificial horizon until finally it reaches its next furthermost point at the summer solstice in June - when it can be observed rising and setting beyond the last tower to the north.

"The towers are relatively well preserved; their corners have mostly collapsed, but enough of the original architecture survives to allow a reconstruction," the researchers say.

The towers are regularly spaced and each has a pair of stone staircases leading up to the summit, one on the north and one on the south side.

"Most of the tower summits are well preserved; no artifacts remain on these surfaces, though it is clear from the staircases that the summits were the foci of activity," they say.

Archaeologists have found evidence to suggest that the ceremonial practices took place at the two observing positions. The western point has offerings of pottery, shells and lithic artifacts whereas the eastern site was probably a site of ceremonial feasting, the scientists said.

The gaps between the towers may have been used to mark out the days of a solar calendar. For instance, the sunrises between the gaps in the central towers are separated by a time interval of 10 days, implying that a 10-day "week" may have been important in the solar calendar.

"Once the Sun had begun to move appreciably away from either of its extreme positions a few days after each solstice, the various towers and gaps would have provided a means to track the progress of the Sun up and down the horizon to within an accuracy of two or three days," say Ghezzi and Ruggles in their research.
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PostPosted: 16-09-2008 11:53    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rare Mass Tombs Discovered Near Machu Picchu
José Orozco in Caracas, Venezuela
for National Geographic News

September 15, 2008

Eighty skeletons and stockpiles of textiles found in caves near the ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu may shed light on the role that the so-called lost city of the Inca played as a regional center of trade and power, scientists say.

Researchers found the artifacts and remains at two sites within the Machu Picchu Archaeological Park in southeastern Peru, said Fernando Astete, head of the park (see map of Peru).

The remains, most of which were found in May 2008 at a site called Salapunku, probably date to 500 to 550 years ago, said Francisco Huarcaya, the site's lead researcher.

Due to extensive looting, however, as much as 75 percent of the fabrics found wrapped around the remains are in "bad shape," Huarcaya said.

So far only the heads and shoulders of most of the bodies have been uncovered, Astete added.

"The head and shoulder bones are seen first, because the Inca buried their dead [sitting] in the fetal position," he explained.

Formal excavations will soon begin at both sites. Huarcaya plans to exhume the remains of five people at Salapunku later this month.

Tombs and Textiles

The modest funerary wrappings, made of vegetable fiber, and the simple grave objects, including unadorned ceramics, suggest that the dead unearthed at Salapunku were peasant farmers, Huarcaya said. Weavers have been found accompanied by their weaving baskets, balls of thread, looms, and textiles, according to Guillermo Cock, an expert on Andean cultures.

Cock has received funding from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

Textiles found at the second site, called Qhanabamba, discovered in August 2008, may also provide clues to the social rank of the dead.

Peasants were more likely to have been buried with textiles made from llama wool, while wool of the vicuña—a relative of the llama—was reserved for nobility, said Astete, the park's director.

Human remains are rare near Machu Picchu, and the wet mountain climate makes textiles uncommon finds, said Cock, who was not part of the research team.

"Finding organic material in the mountains is significant because it's so scarce," he said. "The humidity from rain decomposes individuals and textiles."

Analysis of the bones should also reveal age at death, sex, cause of death, diet, and perhaps even the dead's occupations, Astete added.

"We should be able to tell whether these people carried large burdens to help construct terraces, for example. Their bones will be bent, not straight. They will have deformities," he explained.

"Bones will also tell us about their diets and diseases. A fracture would reveal an accident."

The burial of human remains held special significance for the Inca, added Huarcaya, the lead researcher.

"The remains in tombs are like the guardians of the population in Andean ideology," he said. "For [ancient Andeans], death does not exist."

Machu Picchu Revealed

Built around 1460, the city of Machu Picchu seems to have been abandoned after the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, though it was never found by the conquerors.

Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham brought Machu Picchu to worldwide attention after local Indians led him to the site in 1911. (See Bingham's original photos of Machu Picchu from his expedition.)

The new discoveries promise to shed light on the mystery of the ancient city and its role within the Inca Empire, Cock said.

"We know Machu Picchu, but we don't know its surrounding areas," he said.

"I think new material will be found that will help us understand the Inca's relationship with the region."
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PostPosted: 25-09-2008 10:35    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fire burns ancient sites near Peru's Machu Picchu

LIMA, Sep. 24, 2008 (Reuters) — A forest fire has damaged two archeological sites in the valley between the Peruvian city of Cuzco and the ancient Incan fortress of Machu Picchu, Peru's national institute of culture said on Wednesday.

At least 600 firefighters are battling the blaze high in the Andes mountains. They have brought the fire under control at times, only to see it whipped up again by winds.

Two ancient sites, Wayna Q'ente and Torontoy, were hit by flames, though the government did not say how extensive the damage was.

At one point, the fire threatened a train line that runs to Machu Picchu, but the popular tourist attraction remains open, along with the Incan trails used by hikers.

Farmers in the area, which contains dozens of ancient ruins, often set fires to help clear land.

(Reporting by Carlos Valdez; Writing by Terry Wade; Editing by Chris Wilson)
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PostPosted: 30-10-2008 11:15    Post subject: Reply with quote

Inca Elite Imported Diverse "Staff" to Run Machu Picchu

José Orozco
for National Geographic News

October 27, 2008

Inca nobility at Machu Picchu relied on special, permanent servants from the far corners of the empire to manage the royal estate, according to a new study of human skeletons found buried at the site.

Machu Picchu sits high in the Peruvian Andes about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of the former Inca capital of Cusco (see map).

Royal retainers, known as yanacona, may have been brought to the site from as far away as South America's Pacific Coast, the northern highlands, and the area around Lake Titicaca near Peru's border with Bolivia, the study says.

Determining the geographic origins of yanacona may help researchers better understand how the Inca practice of paying tributes with labor helped shape the empire's social classes.

For some people this work was temporary, but for yanacona it meant leaving home and family behind forever, noted lead study author Bethany Turner, an anthropologist at Georgia State University.

Yanacona candidates probably had little room for negotiation, Turner added.

"It was not necessarily forced, but you wouldn't turn it down lightly," she said.

Bustling City

The Inca Empire lasted from roughly 1430 to 1532, when the Spanish reached Peru, Turner said.

The empire stretched from present-day southern Colombia to what is now central Chile, and the Inca largely allowed their subjects to maintain their languages and cultural traditions.

Many scientists believe the city of Machu Picchu, which was occupied starting around 1450, was built on orders from Inca ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui to serve as a government palace and administrative center.

While nobility were not permanent residents at the estate, visitors would probably have seen a city buzzing with the activity of yanacona, Turner said.

Guillermo Cock, an Andean expert based in Lima who was not involved in the new study, said that taking yanacona from diverse regions probably helped Inca rulers break ties of allegiance between villagers and their local authorities.

"The greater the distance, the greater the rupture between the yanacona and their lords and the greater their dependence on their Inca authority," Cock said.

But evidence suggests the yanacona were treated with honor and privileges to help soften the blow and create new loyalties, he said.

For example, the retainers were given gifts such as textiles and agricultural lands, and their bones showed no signs of hard physical labor.

The servants likely performed agricultural work, administrative jobs, served in defense, and generally maintained the site, study author Turner said.

Machu Picchu seems to have been abandoned after the Spanish conquest, and it was apparently ignored by the invaders. Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham brought Machu Picchu to worldwide attention after local Indians led him to the site in 1911.

During the initial excavations of the site in 1912 and 1913, archaeologists found three cemeteries containing 177 bodies.

Later analysis of the graves and objects found with the bodies suggests the people buried there were not elite, leading experts to theorize that they were yanacona.

(Related: "Rare Mass Tombs Discovered Near Machu Picchu" [September 15, 2008].)

For the new study, Turner and colleagues looked at ratios of oxygen, strontium, and lead isotopes in the teeth of 74 individuals from those graves.

The team looked for the isotopes in tooth layers that develop when a person is three to four years old.

Comparing those results with analyses of food and water sources near Machu Picchu helped determine whether the people were native to the area or were likely immigrants.

The analysis shows "widely different backgrounds in where [the people] lived and what their diets were," Turner said, although she cautions that her team's study is just an initial attempt at uncovering the yanacona's origins.

She and colleagues will publish their work in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Efficient Labor

Cock, the Andean expert, said that as permanent servants, yanacona were extremely useful to the Inca Empire.

If the Inca needed a labor force, they could just pick from the yanacona instead of requesting new temporary workers from communities under their power.

"The yanacona … gave them direct access to labor, making it a much more efficient system," Cock said.

In fact, the state's success owed a great deal to the yanacona, said Fernando Astete, director of the Machu Picchu Archaeological Park.

"Without the work of yanacona, the Inca state would never have developed," Astete said. "Their work was the foundation of Inca productivity."
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PostPosted: 31-10-2008 11:18    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Spider God" Temple Found in Peru
José Orozco in Caracas, Venezuela
for National Geographic News
October 29, 2008

A 3,000-year-old temple featuring an image of a spider god may hold clues to little-known cultures in ancient Peru.

People of the Cupisnique culture, which thrived from roughly 1500 to 1000 B.C., built the temple in the Lambayeque valley on Peru's north coast.

The adobe temple, found this summer and called Collud, is the third discovered in the area in recent years. (Watch a video of the spider-god temple.)

The finds suggest that the three valley sites may have been part of a large capital for divine worship, said archaeologist Walter Alva, director of the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum.

Alva and colleagues started the dig in November 2007, when they discovered a 4,000-year-old temple and a mural painting at the Ventarrón site in the valley. Both the temple and mural were the oldest ever found in the Americas.

The entire religious complex houses every ancient Peruvian architectural style up to the Inca, Walter Alva said, one of only a few sites in Peru that spans so many cultures.

Several Meanings

The spider-god image appears often in other sites created during Peru's Early Formative Period, 1200 to 400 B.C.

For instance, the Garagay temple in Lima and the Limón Carro site in northern Peru both include the imagery, according to Ignacio Alva, Walter Alva's son and colleague.

At the newfound Collud, the spider god carried several meanings, experts say.

The image combines a spider's neck and head, the mouth of a large cat, and a bird's beak, Ignacio Alva said.

The spider is also carved with lines radiating from its neck, creating a web-like appearance.

The web symbolizes hunting nets, a sign of human progress and prosperity, Ignacio Alva said. Traps set with nets caught more prey than spear hunting, he added.

The spider figure also had political significance, Ignacio Alva said. "Any emergent political group would have to be associated with this god."

Richard Burger, an expert on the Chavin culture that followed the Cupisnique, first identified the spider deity in stone bowls found at the Limón Carro site.

The importance of spiders owed partly to their connection with life-giving rain, he said.

"They were associated with divination of rainfall because spiders come out before rain," said Burger, an archaeologist at Yale University who was not involved with the Lambayeque excavation.

The spider deity was also associated with textiles, hunting, war, and power, Burger added. "There is an image of spider deities holding nets filled with decapitated human heads, so there was an analogy with successful warriors and claims of power."

(Related: 80 Ancient 'Cloud Warrior' Skeletons Found in Peru Fort" [September 26, 2007].)

Intense Interaction

The Chavin people who came after the Cupisnique built a temple adjacent to Collud, Zarpan, about three hundred years later.

The new temple finds may help explain a cultural shift from Cupisnique to Chavin, said team leader Walter Alva.

"Cupisnique and Chavin shared the same gods and the same architectural and artistic forms, showing intense religious interaction among the cultures of the [Early] Formative Period from the north coast to the Andes and down to the central Andes," he said.

The temples are similar in size, roughly 1,640 feet (500 meters) long and 984 feet (300 meters) wide.

Collud has a monumental clay staircase with 25 steps, perhaps the inspiration for the later Zarpan temple's clay staircase, Ignacio Alva said.

The Chavin did not build clay structures in the Andes, where significant rainfall threatened their stability. (See Andes photos.)

But clay structures were typical of the Cupisnique culture, which developed on the arid north coast.

It's unknown how the two cultures interacted, if at all, experts say.

"This place is the testimony of two cultures overlapping and will help clarify what is Cupisnique and what is Chavin," Walter Alva said.

Mystery Decline

Pieces of structures found at the site may lead to the discovery of a fourth or fifth temple, according to the team.

(See photos of an ancient "fire temple" found in Peru.)

Yale's Burger wonders if the ongoing excavations will demonstrate what happened to the site as north-coast cultures declined between 900 and 700 B.C.

"The far north coast in earlier times was very important, but it has been largely ignored because there's so little information," Burger said. "This could change that."

"Does this center continue to be important or does it collapse?" he asked. "Does the Cupisnique continue to flourish independently or in close contact with the Chavin?"

Ignacio Alva predicts the site will show that the temple complex transformed itself, but did not collapse.
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PostPosted: 03-12-2008 14:56    Post subject: Reply with quote

Expedition uncovers ancient citadel in Peruvian jungle

Mummies of the Chachapoyas culture are on display at the Museum of the Nation, in Lima in 2007. A team of archaeologists on Tuesday announced they had discovered a fortified citadel in the remote Amazonian rainforest of northeast Peru that appears to be from the pre-Inca era.

A team of archaeologists on Tuesday announced they had discovered a fortified citadel in the remote Amazonian rainforest of northeast Peru that appears to be from the pre-Inca era.

The main encampment comprises circular stone houses overgrown by lush jungle over an area of five hectares (12 acres), said archaeologist Benedict Goicochea Perez, quoted by the official Andina news agency.

The citadel sits atop a chasm that the former inhabitants may have used as a lookout to spy on approaching enemies, said Goicochea Perez.

Rock paintings cover some of the fortifications, and next to the dwellings are large platforms believed to have been used to grind seeds and wild plants for food and medicine, he said.

The citadel is tucked away in the remote Jamalca district of Utcubamba province, part of the northern Amazonas department, said Jamalca Mayor Ricardo Cabrera Bravo, who had joined the expedition.

The area, about 800 kilometers (497 miles) northeast of Lima, is famed for its vast, isolated natural beauty, surrounded by verdant foliage and soaring waterfalls, said Cabrera Bravo.

The citadel likely belonged to the Chachapoyas civilization -- an ancient people whose glory days over a thousand years ago pre-date the hegemony of the powerful Incas.

The Chachapoyas culture (known as the Cloud Forest people) also built the imposing Kuelap fortress atop a mountain in Utcubamba, which can only be compared in scale to the Inca's Machu Picchu retreat, built hundreds of years later.
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PostPosted: 17-12-2008 12:16    Post subject: Reply with quote

Archeologists in Peru unearth ancient Wari city
By Dana Ford

LIMA, Dec. 16, 2008 (Reuters) — Researchers digging at the Cerro Patapo archeological site in northern Peru have discovered the ruins of an entire city, which may provide the "missing link" between two ancient cultures, investigators said on Tuesday.

Scientists say the find, located 14 miles from the Pacific coast city of Chiclayo, likely dates to the Wari culture, which existed in what is now Peru between about 600 AD and 1100 AD.

If initial assumptions prove correct, the discovery would connect the ancient Wari civilization to the Moche culture, which flourished from about 100 AD to 600 AD.

Researchers say the buried city includes ceramics, bits of clothing and the well-preserved remains of a young woman.

The sprawling site, which stretches over 3 miles, also shows evidence of human sacrifice, with special spots designated for the purpose and a heap of bones at the bottom of a nearby cliff.

"It provides the missing link because it explains how the Wari people allowed for the continuation of culture after the Moche," Cesar Soriano, chief archeologist on the project, told Reuters.

He said the discovery provides the first evidence of Wari culture, which expanded from the country's south, at the northern site.

The Wari people made their capital near modern-day Ayacucho, in the Andes, but traveled widely and are known for their extensive network of roads. Earlier this year, archeologists at the Huaca Pucllana ruins in Lima, located some 500 miles south of Chiclayo, discovered a mummy that is also thought to be Wari.

Peru is a country rich in archeological treasures. It has hundreds of sites that date back thousands of years and span dozens of cultures, including the Incan empire that was in power when Spanish explorers arrived in the early 1500s.

(Editing by Terry Wade and Eric Walsh)
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