Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Earliest Americans—Kotosh

About two miles to the west of the Huallaga River and the city of Huanuco, on the eastern slopes of the Andes, which is geographically known as the Ceja de Montaña, lies the archaeological site of Kotosh (meaning “a heap of stones” in Quechua, referring to the two stony mounds at the site). This area in the central highlands of Peru is a region known for its early temple structures.
    At about 7000 feet elevation, along the route from Cuzco to Cajamarca, Kotosh is the earliest evidence of public and ceremonial architecture in the Andes. Sitting on one of the lower terraces of this mountainous region, it was built along the right bank of the Higueras River, about 115 miles inland from the coast, and about 160 miles north and a little east of Lima. At this site is located the most important archaeological pre-Inca Temple of the Crossed Hands.
    Nearly 5,000 years old, Kotosh is one of the earliest traces of human civilization in Peru, and without doubt one of the oldest in America. The site consists of a series of pyramid mounds among which a small room of clay and stone, where you can see a life-sized mud molding of a pair of crossed hands, which dates to about 2000 B.C., representing one of the first sculptures of the Peruvian Andes.
    In the Temple of the Crossed Hands were two sculptures of different sizes with hands folded one with his right hand on the left and the other with the left over right. This and other material recovered by archaeologists leads them to claim an underlying religious ideology, which they have labeled "The Kotosh Religious Tradition."
Two sets of crossed hands appear on the walls, one noticeably smaller than the other, leading some archaeologists to believe they stand for the feminine and the masculine, but definitely convey a religious theme
    The first archaeologist to investigate the site at Kotosh was Dr. Julio C. Tello, the "father of Peruvian archaeology," who visited it in 1935 as a part of his wider general survey of the Huallaga basin. Two years later, in 1937, the site was then visited by Donald Collier of the Chicago Natural History Museum, though like Tello, he undertook no extensive investigation. In 1958, the Japanese archaeologist Seiichi Izumi visited the site, accompanied by Julio Espejo Núñez of the Lima National Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology in Peru, and Professor Luis G. Lumberas of the University of Ayacucho. Following on from this visit, Izumi led a team from the University of Tokyo, on a 12-week excavation of the site in 1960, as a part of their wider Andean Research Program.
    As a result of all this work, it is believed the architectural features of Kotosh and similar sites were constructed primarily for religious purposes, specifically for the burning of different offerings, with their structures purposefully covered after offerings were burned. This practice, now called "temple entombment," is demonstrated in all sites representing the Kotosh Religious Tradition, such as Shillacoto, located on the south side of the modern Huanuco City, and La Galgada, located on the eastern bank of the Tablachaca River, the principal tributary of the Santa River, in the mountainous Andean region 3600 feet above sea level. Other sites of this tradition are Waira-jirca, Huaricoto and Piruru in this general region.
    The Temple of the Crossed Hands is the most famous of the temples and measures 31 feet long and 30 feet wide, is divided into two levels with a central fireplace in the lower level and a vent or chimney for the stove.
The Kotosh complex also includes two other temples: Nichita (for niches), found in the upper stratum, Temple de las Manos Cruzados (crossed hands) in the middle stratum, and Temple Blanco (White) in the bottom stratum. A basic plan, common to all three of these structures, can be observed, although size and construction details of each are different—this pattern continued without any major changes over a long period of time. It is not simply that the construction design and techniques were maintained for a long period but it might be that the people's way of life, their beliefs, the organization of politics and religions, their economic structure and all other cultural traditions in the Mito Period were also maintained for a long time--which matches what we find in the Book of Mormon among the Nephites.
    Each temple was constructed on a platform, each had niches on the inside standing walls (ashlar blocks were later inserted to add wall strength), and the floors had two levels, an upper and lower with a depression like a sunken fireplace. While these are called temples, their actual use is unknown, though the Manos Cruzadas reliefs tend to cause archaeologists to feel they were public structures that had a religious function. And since no pottery was found at Kotosh in the stratum that contained these constructions, though lithic and bone objects, ornaments and small ceramic figurines were found, archaeologists have assigned these sites to the preceramic period.
    Actually, Kotosh has traces of six periods of continuous occupation dating from the pre-ceramic (2500 to 1900 B.C. period) to around 200 A.D. Among the initial period are eleven stone buildings, some of which have interior wall niches and mud-relief decorative friezes that date to around 2000–1800 B.C.
The site also contains remains of later cultures in the area, with an overlying temple structures and pottery style known as the Wairajirca. In fact, the site itself was continually occupied until after the end of the Chavín culture during the Early Horizon, around 1 A.D., an overall period of more than 2000 years.
    In the earliest levels (referred to as the Mito period) are remains of the “crossed hands” temple platform where stone tools, some similar to Laurichocha, and other artifacts appropriate to an Archaic subsistence pattern also occur in this phase.  The next level is considered the Wairajirca period and has a radiocarbon date of 2415 to 2190 B.C., and saw the introduction of the first pottery, a gray ware with incised designs and post-fired painting in red, white, or yellow.
    The following (Kotosh) stage, there is evidence of maize cultivation, and the pottery with grooved designs, graphite painting, and stirrup spouts, which are Chavín-like features, and date to about 1200 B.C., and was closely followed by a pure Chavín stage with the typical pottery and ornament. Next in sequence came levels (Sajarapatac and San Blas phases) with white-on-red pottery, and the uppermost strata (Hiqueras period) were characterized by red vessels, rare negative painting, and copper tools. The Kotosh people cultivated crops in the mountain drainage, used marine resources, built permanent settlements and multistoreyed ceremonial buildings.
     While archaeologists assign different cultures, different periods, and different traditions to these areas, in reality those are simply archaeological terms used to help assign artifacts and settlement findings into a dating sequence. In truth, this area was occupied by a people who showed different levels of achievement as might be expected by a single civilization over a long period of time--like the Nephites. It is interesting that the critics who continue to labor under the false assumption there is no proof from archaeology of the Book of Mormon need only read what the archaeologists write about their discoveries in Andean South America to find how factual the book and its people are and how much has been found to verify their existence in the archaeological work conducted over the years in the Andes of South America--of course, it helps to look in the right place and not in Mesoamerica.
     This series, though repetitious, is meant to show that the 1000-year Nephite nation has been found within the Andean area of South America in the numerous peoples given separate names by archaeologists, but continue to show that they were all connected in one way or another by the artifacts and settlements discovered. And as has been shown several times earlier, the radiocarbon dating periods assigned to them are fraught with inaccuracies because of the erroneous equilibrium atmosphere used as the basis of the measurement.

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