Saturday, November 10, 2018

Peruvian Canals Most Ancient in New World – Part I

It has always been understood in anthropology and archaeology that using irrigation to grow crops rather than harvesting plants in naturally moist areas was one of the signs of a civilized and complex society. However, according to Anthropologists who had always thought early Andean civilizations built canals, they had never been able to find concrete evidence of such canals because it was believed they were later destroyed through social development. Until now. Recent discoveries of canals in the Peruvian Andes shows early civilization there had irrigation technology for intensive agriculture.
In the Andean foothills of Peru, not far from the Pacific coast, and just inland and to the south of bustling Chiclayo lies the reputed “ghost town” of Zaña (La Villa de Santiago de Miraflores de Zaña). Tucked in a fertile agricultural valley, the tiny town teems with ruins from a bygone era that was full of power and intrigue, as well as tragedy and destruction, dating back to Peru’s colonial era—and to the astonishment of the few travelers drawn there for the ghostly ruined shells of convents and cloisters—a whole host of current residents whose roots trace back hundreds of years, to a generation of Zaña’s whose spirit couldn’t be dominated by marauding pirates, conquistadors, or raging floods.
    This region of northwest and north central Peru consists of the Lambayeque, La Libertad, and Ancash Districts, and stretches from the coast inland as far as the Chachapoyas District, the home of the Chachapoyas Culture, “the Warriors of the clouds,” or Cloud People. They lived as early as 200 BC in the cloud forests of the Amazonas along the eastern slopes of the Andes in a triangular region formed by the confluence of the Marañón and the Utcubamba rivers where the Gran Pajatén is located.
Valley of the Marañón River between Chachapoyas and Celendín, which was the center of the Chachapoyas Culture within the Utcubamba River basin and basically isolated from the coast and other areas of Peru

The latter being a 20,000 square-mile area around the Montecristo River valley and consisting of a series of at least 26 circular stone structures atop numerous terraces and stairways on a hilltop overlooking the river.
    One of the first cultures to occupy this northwestern coastal region of Peru was the Chavín, though their major settlement was at Chavín de Huantar, which was to the southeast of this northwestern coastal region, their influence (settlements) reached as far north as the northern Andes. The Chavín date to around 1000 BC, and while a fairly large population was based on an agricultural economy, the city's location at the headwaters of the Marañón River, between the coast and the jungle, made it an ideal location for the dissemination and collection of both ideas and material goods. According to Yale University anthropologist, Richard L. Burger, the Chavin center served as a gathering place for people of the region to come together and worship ("Chavin de Huantar and its Sphere of Influence,” Handbook of South American Archeology, ed. H. Silverman and W. Isbell. Springer, New York, pp681-706).
    The Chavín were followed by the Moche (Mochica), who occupied the area from about 100 AD, more than 1200-years before the Inca. Following the Moche were the Sicán (or Lambayeque) cultures—though numerous archaeologists believe the Sicán and the Moche were the continuation of the same culture).
Northwest and north central Peru and the various settlements and cities of the ancient Peruvians

The Moche civilization occupied a territory that spanned much of what is now the northern coast of Peru, encompassing what is today the coastal area of the departments of Ancash, Lambayeque and La Libertad. This civilization developed a broad knowledge of hydraulic engineering, with its people constructing canals to create an irrigation system to support agriculture. The Sican culture formed towards the end of the Moche civilization and assimilated much of the Moche knowledge and cultural traditions. At its peak, it extended over almost the entire Peruvian coast—inhabiting a territory near the La leche and Lambayeque Rivers, and span the Lambayeque region, including the Motupe, La Leche, Lambayeque, and Zaña valleys, near modern-day Chiclayo. The Sican excelled in architecture, alloy smelting and metallurgy, jewelry and navigation in a drought-and-flood cycled region as recorded over the past 1,500 years. The development and artifacts of the Sicán resemble that of the Cajamarca, Wari and Pachacamac cultures.
    The Northern Wari followed, settling throughout the central highlands of Peru and as far west at Chiclayo. While the Wari civilization was predominantly based in south central Peru and known for having constructed a network of roads, with a territory nearly as large as that of the later Inca, the Wari of northern Peru represent the first evidence of Wari influence found in that region and by their quality and extent of construction there stretching over a 3-mile-area, show this was an important site located 14 miles from Chiclayo.
    The Wari built an extensive network of roadways linking provincial cities, as well as the construction of complex, characteristic architecture in its major centers, some of which were quite extensive. Several ancient Wari sites have been uncovered, including the Cerro Pátapo ruins by archaeologist Cesar Soriano Rios, of the Archaeological Peruvian Andes Research Foundation, and remains of an entire prehistoric city relatively near Chiclayo dating to around 350 AD, covering an area along the coast and reaching to the highlands. These northern Wari ruins are considered separate from the Wari ruins in the Ayacucho Region to the south.
The Moche, Jequetepeque, Lambayeque Valleys and the Pampa Grande areas within the northwest and north central Peruvian coast and the Andes

In addition, the Chimú followed the Moche along the coast, in the Moche Valley as far north as Trujillo, and at its peak, The Chimú not only ruled in Chan Chan, as well as Farfán, but expanded to include a vast area and many different ethnic groups, advancing to the limits of the desert coast to the valley of the Jequetepeque River in the north, with the Pampa Grande in the Lambayeque Valley also being ruled by the Chimú.
    Chiclayo, is located 95-feet above sea level near the coast of northern Peru, in a productive valley of strong agriculture, where the people exported their produce and products via the port of Pimentel on the coast. The location is well known for its archaeological sites, such as Tucume, Batan Grande and Huaca Rajada (better known as Sipan). In 1987, in Huaca Rajada/Sipan, a Moche mausoleum was found of several Moche tombes at Huaca Rajada located near the town of Sipán. This town was located in the middle of the Lambayeque Valley, in the Zaña district in the northern part of Peru, close to the coast, about 20 miles east of the city of Chiclayo and about 30 miles away from Lambayaque.
    The most significant discovery at Sipan was the tomb of the El Señor de Sipan, the “Lord of Sipan,” who archaeologists have concluded was a royal ruler more than 1600 years ago. His clothes were embellished with jewels, gold, and silver, and the amount of treasure found in the tomb rivals that found in the tomb of King Tut, as noted by the National Geographic Magazine, in their feature article. he Huaca Rajada monument consists of two small adobe pyramids plus a low platform. The platform and one of the pyramids were built before 300 CE by the Moche; the second pyramid at Huaca Rajada was built by a later culture (“Tombs of the Lords of Sipan,” Current World Archeology, Issue35, Current Publishing, London, May 2009).
    This then, brings us to the canals and the important finds associated with them and the fact that they are the oldest irrigation canals built in the Americas.
(See the next post, “Peruvian Canals Most Ancient in New World – Part II, regarding the famed canals, which stood as a possibility in Peru for more than a hundred years as archaeologists searched high and low for them, have finally been located)

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