Monday, November 12, 2018

Peruvian Canals Most Ancient in New World – Part III

Continued from the previous post regarding the once undiscovered canals of ancient Peru, but that now have been locate, we find that the cultures of northern Peru, including the great circuit from Piura to La Libertad passing through Amazonas and Cajamarca, are the location of the famous canals which archaeologists have long sought.
    In fact, scholars have hailed the discovery as adding a new dimension to understanding the origins of civilization in the Andes. The canals are seen as the long-sought proof that irrigation technology was critical to the development of the earliest Peruvian civilization, one of the few major cultures in the ancient world to rise independent of outside influence.
    Archaeologists always assumed that by 4,000 years ago, perhaps 1,000 years earlier, large-scale irrigation farming was well under way in Peru, as suggested by the indirect evidence of urban ruins of increasing size and architectural distinction. Their growth presumably depended on irrigation in the arid valleys and hills descending to coastal Peru. But the telling evidence of the canals had been missing.
Zaña Valley, about 35 miles inland from the Pacific and the area of Chiclayo in northwest Peru

Then Tom D. Dillehay, an archaeologist at Vanderbilt University, started nosing around the Zaña Valley, about 35 miles from the ocean and more than 300 miles north of Lima,in the Chiclayo area. Along the south side of the Valley is the Nanchoc River, which flows east to west into the Pacific, and on the south side of the river, Dillehay and his team uncovered traces of the four canals, narrow and shallow, lined with stones and pebbles, extending from less than a mile to more than two miles in length. The canals ran near remains of houses, buried agricultural furrows, stone hoes and charred plants, including cotton, wild plums, beans and squash.
    The initial discovery was made in 1989, but it took years of further excavations, radiocarbon dating and other analysis before Dr. Dillehay felt ready to announce the find. "We wanted to make sure that the dates were correct and to find more early canals," he stated, adding, "There are now four sites with canals and probably more.” Following his lengthy examination of the area, the canals, and the surrounding early settlements and their artifacts, Dillehay firmly stated that “The Zaña Valley canals are the earliest known in South America, and the earliest in the Americas." The authors of the journal article, Dillehay along with Herbert Eling of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico and Jack Rossen of Ithaca College, wrote that the system appeared to be a small-scale example of organized irrigation technology that "accompanied a mixed economy of incipient agriculturalists, plant collectors and hunters."
    He also suggested that these Peruvian canals compared to the early canals in the Old World that were simple gravitational contour canals, and did not run long distances and were built in areas where there was an easily managed water course.
Four levels of irrigation canals, one on top of the other, as uncovered by archaeologists in northwest Peru in the area of Zaña

Dillehay and his team reported the results obtained from several field seasons in the upper middle Zaña Valley for four super-imposed buried canals, garden plots, cultigens, and dating of canals and nearby residential sites. The upper canal is visible on the ground and radiocarbon dates this upper canal to about 1190 years before the present, or about 810 BC; however, the two lower canals that were buried by sediment layering were likely associated with nearby sites with architectural structures that are dated between 7,600 and 4,500 years before the present, or about 5,600 to 4,500 BC.
    These canals lie along the south side of the Ñanchoc River, which is an upper branch of the middle Zaña River, located about 35 miles east of the Pacific coast. The canals were built along the edge of an upper terrace above the lower bench, or terrace, of the stream, within 1½  miles to 2½ miles of the domestic dwellings, all sharing the same or similar stone tools, human burial patterns, house structures, dietary remains, and Carbon-14 dates.
    However, Dillehay reported finding no evidence of a centralized bureaucracy to manage the canals or mechanical devices to control flow rates. But the people of the valley understood elementary hydrology. They laid out the canals to use gravity to deliver river water down gentle slopes to the cultivated fields.
Above-ground gravity-flow irrigation channels are found all over the Andean areas of Peru and Ecuador with many still in use today

Craig Morris, a specialist in Peru archaeology at the American Museum of Natural History, who did not take part in the research, said, "Their use of slope and management of water flow shows again that ancient people were a lot smarter and more observant than we often give them credit for." Jonathan Haas, an archaeologist at the Field Museum in Chicago who has excavated urban sites elsewhere in Peru's coastal valleys, called the canal discovery "a difficult and brilliant piece of work."
    In their own excavations, Dr. Haas and Winifred Creamer of Northern Illinois University have uncovered remains of urban centers of a complex agricultural society that flourished 5,000 years ago in valleys in a region known as Norte Chico, or Little North. Such an arid region would have had to have irrigation to have agriculture, especially on an apparently large and prosperous scale.
    Dr. Haas said the new discovery appeared to show the early irrigation technology that the people of Norte Chico then adopted and expanded to "bring about a cultural transformation" 400 years later. It is not just that a single group or culture developed such irrigation techniques, but that they were scattered all over the Peruvian landscape, and varied in design according to the needs of a particular local.
The five-mile long ancient aqueduct at Cumbemayo about 12 miles southwest of Cajamarca at 11,000-feet elevation in north central Peru

As an example, the ancient people of Peru built water-moving and preserving technologies like the above-ground aqueducts at Cumbe Mayo (Cumbemayo) in the midst of a number of petroglyphs carved into rocks, and the stone mountain region called the “stone forest,” and the Moche, or the underground water system like those found of the Nazca, which were called Puquios, or the terraced gardens of the Huari.
The ingenious underground puquios irrigation system of the Nazca culture in southwest Peru

In fact, the Cumbemayo aqueducts at one time were thought to be the oldest in the Americas, dating to some time around 1500 BC, however, they have never been dated and may be older.
Left: layered aqueduct for a large amount of water being moved; Right: zig-zag flows carved into the bed rock to slow the flow of water so sediment will drop to the bottom and clean the water

In addition, Andean irrigation techniques included terracing of the hill and mountain sides to take advantage of additional planting space. Some of these terraces were quite steep and required workers to haul up stone to construct the retaining walls for each level, then haul up the soil to fill in the terraces, and finally haul up the seed and water for planting.
However, in doing so, the ancient Peruvians were able to adapt the steep land of the Andes Mountains for farming, including the Chavin, the Moche, and the Chachapoyas as well as numerous other groups who built terraces, or andenes, into the sides of hills. The andenes reduced soil erosion that would normally be high on a steep hill, and many of these terraces are still used today, which waters fields with a system of reservoirs and cisterns to collect water, which was then distributed by canals and ditches.
Terraced planting along the mountain side near Machu Picchu

The one thing that has always marked the Lord’s people is their extensive effort in the irrigation of lands, fostering the Biblical phrase of “Turning the desert into a rose,” in regard to making the Judean desert blossom, as well as so labeling that of the Saint’s work in the desert of Salt Lake Valley. Once again, in the Andean coastal deserts and the hills and Mountains with terraced irrigation both in the highlands and the lowlands, in remarkable ancient canals and channels, bringing water from the mountains to the water-starved lands below, especially along the coastal shelf.

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