Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Cahuachi in Ancient Peru

Part of the Nasca Culture, the people who inhabited an area near the southwestern Peru built extensive pyramids in an area called Cahuachi in the coastal area of the Central Andes, and within the Río Grande de Nazca drainage system, which is where the Nasca culture developed. Along the southern side of the Nazca River (one of ten major tributaries that form the Río Grande de Nazca drainage system) 400 miles southwest of Cuzco and 250 miles south of Pachacamac, lies Cahuachi and an enigmatic sitre called Estaqueriá.
The ancient cities along the southern west coastal region of Peru

Estaqueriá is located twelve miles west of Nazca and 2½ miles beyond Cahuachi, the latter being along the southern side of the Nazca River, one of ten major tributaries that form the Río Grande de Nazca drainage system. This area was the home of the Paracas culture from 600 to 100 BC, followed by the Nazca Culture, and then the Huari Cultire.
    The main structure of Estaqueriá consists of an artificial adobe platform, on which 240 huarango posts were placed, about 6½ feet from each other, with an approximate height of just over six feet, some ending in the form of a fork and others with anthropomorphic engravings or zoomorphs—evidently supports for an overall, large roof.
The Estaqueriá site of Huarango posts that may have supported a single or multiple roofs

The Huarango tree develops in the desert of the Peruvian coast, and can survive droughts thanks to its roots of up to 230 feet that access the water table. Bringing this water to the surface makes the life of other plants possible. The tree, which is a hard and resistant wood as well as fuel and construction element and used to cover graves and make artistic carvings, can live more than a thousand years. The trees reach about thirty-two feet high, generally horizontal crown, thorny branches and small yellow flowers. The Huaranga fruit is highly nutritious, pre-Columbian cultures survived by eating it during periods of drought. Its hard and resistant wood, as well as fuel and construction element, was used to cover graves and make artistic carvings, and found throughout Estaqueriá.
    To the west are the remains of a quadrangular enclosure, in whose center there is a huge Huarango pole, which constituted the central axis of a circular roof, made of reeds and tied with soguillas. Today the site consists of a series of tree trunk alignments, some authors suggesting the presence of an astronomical observatory, an hypotheses that does not support the other indications.
100-foot high adobe pyramids at Cahuachi in the Nazca Valley near the coast of Southwestern Peru

Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Orefici, noted for his work on investigating Pre-hispanic civilizations of the Nazca and Rapa Nui culture, has been excavating at the site for the past few decades. The site contains over 40 mounds topped with adobe structures; the huge architectural complex covers ½  sq. mile at 1200-feet above sea level. The American archeologist Helaine Silverman has conducted long term, multi-stage research and written about the full context of Nazca society at Cahuachi, published in a lengthy study in 1993. Scholars once thought the site was the capital of the Nazca state but have determined that the permanent population was quite small, and now believe that it was a pilgrimage center, whose population increased in relation to major ceremonial events. New research has suggested that 40 of the mounds were natural hills modified to appear as artificial constructions.
    Support for the pilgrimage theory comes from archaeological evidence of sparse population at Cahuachi, the spatial patterning of the site, ethnographic evidence from the Virgin of Yauca pilgrimage in the nearby Ica Valley.
    Occupied from late BC times the site was evidently abandoned around 450 to 500 A.D. It overlooked some of the Nazca lines. The area is ecologically classified as “pre-mountain desert formation.” There is an important ecological transition going on within the Río Grande de Nazca drainage system, transitioning from pre-mountain desert zone of the coast, to chuapiyunga up towards the highlands, east of the town Nazca begins the transition to true yunga, or “warm valley.” This drainage area is dry in the summer and hot, with precipitation varying around 5” annually, with temperature averaging around 70.4º F.
    To the north and south Cahuachi faces two pampas, or flat plain-like terrain: Pampa de San José and Pampa de Atarco, on these plains is where the famous ground-drawings of the Nazca desert are found. The Río Grande region's soils are available for irrigation agriculture with limitations.
The treeless desert surroundings of Cahuachi and Estaqueria, just west of Nazca

The ancient city of Cahuachi was located off of the valley bottom of the treeless hills and terraces beneath Pampa de Atarco, and is buffeted by strong winds that are capable of becoming sandstorms. There is present, sporadic rains and cyclical floods which result in water erosion of the terrain, which made some parts of the valley uninhabitable, which influenced the settlement pattern of Cahuachi.
    The ancient city lies over brown barren river terraces that are characterized by hills, above the bottom of the valley, which hills are prominent to most of the artificial constructions at the site. From various types of erosion, including wind and sedimentary, the hills appear to be pyramidal in form.
    Dr. Frabee was the first to acknowledge and excavate the site of Cahuachi , the largest of the Nasca sites, in 1922. He was followed by Alfred L. Kroeber (1926), Julio C. Tello (1927), Doering (1932), William D. Strong (1952−1953), and David Robinson (1954−1955), followed, with the rxcavatoins done by the latter among the most extensive research done at Cahuachi, who was one of the only archaeologists who took a broad approach to the site, contextualizing it within Nazca society and south coast prehistory. He set out to find stratigraphic evidence that would resolve the gap between Paracas and Nazca styles in the region, as well as settlement pattern studies in order to find out the kinds of activities that went on at Cahuachi.
    Strong's excavations in the early Nazca site found it was composed of temples and house mounds. Following his findings, other scholars within Peruvian archaeology interpreted the site to have been an urban settlement with residential structures. However, more recent excavations and experiments suggests this to be unlikely.
    However, in the early 1960s, Helaine Silverman and Giuseppe Orefici conducted intensive and extensive archaeological excavations in several areas of the site. This new research was aimed towards finding and clarifying the real character of the site and of Nazca society, and Orefici's excavations in 1983 revealed the evidence that ceramic production was found, in the form of an oven. Silverman found in 1983, that Cahuachi functioned as a ceremonial center and its role in state formation and urbanism, within a regional and pan-Andean scope. Her further data from the excavations and experiments in 1986 support the claim that the site was indeed a ceremonial center.
    Through her work and research, Silverman found no evidence of inhabitants or domestic and residential structures indicating it to be an urban settlement, she suggested that the site was used as a ceremonial center where people periodically performed religious activities.
    It is very likely that these sites were part of the Nephite kingdom that existed following Nephi and Jacob, which Jacob’s grandson describes as they “multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war—yea, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war” (Jarom 1:8).
    This period of time between the righteous Nephites and the kingdom that became evil and the Lord directed Mosiah to leave the land and locate elsewhere (Omni 1:12-13). During this four hundred years or so, the Nephites spread out, building new cities and expanding their territory, obviously creating numerous new settlements—only a few of which are mentioned in the scriptural record.

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