Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Creator God Pachacámac and the Oracle at Pachacámac

In the far southern end of the Greater Lima area, a sprawling complex of adobe pyramids was once home to the most respected oracle in the Andes. Even the last of the pre-Columbian people, the Inca, came here, as had thousands of followers before them for countless centuries, to pay tribute and for consultation on important matters and decisions. Indeed, in the Quechua language Pachacámac means among others “Lord of the World.” 


The major temples at Pachacamac near the coast of the Pacific Ocean and the Lurin River


Despite its great age, most of its structures and constructions can still be distinguished in very good condition. So far, Archeologists have identified at least 17 pyramids, several temples, frescos, and a cemetery. The most iconic temples at the ancient archaeological site, besides the Main Temple (Temple of the Sun), are Templo Viejo and Templo Pintado. This sprawling complex of adobe pyramids called Pachacámac was once home to the most respected religious leader or oracle throughout the Andes. Even the great Inca during its far-flung empire, came here for consultation on important decisions.

In the 1890s that archaeologists began to discover this incredible historical site. To-date they have identified 17 pyramids, several temples, frescos, and a cemetery, which citadel, with its leaders and oracle, dominated the fertile Valley of the Lurin River and the well-known vast ceremonial center atop the hill. When the Spanish conquerors arrived, they were dumbfounded at the magnificence and the amazing appearance and construction of the expanded city that was built as an important center of power along the central coast.

Entirely built with adobe mud bricks, it ranked together with Cusco among the main religious centers of pre-Hispanic Peru. Pilgrims from the most remote places arrived there to pay homage to the God Pachacámac (Pacha Kamaq), which is named after the Quechua word creator or “Creator of the World” or Universe.” The site covers 68 square miles and includes palaces, squares and carefully restored temples and was a pan-regional religious center whose origins remain little known, though it was built long before the Lima Culture and those who preceded it, and was at the time of the Spanish considered the most beautiful city in the Hispanic world.

Max Uhle, a reputed German archeologist, discovered what he called a temple of an early period whose facade was painted in red. This temple is today called the Old Temple. Uhle´s findings, especially pottery and textiles, feature motifs from the Highlands, which in many cases are of clear High Plateau inspiration. Another construction was named the Painted Temple the name coming from the remains of the frescoes on its walls.

The majesty of Pachacamac built on the top of a hill or rise overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the southern end of the Greater Lima area


The temple-palaces are reminiscent of Near and Middle East ziggurats and known as “ramp pyramids” that date back two millennia before Christ. Fifteen of these so called “provincial temples” have been identified. They were the fruit of the effort of several central coast peoples’ efforts to legitimize their belonging to a surprisingly prestigious religion. The coexistence of temples from different generations during this time and the presence of offerings coming from coastal areas contribute to the hypothesis that Pachacámac functioned as an oracle (European chronicler of the sixteenth century narrate that the supreme deity was the Earth god Ichma). When the Incas settled in the central Coast, they acknowledged its power and effectively included it in their pantheon of Deities within their expansionist policies. 

Entrance to the Temple of the Sun, or main temple at Pachacamac


The temple was built on the summit of the rocky hill: the imposing Temple of the Sun. From it we can observe the ceremonial center to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west (as well as two small nearby islands). As a whole, Pachacámac represents one of the most important hubs in the long, complex and dynamic process of Andean regional integration.

It was the most important pilgrimage center in ancient Peru. Its central location brought the Moche, Nazca, Huari, Itchma, and Inca cultures, including from the highlands and deep forests. They came to worship in the Lurin Valley where it meets the Pacific Ocean in the far southern end of the Greater Lima area. The Inca referred to Pachacámac as sacred and part of the mystical axis of the world. In fact, there was an image of the deity, Pachacámac, which couldn’t be seen by the laypeople or profane, and was reserved for the high priests who kept, revered and interpreted the divine oracle in the temple.

Entrance to Pachacamac with the “Old Temple” beyond


The term “oracle” had two meaning relevant to the Nephites: 1) A priest acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from the gods in antiquity; 2) The sanctuary or most holy place in the temple, in which was deposited the ark of the covenant.

The similarities between the Pachacámac temple in Peru and the surrounding complex with the Nephite religion and temple in the city of Nephi are quite obvious:

1. People traveled to Pachacámac to pay tribute; Nephites paid their tithes and offerings at the temple.

2. The people called God “Pachacámac,” meaning the “Creator of the World and of all things”; The Nephites knew God as creating the world and all things.”

3. In the complex of Pachacámac there was an image of the deity called Pachacámac—

which couldn’t be seen by the lay people, and was reserved for the high priests who kept, revered and interpreted the divine oracle in the old times; In the temple Nephi built, patterned after Solomon’s temple, only the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies

4. The temple at Pachacámac was called the “Temple of the Sun”; The Nephites built their temple for the “Son.”

5. People came from the most remote places to visit Pachacámac; Nephites traveled from their lands to worship at the temple in the city of Nephi.

6. Near and Middle East people built ziggurats of which Lehi and Nephi would have been familiar—Nephi’s temple may have been built in the same manner, called a stepped pyramid.

7. Pachacámac had a Spiritual Leader called an Oracle; Nephites had a Spiritual Leader called a High Priest

8. Pachacámac was built on the summit of a hill, or in the highest ground along the coast; God’s people have always built their temples on the tops of mountains, hills, and high ground. 

9. The overall complex of Pachacámac contained temple and palaces; The Nephites in the city of Nephi built a spacious palace next to the temple.

10. The Oracle at Pachacámac interpreted God’s will for the people; The High Priest among the Nephiters had the Urim and Thummim to interpret for the people.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Lima huacas: Melgarejo and Mangomarca

Map of two huacas on a background of numerous other huacas

Huaca Melgarejo. This very large archaeological site is located in the La Molina district, east of the central city, at the 11th block of La Fontana avenue, on the banks of the Ate-La Molina canal, which begins at the height of Santa Clara. The canal runs almost parallel to the Rímac river, turning south at the current Cristal brewery, to join the grounds of Surco.

Here there are archaeological remains of a huaca, named Melgarejo because it was a Hacienda and farm of the same name—the old property of the Melgarejo family. The huaca is claimed to have been built between 300 and 600 AD by the Lima culture that once occupied this valley, though it was likely built before that time. Today, though well known, the site in Lima is nonetheless under-utilized and in need of conservation treatment.

The huaca Melgarejo in Lima


This impressive construction was an important monument and part of a ceremonial complex. It was used as a place for ceremonies, and much later as a cemetery. What is still visible is a stepped platform pyramid, ramps, and previously painted walls. Due to its size, it has been assumed that the temple and complex was a very important place, which also served as an administrative center.

Today there is a path that leads through the various parts of the structure, with green spaces surrounding the Huaca, as well as playgrounds and an amphitheater, where small events occasionally occur and where people meet to chat. The huaca is not yet restored and for a long time, not all the buildings were protected, so the upkeep has been organized again and again to eliminate the garbage and graffiti on some of the walls.

Melgarejo remains quite eroded, of what was a great pyramid. The building has several construction phases, the product of continuous remodeling and expansion of the structures. Inside the complex, there is a succession of large retaining walls and fillings, as well as small enclosures, ramps, stairs, and sidewalks. The platform has been built with brick walls, adobitos and fillings. In the upper part of the building, a set of small passageways and rectangular-shaped enclosures have been found. Some enclosures have sidewalks and post footprints, which would indicate that they had been roofed.

An aerial view of Melgarejo showing the encroachment of urban sprawl on the site and its deterioration from lack of care and local traffic


Access to these enclosures was restricted, communicating with them through narrow openings. The floors were found clean, which is a fairly common feature of this type of structure. The walls were originally painted, and all these rooms were carefully sealed with stone and mud fillings as part of a ritual of burial of the structures when they were abandoned or there was an expansion.

Archaeologists have concluded that Melgarejo complexis similar to Maranga and Pucllana; however, unlike these, Melgarejo seems to have been abandoned before the beginning of the Second Horizon or Middle Horizon (600 AD). Recent excavations, promoted by the municipality, have uncovered, at its peak in former times, the foundations of a colonial house.


(Image D – What is left of Mangomarca after centuries of weather and neglect


Huaca Mangomarca. This Ancient Pyramid of the Pre-Columbian culture at the complex of Mangomarca (Manqu Marka, meaning the “Lord’s Village”), also known as the Mangomarca Huaca or Mangomarca New Temple, is located in the Lower Rímac Valley, at block 20 of Santuario Avenue, in the Mangomarca urbanization of the district of San Juan de Lurigancho in Lima.

It is a temple-complex made of tapial and adobe, which flourished during the Late Intermediate, as capital of the Curacazgo of Lurigancho or Ruricancho, which obeyed the Lord of the region. Sitting at 720 feet elevation, on the right bank of the Rímac River and surrounded by Andean hills or foothills, greening during the winter (June to September). Other important archaeological pyramidal complexes of Campoy Fortress, Canto Chico and Lurigancho Hill, are nearby. Mangomarca was a political, economic and cultural center of importance and the seat of a curacazgo called Lurigancho or Ruricancho, which obeyed the mighty Señorío Ichma, which dominated the valleys of the Rímac and Lurín, with Pachacamac as its largest ceremonial center.

Later, the Ichma Culture, which dominated the region, allied themselves with their neighbors the Colleq, from the low valley of the Chillón (Collique), and kept the invasion of the yauyos and chacllas from the Andean zones, but was conquered by the Inca in 1470 AD, at which time Mangomarca, the Ichma and Collique were annexed to the Tahuantinsuyo.

An aerial view of the Mangomarca complex


The huaca Mangomarca extends over an extensive and rocky area, its main construction being a stepped pyramidal structure, raised on a rocky mamelon and whose access was achieved by a curved staircase. It is built from small briks of dried adobes. The tapial was a technique that consisted in the construction of walls based on a mixture of stones and mud, with which large adobones formed, similar to the current technique of concrete emptying. There are also large walls of containment, as well as a complicated system of enclosures and passageways, surrounded by a tapiries beltway. It appears that it was not exclusively ceremonial, but also residential. On the other hand, two large cemeteries with tombs constituted by rectangular chambers stand out, covered inwardly with rustic stone settled with mud.

Unfortunately, this complex has lost 70% of its original structure, and has been completely abandoned by the people and government of Peru. Residents in the surrounding areas used it as a dump for many years; however, in recent years, the Ministry of Culture has recently marked and properly identified the site, and placed perimeter fence around the site as they try to restore what is left of the complex.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Lima huacas: La Luz and Crus Banca

Map of two more huaca sites in the Greater City of Lima


At the beginning of the 1900s, the Peruvian capital of Lima had only about 130,000 inhabitants; in 1920 already about 176,000, in 1940 540,000. The population roughly doubled by the 60s and again by the 70s; at the turn of the millennium Lima was home to over 6 million, and today 9 million. This explosive growth caused many ancient structures that were still standing to give way to modern growth and urban renewal in the 20th century. Unfortunately, Lima was not prepared for this sudden growth, and with no other choice the immigrants squatted on land or settled wherever they could even if it was next to, inside or on top of an archaeological site.

First, most migrants took up residence at the outskirts of what today is the historic city center quickly turning the haciendas, farms, agricultural land and green spaces surrounding the city into residential and working areas and soon uniting today’s city center with the towns of Miraflores, Barranco, Magdalena and Callao into one giant city. Later the hills to the east of Lima and the desert around it were populated as Lima city became the Greater City of Lima. In this unprecedented growth, the ancient sites in Lima were mostly destroyed under urban sprawl.

Today an estimated 400 to 500 known sites are home to the biggest number of pre-colonial archaeological zones of any city in South America. These ancient ruins are spread throughout the metropolitan area of Lima making the Peruvian capital the South American city with the largest number of pre-Colombian archaeological sites—there are about 45,000 to 50,000 in all of Peru.

Urban Sprawl is squeezing the space where the ancient huacas were located. Already hundreds of ancient pyramidal sites have been lost, disappearing under the expansion of Lima


The pyramid of La Luz is just one of thousands of historic sites, or huacas, that are being crowded out or destroyed as roads, schools, residential neighborhoods and stadiums are built to meet the population's growing demands. Today, high-rise apartment buildings tower around many sites, and highway traffic barrels through a pair of tunnels newly burrowed under an adobe palace at a 900-year-old cemetery. One of the few well-preserved pyramids sits across from the mansion of the Peruvian, highlighting the creeping pace of urbanization in Peru's bustling capital.

Thousands of years before the Spanish conquerors arrived in South America, what we know today as Peru was inhabited by numerous highly advanced cultures that over time built impressive structures, settlements, road networks, irrigation channels and much more amazing use with their complex skills in construction, agriculture and arts, their culture and social structures.

To demonstrate the beginning of the new era to the locals, especially sacred places and important administrative and religious centers in the country were vandalized, plundered, and idols, other religious and ceremonial objects destroyed wiping out the adoration and power that for hundreds of years radiated from them.

After that some of the sites were just abandoned and left to deteriorate as for example Pachacamac, the most important and influential ancient ceremonial and administrative center in the coastal region. Others were (partly) destroyed and either on the site or on top of them new buildings erected.

For example, the Presidential Palace, former “Palace of the Viceroys of Peru,” and before that “Pizarro’s Palace,” for example was built on the site of the residence of Taulichusco, the Inca leader of the region; Lima’s famous cathedral erected on the grounds of a religious temple next to it; or the Church of San Juan de Bautista built on top of the Sun Temple in Vilcashuaman which was one of the most important religious and administrative centers the Incas built outside of Cusco.

The huaca La Luz


La Luz. The huaca of La Luz, meaning “the Light,” was built thousands of years ago, along with other similar buildings like Culebras (on University Avenue), Panthéon Chino (half a block from Mariano Cornejo Avenue in Pueblo Libre), Palomino (In the Neighborhood Unit of Palomino) and others that have already been destroyed formed the periphery of the pre-Hispanic urban area.

The Light (La Luz) lies in the midst of what was a huge urban complex in pre-Hispanic times. Close by are the pyramids of Mateo Salado and the Archaeological Complex of Maranga (which groups more than 40 pyramids located in the lands of the Park of Legends, the Catholic University, the University of San Marcos and neighboring lands.

The Light are two small buildings very close, and poorly preserved. Apparently these structures are isolated, but this is because when the city of Lima grew, it surrounded the archaeological sites, causing that impression. Excavated in 1968 the antiquity of the archaeological site of La Luz was determined. It was also determined that La Luz was a center of textile production.

Since very ancient times the textile activity was important in ancient Peru. The inhabitants of Temples as ancient as the Galgada in the Chavin region devoted much of their time to the textile industry, and cotton was widely cultivated for that purpose. It is therefore no surprise that buildings like the Light were dedicated to this ancient prehispanic industry. The fabrics used them not only as clothing, but also as a means of exchange

The cotton fabrics and dresses produced in La Luz used the colors of blue, white, brown and nuances of these. The designs were usually vertical stripes. It was also determined that in addition to textile production, the ancient inhabitants of La Luz were devoted to their food.

The ancient huaca Cruz Blanca in Marange district of Lima


Cruz Blanca. This architectural site of huaca Cruz Blanca (White Cross) was given that name because some walls found in these ruins were painted white. This site, located in the Park of Legends (Parque de las Leyendas), in Maranga (Lima), was an important administrative center, with walled rooms and squares made of adobes, some were roofed by the footprints of poles on their floors, others have remains of white paint on its walls—this makes the White Cross site one of the most representative archaeological huacas of the Lima pre-Hispanic architecture.

In the heart of Pre-Columbian Lima, at the time of the arrival of the Spanish, a vast city they named Maranga, which they found south of the Rimac River between modern day Lima and Callao. Certainly the administrative center of power in the northern part of the area with Pachacamac an important center of the south, this city was built long before the native cultures of Lima who lived there. Today most of this important area has been incorporated into the vast expansion of growth that joined these different cities into one vast population region known today as Lima. Unfortunately, much of the area’s architectural sites have been destroyed through the urban spread with only a few of the original hundreds of architectural sites remaining, which remaining pyramidal structures includes the huaca Cruz Blanca and the huaca Maranga.

Outside Cruz Blanca with a protective fence put up by the city (regrettably a fence that would not keep out any serious looters)


The area called Maranga today once consisted of 14 huge pyramids surrounded by at least 50 smaller buildings, spread out over a vast area that once included San Miguel, San Borja, Miraflores, Barranco, Magdalena and Callao.

Today, the huacas found in the Greater Lima area below are only a small amount of the hundreds of unknown or relatively unknown archaeological sites, such as: Balconcillo, Santa Catalina, Casa Rosada, La Merced, Aspero, La Florida, La Salina, Puruchuco, San Juan de Pariache, De La Luna, Huaycán de Pariachi, La Palma, Cardal, Mina Perdida, Bandurria, Manchay Bajo, Chancay and hundreds of others.

As has been mentioned throughout these articles of the huacas, they match the extensive Zarahemla of the Book of Mormon, not only in location along the coast where the Mulekites landed and settled (Omni 1:16), they who had 400 years of development and expansion in the area before Mosiah discovered them, and 100 to 200 years following. No area in North America has any such huacas, nor are there anywhere near such concentrations of archaeological sites in Mesoamerica, including Mexico City.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Lima huacas: Cajamarquilla and Tres Palos

Two additional huacas—Cajamarquilla and Tres Palos


Cajamarquilla. The Archaeological Site of Cajamarquilla is an urban center located in the valley of the Rímac, on the left bank of the Huaycoloro River gorge, specifically in the district of Lurigancho, within the department and region of Lima. Being a desert location, canals and reservoirs fed Cajamarquilla, which site is considered the second largest mud brick city on the central coast, after Pachacámac, as it covers 167 hectares. Its importance as a political urban center grew over the centuries.

It is located in the region called Central Coast of Peru at 15 miles from the sea and at 1,115 feet elevation in the district of Lurigancho - Chosica, in the city of Lima (Valley of the Rímac) on the banks of the Quebrada de Huaycoloro or Jicamarca

The Huaycloro River


Being a desert, the River is sometimes dry but that sporadically changes in moments of great rains in the sierra which brings abundant water causing alluviones ("jica" in quechua is alluvión and "huayco", broken, also in quechua).

The ancient complex is divided into four sections, among which is recognized a first group of large pyramids, a second section containing a large pyramid (known as Tello Pyramid), a third section with a free set of pyramidal structures, and a fourth section in which enclosures of different ends are found.

Pyramid of Tello, for example, is located in the group of the same name, on a layer of mud, with an average height of 23-feet and occupies an area of approximately 32,480 square feet, or 6 square miles. It is surrounded by different courtyards, many considered squares because their size.

Cajamarquillo huaca, built with mud brick plastered over for a finished look of smooth walls and buidings


Cajamarquillo was built with walled patios enclosing groups of wells in the eastern End of Lima, which are access to underground warehouses, including corridors and access fords, in an "ojival" or pointed arch construction typical of this archaeological site

The overall Cajamarca complex is more than 412½ acres, making it one of the largest cities in ancient Peru. It was built with enclosures, platforms, stairs and patios, inside the architectural complex known as the “Labyrinth Assembly.”

Long streets formed by the walls of large-walled spaces (Canchas)


The thick-walled construction, and walls that surrounded different parts of the city, were built using the technique of tapial or mud brick and plaster, which consists of layering in mud drawers that when dried forms large solid blocks.

Throughout the centuries Cajamarquilla, with its thick walls and straight corners as well as wide enclosed spaces, served as an administrative center, as well as a religious center, palace, residence of the local curaca (ruler) and its elite, a center of artisan production and as a place of housing for thousands of people. It was once one of the most extensive and complex archaeological cities in Peru. Its construction is similar to the huacas Maranga, Cerro Culebras, Pucllana, Catalina and the Old Temple in Pachacamac—similarities of stepped pyramids; perimetric walls that enclose the architectural ensemble, usually trapezoidal in shape; patios or squares where festivities related to food and drink consumption were held (Juan Domingo Mogrovejo and Krysztof Makowski, Cajamarquilla and the Meganiños in the Pre-Hispanic Past,” in Icons, No. 1, Lima, 1999, pp46-57).

Situated in a then fertile valley on a major trade route between the altiplano region of the high Andes and the coastal communities of the Pacific coast, Cajamarquilla became a sophisticated center for culture, religion, and commerce. At the site, it is still possible to observe the remains of temple pyramids, wide streets, ceremonial squares, cemeteries, underground grain silos, canals and numerous other enclosures, all constructed using 'tapial' methods—mud brick and plaster (Joaquin Narváez Luna, Societies of the ancient city of Cajamarquilla, Ediciones Avqi, 2006).

This extensive archaeological site gives a first impression of being an untidy accumulation of mud walls, but if observed with attention it will be noticed that it has an order established by long streets, pyramids, large walled spaces (courts) and areas with one-story constructions.

Cajamarquilla, the huge city of mud. It looks like a maze of earth walls, but it is made up of several structured pyramids and walled enclosures.

The huaca Tres Paos in San Miguel


Huaca Tres Palos. In San Miguel, within Legend’s Park in Lima is the huaca Tres Palos, meaning “three sticks.” Located within the property of the zoo, it is the remains of a once great complex of temples from a pre-Incan culture, during a period before the time of Christ. Huaca Tres Palos is one of those temples. It's massive! The surrounding area of the district and beyond would once have been open land and green valleys of agriculture.

Situated about two blocks from the famed zoo, within the zoo’s grounds, and dwarfing the zoo’s walls, the 66-foot tall ancient site of huaca Tres Palos, also called Huaca Pando or Huaca La Campana—an observatory of truncated pyramidal structure, with plastered walls painted in ocher white and yellow colors. The highest platform has 96 astronomical wells, forming a system for measuring time, seasons, and tides—knowledge applied in the organization of agriculture and fisheries. 

The complex functioned as a temple, and along with Huacas La Cruz, San Miguel and Cruz Blanca, formed an architectural ensemble which today rests in the Parque de las Leyendas. On the west side is a lagoon or pond that in its time was supplied with water by a canal bringing water from the Rímac river.

From the surrounding neighborhoods the temple towers above everything else, with the ruins still mostly intact and have not seen as much deterioration as other huacas in Peru thanks in part to the owner of the zoo. Traces showed the later Lima people used this as a temple, and even later the Incas used it as a Tambo.

Not only did the complex function as a temple and administration center, it was also an observatory. Along with huacas La Cruz, San Miguel and Cruz Blanca, Tres Palos formed an architectural ensemble which today rests in the Parque de las Leyendas.

Huaca Tres Palos is found within a small area of Lima that also has a dozen other huacas in various stages of disrepair, including huaca Cruz Blanca, which name came from the fact that some walls in these ruins had white paint on them and was an important administrative center; Huaca La Palma has two main platforms in which one of them has a wall with drawings of seabirds; Huaca San Miguel has some walls with white paint (other areas had yellow paint); And huaca La Cruz all built with adobitos as many other huacas in the Lima area. There is also huacas Mateo Salado, Potosi; Panten Chino; Casa Rosada; La Merced; Santa Catalina; Balconcilo; and Mangomarca

Monday, February 22, 2021

Lima huacas: San Borja and Limatambo

Map of two huaca sites in lima


Peru is known as the land of the Inca but it's also home to more than 25 earlier cultures, each with its own rituals, traditions and languages. Some archaeologists claim there were three such cultures in the Greater Lima area, the Lima (100 AD), Wari (600 AD) and Ichma (1100 AD), that all left behind huacas in what is now Peru's capital city. Yet, at the same time these archaeologists claim the huacas in Lima date back to at least 500 BC.

Some of these huacas are small, others cover vast acreage, like El Paraíso, which is located in the Chillón Valley at the northern end of Lima in the theSan Martin de Porres district, and covers 50 hectares, making it roughly the size of 95 football fields. Archaeologists claim all these archaeological ruins hold clues to understanding the people who once walked Lima's streets. However, without knowing who built these pyramidal complexes, it is very difficult to determine any knowledge of the people who later occupied them, like the Lima, Wari and Ichma, but did not build them.

As mentioned earlier, in Lima are more than 400 known huacas and some may still be undiscovered. They are not concentrated in one part of Lima. Rather, huacas can be found across the city, hidden on residential streets and sandwiched between small businesses. They are everywhere, and maybe that's why they're in danger of disappearing as local people become less and less interested in them.

Presently, there are an estimated 46,000 historical sites all across Peru, with 400 located in Lima,which is home to the biggest number pre-Inca archaeological zones of any city in South America. However, about 60% of the 400 huacas in Lima are classified as threatened, and approximately 220 are endangered. These unsecure sites lack protective fencing, police supervision and other basic security features, and like in the past, many will be lost to future generations.

San Borja huaca in the district of San Borja in Lima


• San Borja. San Borja is a district of the Lima Province in Peru, and one of the upscale districts that comprise the city of Lima—it took its name from a former hacienda (estate) which dominated the area. It is a district largely of the upper, upper middle and middle class, about 560 feet elevation.

There are two archaeological sites in San Borja: Huaca San Borja and Huaca Limatambo. These were built in pre-Inca times. The Surco river (an old irrigation canal), traverses the district in a northeast to southwest direction, and is also pre-Inca. In fact, while the San Borja pyramidal complex was built long before the Ichma culture, it was used by the Ichma and the Inca after them.

The Ichma were a loosely organized kingdom that developed in the Lurin and Rimac valleys, centered in Pachacamac. The San Borja site was farmland literally out in the middle of nowhere, until about forty years ago, surviving the devastating Lima sprawl that absorbed numerous small huacas sites throughout the valleys.

The San Borja complex is a 26-foot-high truncated or stepped pyramid made of dried adobe bricks. It is surrounded by an adobe brick wall with the perimeter wall originally painted white. There is a second, inner perimeter wall that encloses rooms, corridors and platforms at different levels with uneven floors on a section of land that was mostly flat with a gentle downward slope. The ground was conglomerate, a soil deposited from the alluvial fan formed by the Rimac, which deposited nearly a thousand feet of rounded pebbles, coarse sand and small amounts of fine sand and silt in the valley. The site was abandoned at the beginning of the colonial period. During the Republic, a house was built on top, but it has recently been removed during renovation, and the site is now open to the public.

Irrigation canal at San Borja


The 18½-mile Surco Canal, one of the ancient canals dug by an ancient culture from the Rimac River in San Borja for irrigation and is still in use for the same purpose today. In an area that has grown ten-fold in the last 50 years, destroying layers of its history, these canals remain almost untouched that has brought needed water to the agricultural people who anciently lived here—from which they developed luxurious green farmland in the midst of the coastal desert.

Some of the original canals are still in use but given that most have been excluded from official urban narratives, it seems quite surprising that in such a pressurized urban context, these canals were still working for the city 2000 years after they were constructed without most of the people knowing about them. In the words of Peruvian architect Juan Gunther, a specialist in pre-Hispanic Lima, this ancient irrigation system was one of the most important works of hydraulic engineering in ancient Peru and the least known to the population of Lima.

This was an issue often debated by archaeologists, architects and other specialists for decades, but outside academia few people knew about the canals and their role in the city. This lack of awareness resulted in the people of Lima considering this man-made canal infrastructure to be natural rivers. In a city where it never rains (two-tenths of an inch per year, making it a “hyper arid” desert), these ancient canals provided water from a source via a method unknown to most of the people in the city.

Limatambo as it appeared in 1904


Huaca Limatambo:

Between the two neighboring administrative areas of Maranga and Sulcovilca is huaca Limatambo, second in size only to Maranga. Once a busy town surrounded by fields, and second in size only to Maranga. Only two structures still exist today, located on the edge of San Isidro and La Victoria in Lima, the rest having been buried beneath the expanding sprawl of the city. Thanks to a drawing and map by explorer Adolphe F. Bandelier, we know that originally the site consisted of a large settlement enclosed by a wall that surrounded eleven other structures, but only two still exist on the edge of San Isidro and in La Victoria. No one knows what the town of Limatambo was really called—that name was given to what little remained of the deteriorating site in around 1904, before that the area was referred to only as the “Huacas de Lince.” What we do know is that Limatambo was given life by an arm of the Guacta (Huatica) canal that was built by the population’s ancestors centuries before, and that it was the main settlement in the area, only slightly smaller than the city of Maranga.

Before being buried beneath expanding Lima, in the era when Peruvians cared nothing for their long indigenous history, a simple map in 1892 was drawn up by explorer Adolphe F. Bandelier, the eminent scholar and historian of ancient Peru. This map had the ancient structure of Limatambo located on the Hacienda de Lince, which consisted of a large settlement enclosed by a wall, surrounded by 11 other structures. He also saw in the Rimac bottom “numerous ruins in every direction, and on some of the valley slopes, as well as along the seashore” (Frederick Webb Hodge, "Bandelier’s Researches in Peru and Bolivia," America Anthropologist, vol.10, no.9, American Anthropological Association, Washington, September 1887, p303)

The huaca Limatambo is as old as San Borja; however, Limatambo is not open to the public as archaeological studies are presently ongoing.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Lima huacas: Huantinamarca and Huantille

Map of two huaca sites


Huaca Huantinamarca. Within the bounds of Lima’s zoo or Park of the Legends in San Miguel, is the ancient huaca Huantinamarca, part of Lima’s highest concentration of ruins, though only a few have been explored. So far those excavated have revealed concentrations of pottery, musical instruments and food, which are exhibited in an onsite museum. According to the Park, the land at the zoo was part of the ancient Maranga Complex, along with the Catholic University, as well as the San Marcos University, and other urban areas, encompassing more than 60 preserved sites. While most people are familiar with Pucllana, there are numerous other huacas in the area, including Huantinamarca.

Aerial view of Huantinamarca being excavated and preserved in the center of the city of Lima


Huacas, or sacred buildings, also known as Apus, were first constructed by those before the Lima people, like Huantille, and used by theLima, later by the Curacazgo Maranga, then the Ichma people and finally the Incas, who all made use of these huacas that were ancient by the time the Inca began their empire.

High-rise apartment now buildings surround the Huantinamarca archeological site, along Pacifico Avenue in Lima. A small group of archeologists and officials are stepping up efforts to preserve the sites being squeezed by urban sprawl, including Huantinamarca, which is also called Huaca de la Feria del Pacífico, which is a pre-Hispanic archaeological site located in the district of San Miguel in Lima.

The ancient site of huaca Huantinamarca presently being excavated within the Greater Lima area


The archaeological site of Huantinamarca is located 2½ miles sourth of huaca San Marcos. After almost 50 years of being an ornamental component in the Pacific International Fair, it became part of the real estate project Parques de la Huaca. To make the pre-Hispanic and pre-Inca site come closer to the community, the surroundings were turned into modern and utilitarian spaces, such as buildings and a public park. The main objective of the intervention was to achieve the visual and affective integration of the monument into the daily life of the occupants of the Parques de la Huaca housing complex, management for the preservation and revaluation of cultural and natural heritage, of Huantinamarca in San Miguel.

Huaca Huantille


• Huanta Huantill. Within a sandy and clay area in the middle of Lima, housing the remains of an ancient huaca, is a common sight in the city, which is dotted with buildings from a time long before the rise of the Inca. The huaca Huantille was one of countless archaeological sites that has partially been lost at that time the indigenous cultures built them. Preceded the Lima culture, the Ichma and finally the Incasl occupied them but did not build them. These pyramidal buildings have left their mark, even many that have been lost in modern times, some even becoming invisible. However, some invisible ones have reappeared in recent years. Such was the history of the huaca Huantille.

Today, this ancient pyramid looks incongruous in the middle of Lima's modern streets—no longer any sign of the shanty town and slums mentioned in earlier reports, so the city has clearly worked hard to protect and present the structure.

Top: Huaca Huantille; Bottom: Stacked adobe bricks, typical of Peruvian pyramids in and around Lima


Adobe bricks stacked at Huaca Huantille are made of earth with a fairly high clay content and straw and then only sun-dried, rather than being kiln dried. Only the very dry conditions make this suitable for such significant structures. These adobe bricks give a good idea of the material used in many parts of Peru.

The huaca Huantille has been actively integrated into the list of structures worthy of being seen since its rediscovery. The site is still being excavated and restored, but visitors can visit the building for free. At the moment, Huantille, is in various stages of restoration along its route. Restorers get an idea of how they would have looked in the past, but they also see what building materials are hidden under the clay layer. During the excavations of 2006, sacrificial sites and a cemetery were revealed, as well as painted walls, ceramics and textiles, which can be seen today in the associated museum.

Huantille is a stepped pyramid-shaped structure with several floors that are smaller towards the top, creating an adobe flat-topped pyramid. It has an access ramp and several rooms and terraces. Today the site is 100,080 cubic feet, which is only about one third of the original 388,461 cubic-feet size. Due to its size, it is assumed that the huaca served as a fortress, among other things. The best preserved is the east side, where the pyramidal structure of the huaca is particularly clear.

In fact, this pyramid complex, now found on the 12th block of Avenida Castilla in Magdalena del Mar, not far from Magdalena’s plaza and popular market, would have been found during the Colonial Period on the far outer reaches of Maranga, among green farm land. When Lima’so growth boomed, the rural town of Magdalena del Mar became part of a densely populated city, and the huaca Huantille quickly found itself surrounded by modern buildings

The unrestored section of huaca Huantille


From the top of the huaca, on a clear day, one could once see out over the pyramids of Maranga, and also out over Limatambo (2½ miles distance) and other administrative centers. It formed the main temple of the Señorío de Magdalena, a process that destroyed nearby huacas. A significant part of the huaca Huantille was destroyed by a brick maker in the 1960s in search of materials. Later, the invasores (invaders) arrived, and people started building makeshift shacks on the ruins themselves, similar to those at huaca Mateo Salado. With the collapse of Peru at the hands of “an incompetent young president,” social decay and crime crept into the local community. The area around the huaca became dangerous and even known as the number one place in Lima to purchase drugs. The huaca Huantille sat there slowly decaying among slums, addicts and drug dealers.

However, Magdalena has been revitalized the invasores removed and rehoused elsewhere, and the remaining huaca is being excavated and turned into a small tourist area. The irreparable damage caused by the brick maker and by those who had illegally lived there became apparent—what was once a 36,090 square-foot pyramidal complex, only about one-third remains intact. The surrounding huacas in the complex have disappeared without trace.

Still, impressive finds have been excavated from the remaining huaca, including ceramics, mates burilados and copper, silver and gold pieces. The overall work has greatly benefited the local community, with crime in the area down 90% and expected to disappear completely with the artistic lighting to be installed at the end of the restoration process. Work is also being done to paint nearby houses, and beautify the area