Darkest Peru: Peter Furtado Visits Some Remarkable Sites Rivalling Machu Picchu, the Endangered Inca Hilltop City Which Was Recently Voted One of the Seven Wonders of the World

By Furtado, Peter | History Today, September 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Darkest Peru: Peter Furtado Visits Some Remarkable Sites Rivalling Machu Picchu, the Endangered Inca Hilltop City Which Was Recently Voted One of the Seven Wonders of the World


Furtado, Peter, History Today


VIRTUALLY ALL THE CULTURAL TOURISTS TO PERU make for the Inca honeypots of Cusco and Machu Picchu, but this vast and diverse country has one of the richest archaeological heritages in the world, and one that continues to produce remarkable new finds and sites including gold-drenched mummies and lost mountaintop cities--to amaze and fascinate the casual visitor and the specialist alike.

Physically, this is one of the most diverse countries in the world. While the Andes forms the backbone of the country, the coast is a 2,000-kilometer desert interrupted only by a series of short rivers, each of which offers an oasis-like interruption in the miles of sand, and an entree to the mountains. Beyond the mountains lies the rainforest of the upper Amazon basin.

The Incas, like the Romans, still astound us for the strength of their dominance over their empire from their mountain tops in the south, and for the complexity and discipline of their power--and for the way in which their regime crumbled in the face of fewer than 200 conquistadors in the 1530s. But their empire had lasted no more than a hundred years. It was preceded by an array of earlier civilizations, each with a quite distinctive culture and behaviour, yet all of which shared a common religion and traded widely across the whole of the modern country and beyond. While cultural continuities can be traced in some areas from 4000 BC, some of the most remarkable archaeology is being done in the period An 200-1400, with the coastal cultures of the Moche, Lambayeque and Chimu, and the Andean Chachapoyas people.

In all of these cases, the quality of the discoveries challenges this Third World country to protect, preserve and present them in an effective manner. Looters remain the bane of archaeologists here, and some sites--as in Iraq--resemble the lunar surface through their efforts. In view of this--and of the climatic difficulties--these survivals are even more remarkable.

They include the Lord of Sipan, a Moche culture chieftain of AD 200 found in the late 1980s outside Chiclayo, 300 km north of Lima, complete with almost as much gold as Tutankhamun, on a site that has also yielded a barely less richly endowed 'Old Lord' of AD 20. And the discovery of yet another important tomb here was announced as we went to press. In a similarly weathered adobe pyramid site of El Brujo, 100 km to the south and right on the coast, is another Moche burial, this one discovered in 2005 and awaiting full analysis. This priestess, of around An 250, was wrapped in thirty layers of fine cotton decorated with ocean waves and catfish; her young body inside preserved so perfectly that her tattoos of spiders, seahorses and snakes are clearly visible and the stretchmarks on her belly indicate clearly that she died in childbirth. At another Moche site, the temples of the Sun and Moon near Trujillo reveal a most impressive wall of friezes, with prisoners and guards at the base, and gods towards the top: this echoes the physical remains found there, of dozens of prisoners who had died with a blow to the head from a pointed mace, and who had then been flayed to remove their muscles and organs, while leaving the skeletons held together by sinews and tendons. The temples of Sun and Moon were abandoned after a disastrous El Nino in about AD 600, and a few miles away a quite different civilization arose, that of the Chimu with their capital Chan Chan, a huge adobe city centred around nine vast palaces, each one built by a king for a dual purpose: for his own tomb and for his successor to inhabit.

[ILLUSTRATIONS OMITTED]

While the coastal sites are fabulous in their wealth and grandeur, those of the mountains to the east seize the imagination. If the Incas resemble the Romans, then the Chachapoyans are the Etruscans, with information scant on many aspects of their culture--except their extraordinary funerary habits. Yet in many ways these were precursors of the Incas (and suffered at their hands so much that they welcomed Pizarro as a liberator, though they soon came to regret it)--and their emerging site, the mountaintop redoubt of Kuelap, will surely become as well known as Machu Picchu itself.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Darkest Peru: Peter Furtado Visits Some Remarkable Sites Rivalling Machu Picchu, the Endangered Inca Hilltop City Which Was Recently Voted One of the Seven Wonders of the World
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?