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History of PERU

FIRST SETTLERS

The first settlers reached Peru some 20,000 years ago. They brought stone tools and were hunter-gatherers, living off game and fruit. Some of them settled in Paccaicasa, Ayacucho. The most ancient Peruvian skeletal remains found to date (7000 BC) show the ancient settlers had broad faces, pointed heads and stood 1.60 meters tall. The early Peruvians left examples of cave paintings at Toquepala (Tacna, 7600 BC) and houses in Chilca (Lima, 5800 BC).

The process of domesticating plants was to lay the foundations for organized agriculture and the construction of villages and ceremonial sites. As the regional cultures gradually integrated, new techniques surfaced such as textile weaving, metallurgy and jewelsmithy, giving rise to advanced cultures.

THE PRE INCAS CULTURES

Over the course of 1400 years, pre-Inca cultures settled along the Peruvian coast and highlands. The power and influence of some civilizations was to hold sway over large swaths of territory, which during their decline, gave way to minor regional centers. Many of them stood out for their ritual pottery, their ability to adapt and superb management of their natural resources; a vast knowledge from which later the Inca Empire was to draw.

The first Peruvian civilization settled in Huantar (Ancash) in around 1000 BC. The power of the civilization, based on a theocracy, was centered in the Chavin de Huantar, temple, whose walls and galleries were filled with sculptures of ferocious deities with feline features.

The Paracas culture (700 BC) rose to power along the south coast, and was to craft superb skills in textile weaving.

The north coast was dominated by the Moche civilization (100 AD). The culture was led by military authorities in the coastal valleys, such as the Lord of Sipan. The Moche pots which featured portraits and their iconography in general were surprisingly detailed and showed great skill in design.

The highlands saw the rise of the Tiahuanaco culture (200 AD) based in the Collao region (which covered parts of modern-day Bolivia and Chile). The Tiahuanaco was to bequeath a legacy of agricultural terracing and the management of a variety of ecological zones.

The Nazca culture (300 AD) was able to tame the coastal desert by bringing water through underground aqueducts. They carved out vast geometric and animal figures on the desert floor, a series of symbols believed to form part of an agricultural calendar which even today baffles researchers.

The Wari culture (600 AD) introduced urban settlements in the Ayacucho area and expanded its influence across the Andes.

The refined Chimu culture (700 AD) crafted gold and other metals into relics and built the mud-brick citadel of Chan Chan, near the northern coastal city of Trujillo.

The Chachapoyas culture (800 AD) made the best possible use of arable land and built their constructions on top of the highest mountains in the northern cloud forest. The vast Kuelap fortress is a fine example of how they adapted to their environment.

THE INCAS

The Inca Empire (1500 AD) was possibly the most organized civilization in South America. Their economic system, distribution of wealth, artistic manifestations and architecture impressed the first of the Spanish chroniclers.

The Incas worshipped the earth goddess Pachamama and the sun god, the Inti. The Inca sovereign, lord of the Tahuantinsuyo, the Inca Empire, was held to be sacred and to be the descendant of the sun god. Thus, the legend of the origin of the Incas tells how the sun god sent his children Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo (and in another version the four Ayar brothers and their wives) to found Cuzco, the sacred city and capital of the Inca empire.

The rapid expansion of the Inca Empire stemmed from their extraordinary organizational skills. Communities were grouped, both as families and territorially, around the ayllu, their corner of the empire, and even if villagers had to move away for work reasons, they did not lose their bond to the ayllu. The Inca moved around large populations, either as a reward or punishment, and thus consolidated the expansion while drawing heavily from the knowledge of the cultures that had flourished prior to the Incas.

The Inca's clan was the panaca, made up of relatives and descendants, except for the one who was the Inca's successor, who would then form his own panaca. Sixteenth-century Spanish chroniclers recorded a dynasty of 13 rulers, running from the legendary Manco Capac down to the controversial Atahualpa, who was to suffer death at the hands of the Spanish conquerors.

The Tahuantinsuyo expanded to cover part of what is modern-day Colombia to the north, Chile and Argentina to the south and all of Ecuador and Bolivia.

The members of the panaca clans were Inca nobles, headed by the Inca sovereign. The power of the clans and the Inca was tangible in every corner of the empire, but the might of the Incas reached its peak in the architecture of Cuzco: the Koricancha or Temple of the Sun, the fortresses of Ollantaytambo and Sacsayhuaman, and above all the citadel of Machu Picchu.


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