Meso-America South America

Sipán, Moche Tomb

The city of Sipán dates from 50–700 AD, the same time as the Moche Period.  In 1987 archaeologist Walter Alva discovered the tomb of The Lord of Sipán, an important ruler of the Moche.  Inside the adobe funerary platform is a rectangular chamber with a roof sported by wooden beams.  Although the tomb was added to at various times, the main occupant of each tomb was male, inside a wooden coffin each with grave goods.

The Lord of Sipán was accompanied by seashells, scepters, pectorals, ceramics, textiles and many other luxury items.  Also found were human sacrifices, children and women and men.  The men seem to have been warriors. Other sacrifices were animals such as dogs and camelids.

The Sipán tombs were the first royal burials found in South America.  They were Inca, and archaeologists consider the site to be among the most important discoveries in the past few decades.

Scientific analysis of The Lord of Sipán indicates he was about 5’5″ tall, around 40 years old when he died and the quality if his diet and the wealth of jewelry made of gold, silver, copper indicate he was high ranking.  In Inca society artifacts made of precious metals symbolized the rulers power.

Prehistoric South America UNESCO

Prehispanic Caral

Discovered by Paul Kosok in 1948, Caral is known for its early complexity.  According to radiocarbon dating Caral was constructed during the third millennium BCE, making it one of the oldest civilizations in the Andean region.  

In 1975 Peruvian architect Carlos Williams made a detailed record of several of the archaeological sites in the area, among them Caral, which encompassed 168 acres.

The Templo Mayor, constructed in different phases until it reached a height of 98 feet is the largest, consisting of overlapping platforms and a sunken circular court in front of the building.  The temple’s top is accessed by stairs located at the front of the building.  Other buildings include the Amphitheater Temple.

There are thirty two public structures along we an area of domestic occupation. Shicras, bags made from vegetable fiber cords, usually reeds, were used in construction of the buildings. Shicras were used to  transport stones for building, and occasionally used as fill in the construction work.

Hundreds of human figurines made from unnamed clay were found which are thought to be fertility figures. Caral appears to be the model for the urban design adopted by Andean civilizations that rose and fell over a span of four millennia. It is believed that research conducted in Caral may answer questions about the origins of the various Andean civilizations and the development of its first cities. 

Caral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009.

South America

Easter Island / Rapa Nui

The island is volcanic in origin and one of the remotest places in the world that is inhabited and contains the statue quarry, bird man village and the richest rock art in the Pacific.  The archaeological record indicates one single development of culture from the first Polynesian settlers until the arrival of Europeans. Evidence indicates people from eastern Polynesia arrived in the early centuries of the Common Era and were trapped here. 

In 1955 an expedition led by Thor Heyerdahl performed the first stratigraphic excavations, obtained radiocarbon dates and also experimented in carving, moving and erecting statues. In the 1980s John Flenley analyzed pollen from sediments at the bottom of the freshwater lakes and discovered the island was originally covered by a rainforest.  When the colonists arrived on this island they began changing the landscape.

Using basalt picks the inhabitants carved more than 1,000 moai (statues), almost all of them from the soft volcanic tuff of Rano Raraku crater.  All were of a human figure with prominent nose and chin and elongated ears.  The bodies end at the abdomen with arms held tightly to the sides, hands in front.

In the final years of, prehistory the islanders stopped carving statues and the manufacture of spearheads and daggers of obsidian, a sharp volcanic glass, shattered a thousand years of peaceful coexistence.  Statues were toppled and their religion was abandoned. 

Their social system of ancestor worship was abandoned in favor of one featuring a warrior elite. An annual chief or “birdman” was chosen annually in a race. The rock art depicts the competition which ended with crowning a new birdman, sometimes holding an egg, symbolizing fertility.  

Art Prehistoric South America

The Nazca Lines, Peru

Located on the dry Peruvian plain the geoglyphs of the Nazca civilization are a mystery.

They represent coastal and jungle birds as well as a monkey, spider, snail, whale, llamas, iguanas, lizards and a recently discovered cat.  Some of the birds depicted are hummingbird, condor, pelican, crane, parrots and seagulls.  More than 800 figures have been found.

It is unknown how or why these images were etched into rock more than 1300 feet above sea level.  Some archaeologists think the lines may be sacred roads and others an astronomical map or some type of calendar.

The Nazca society thrived between 500 BCE and 500 CE and it is believed the images were created from 1 to 650 CE. The  Nazca Lines became a UNESCO world Heritage Site in 1994.

Peru issued stamps depicting Maria Reiche, an archaeologist known for her research of the Nazca Lines.