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Many Prehistoric Cultures

March 28, 1995|WILLIAM R. LONG

LIMA, Peru — Although the ancient ruins of Lima have never been thoroughly studied, archeologists have drawn basic conclusions about the area's prehistoric past.

Between 2000 and 1500 BC, residents built irrigation systems in the desert. They cultivated corn, beans, yams, squash and cotton. According to Santiago Agurto, author of "Pre-Hispanic Lima," the societies rendered homage to the dead and probably thought the dead could come back to haunt the living. "Burials have been found in which several heavy rocks were placed over the corpse or it was penetrated by strong stakes to hold it down," Agurto wrote.

As an expression of their beliefs, communities joined to build huacas , earth-filled pyramids with flat tops and stone-lined walls that sometimes rose to 150 feet high.

About 1200 BC, the coastal societies fell under the influence of the Andean-based Chavin culture and its fanatical belief in a fearsome god with the teeth of a jaguar, claws and wings of a condor, and tail of a serpent.

After AD 200, "Andean barbarians" invaded the Lima coast, destroying the established order and seriously damaging some of the monumental structures. Many communities built fortifications to defend themselves. Later, a warrior aristocracy established the so-called Lima Culture, imposing an apparently harsh dictatorship. Under Lima rule, agriculture boomed with the construction of canals and irrigation systems.

From about 700 to 1100, Andean militarists of the Wari empire dominated the Lima area and introduced systems of production similar to assembly lines, using molds for making pottery and adobe construction blocks. Cajamarquilla, the Wari administrative center east of present-day Lima, had about 15,000 people. Today, its sprawling adobe ruins are slowly disintegrating.

The Inca Empire conquered the Lima area by 1470 but had little cultural impact before the Spanish arrived in 1533.

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