Chile's Archaeological History

ArchaeologyChile's earliest known archaeological remains date from some 10-13,000 years ago, near the end of the long series of ice ages which allowed the human population of the Americas. Findings from this era - such as Monte Verde, near Puerto Montt, one of the earliest confirmed sites of human habitation on the South American continent -- paint a vague picture of bands of nomadic hunters of mastadons, horses, and other mammals. Today, southern Patagonia is one of the world's greatest repositories of these early Americans' colorful and intricate cave paintings.

Though most of Chile has probably been inhabited since the Paleolithic, Northern Chile's extreme aridity has preserved hundred of sites from the past 10,000 years. The abundance and quality of these sites has allowed archaeologists to reconstruct, with surprising detail, the history of this unique and dynamic region, which each year draws amateur and professional archaeologists from across the globe. An excellent example of the desert's preservative properties is that of the Chinchorro culture, a group of coastal hunter-gatherers who inhabited the Azapa Valley, near Arica. Here archaeologists uncovered a sand-preserved mummy which dates from 8000 BC, making it the earliest known use of artificial mummification in the world.

Archaeology2During the next 6000 years, distinct niches began to develop on the coast, in the interior valley, desert oases, and the Altiplano. Findings from this era reveal a diversification in fishing techniques and implements, the first hints of llama domestication, and a lifestyle that grew steadily more sedentary. By 2000 BC, the first domesticated plants began to appear in northern Chile, and cultural and economic trade with the tribes of southern Peru and northwestern Argentina brought new agricultural techniques, new textile designs, ceramics and basketwork. The huge geoglyphs - geometric designs similar to those of Nasca, Peru - that adorn hillsides throughout the region may have served as ritual 'road signs' for llama trains carrying goods from the altiplano to the coast, and vice versa.

Beginning in the 3rd century AD, the Tiwanaku Empire of Lago Titcaca began to work great cultural transformations in Northern Chile. Metallurgy, advanced agricultural techniques, and a more hierarchical social organization were Tiwanaku's most noteworthy contributions. Near 1000 AD, Tiwanaku's power waned, and regional kingdoms sprung up across the north. Stone fortresses or pukaras were constructed near San Pedro de Atacama, on the río Loa and río Salado, and in the Andean foothills east of Arica. These briefly independent regional kingdoms fell under Inca rule during the great expansion of 1470. In San Pedro, the Incas built a regional administration center near the existing Atacameño pukara defensive fort. But these new rulers had hardly put their bags down when Diego de Almagro walked across the Altiplano and into San Pedro, and the conquest of Chile was set in motion.

Thanks to the Tourism Promotion Corporation of Chile : 202-530-4109