In that part of the sky that the astronomers call the Milky Way, there are dark zones in which they see the entire body of an ewe suckling a lamb. They showed this to me, saying: "Look there, where the head of the ewe is, look here, and you will see the lamb suckling, and the bodies and the legs of the two animals." However, I did not see such figures. It must have been due to my lack of imagination.
—Garcilaso de La Vega, Com. Reales de los Incas (1609) (I, 2, 23)
Humans were present on the South American continent, in Chile and Peru in particular, at least from the 10th millennium BC, and, according to some scholars, possibly earlier. The extremely complex history of the civilizations of the Andes is usually divided into seven periods, each of them very ramified, given the complexity of the geographical borders due to the particular conformation of the territory with its series of adjacent flooding valleys separated by desert zones (Mosley 2001).
The oldest monumental centers that we know of date approximately from the year 2000 BC, among them El Paraíso and Cerro Sechin. The typical structure of these centers, which will remain unchanged through the centuries, is composed of a large truncated pyramid overlooking a court of other buildings, laid in a U-shape. Often the central square of the court is lower than the common ground, but sometimes there is a lower zone in the center of the platform. The meaning of this element, which needed to be accurately planned and built in order to avoid water stagnation, is not clear yet. Another mysterious characteristic common to many centers is the fact that they have been willingly abandoned and destroyed, as in the case of Cerro Sechin, for instance, which disappeared around the year 900 BC.
During the period between the tenth and the second centuries BC, Chavin de Huantar became the most important center, where quite a unique
G. Magli, Mysteries and Discoveries of Archaeoastronomy, DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-76566-2_10, 195 © Praxis Publishing, Ltd. 2009
(Translated from Spanish by the author)
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