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Garagay, an archaeological site in the lower Rimac valley. One of the largest centers of pre-Columbian culture on Peru's central coast during the second millennium bce, Garagay is 5 miles inland from the Pacific shore. The site was constructed and utilized by agriculturists who grew cotton, sweet potato, and other crops using gravity canals. Although much of Garagay has been destroyed by the metropolitan expansion of Lima, some 39.5 acres survive intact. The surviving portion corresponds to monumental architecture that served as the focus of the site.

The most conspicuous remains are those of a U-shaped platform complex embracing a 22-acre open plaza area. In its final form the terraced central pyramid-platform rose some 75.5 feet above the plaza, and access to its atrium and level summit was provided by a broad inset stairway. Corrected radiocarbon measurements from the site range from 1643 bce to 897 bce, and it is evident that Garagay's massive public constructions are the product of a multitude of superimposed fills and buildings erected over many centuries. In its general ground plan and coarse masonry construction, Garagay resembles dozens of other public centers also dating from the same period that have been found from the Lurin valley to the Pativilca valley.

Garagay is best known for fine clay friezes that decorated the walls of its central and lateral mounds. Excavations of Garagay's central atrium in 1974 revealed a mural painted in yellow, white, red, pink, and grayish blue mineral-based pigments. The main theme was a fanged supernatural creature with spider attributes. Among the Incas, spiders were closely associated with predicting the onset of rainfall, so it is likely that the ceremonies conducted at Garagay and other similar centers on the central coast were intended to ensure the necessary conditions for irrigation agriculture in this arid zone. Elaborate votive offerings of figurines and exotic items such as Ecuadorian Spondylus shell were found associated with the atrium and a similar atrium that had been superimposed above it.

See alsoArchaeology .


A summary in English of investigations at Garagay and related central coast sites can be found in Richard L. Burger, Chavín and the Origins of Andean Civilization (1992). The Garagay excavations and the analysis of the materials recovered there have been published in the following articles: Rogger Ravines and William Isbell, "Garagay: Sitio ceremonial temprano en el valle de Lima," in Revista del Museo Nacional 41 (1984): 253-275, and Rogger Ravines, "Sobre la formación de Chavín: Imágenes y símbolos," in Boletín de Lima 35 (1984): 27-45. A model for interpreting Garagay and other U-shaped complexes is presented by Carlos Williams, "A Scheme for the Early Monumental Architecture of the Central Coast of Peru," in Early Monumental Architecture in the Andes, edited by Christopher Donnan (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Druc, Isabelle C., Richard L. Burger, Regina Zamojska, and Pierre Magny. "Ancón and Garagay Ceramic Production at the Time of Chavín de Huántar." Journal of Archaeological Science 28 (1): 29-43.

Tello, Julio C. Arqueología del valle de Lima. Lima: Museo de Arqueología y Antropología, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, 1999.

Von Hagen, Adriana, and Craig Morris. The Cities of the Ancient Andes. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1998.

                                   Richard L. Burger

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