La Galgada

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La Galgada

La Galgada, Peruvian site of ruins dating from the Late Preceramic period (3000–2000 bce). Andean South America is one of the regions where civilization arose independently before 3000 bce. The ruins of La Galgada (Rockslide) have provided some of the richest evidence in Peru of early cultural development. Located 72 miles from the coast on the banks of the Tablachaca, a tributary of the Santa River, the largest river on Peru's Pacific coast, the town was a center on routes connecting the coastal desert, the highlands, and the Amazon Basin. Isolation and aridity account for the well-preserved buildings, irrigation canals and field patterns, and burial tombs containing offerings of gourd vessels, baskets, cotton and bast cloth, stonework, shell and turquoise jewelry, and even feathers. The similarity of the material from La Galgada to that from such contemporary sites as Kotosh, Huaricoto, and Huaca Prieta reveals a widespread shared culture before the introduction of pottery about 2000 bce.

The earliest excavated structures, about 2800 bce, are small circular or rectangular temples with plastered stone walls painted white and flat roofs. The rituals seem to have included putting food offerings in the small central fire pit. The temple chambers were converted into tombs by building a stone roof supported by a massive stone column. The tomb was buried under earth fill, leaving a shaft to the surface, and a new temple was built on top. Four levels of such temple-tombs are known, spanning the period 2600–2000 bce.

Cotton, the principal crop, was used to make cloth by pre-loom techniques, much of it evidently for trade. Several dye colors are among the oldest specimens known. With the introduction of the heddle loom along with pottery about 2000 bce, there were style changes in cloth, jewelry, and architecture, heralding the Chavín style, which dominated northern Peru for the next two millennia.

See alsoArchaeology .


Terence Grieder and Alberto Bueno Mendoza, "Ceremonial Architecture at La Galgada," in Early Ceremonial Architecture in the Andes, edited by Christopher B. Donnan (1985), pp. 93-109.

Terence Grieder, "Preceramic and Initial Period Textiles from La Galgada, Peru," in The Junius B. Bird Conference on Andean Textiles, edited by Ann Pollard Rowe (1986), pp. 19-29.

Terence Grieder, Alberto Bueno Mendoza, C. Earle Smith, Jr., and Robert M. Malina, La Galgada, Peru (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Burger, Richard L. Chavín and the Origins of Andean Civilization. London: Thames and Hudson, 1995.

Moseley, Michael. The Incas and Their Ancestors: The Archaeology of Peru. London: Thames & Hudson, 2001.

Rodríguez López, Luis Francisco. Costa Norte: Diez mil años de prehistoria. Lima: Ministerio de la Presidencia: Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, 1994.

Schobinger, Juan. The Ancient Americans: A Reference Guide to the Art, Culture, and History of Pre-Columbian North and South America. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2001.

                                     Terence Grieder

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La Galgada

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