Paracas Peninsular Sites

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Paracas Peninsular Sites

The Paracas period sites on the Paracas Peninsula in the lower Pisco River valley include habitation areas and cemeteries where fine woven and embroidered polychrome textiles have been found. Some burials include decorated ceramics with polychrome paint applied after the vessels were fired; negative-painted pottery; and a technologically superior, thin-walled monochrome ware, referred to as Topará ceramics, that includes various plant and animal vessel forms.

Julio C. Tello and his assistant, Toribio Mejía Xesspe identified Arena Blanca, a habitation site with twelve burial areas (from which 135 funerary bundles were excavated), and the famous Cabeza Larga cemetery, also situated within the Arena Blanca site. About one-half mile south, a second site was excavated on the summit of Cerro Colorado. It was named Paracas Cavernas after the type of bottle-shaped tomb that characterized these burials. By far the most impressive area encountered was the Wari-Kayan Necropolis, situated on the north slopes of Cerro Colorado, from which conically shaped mummy bundles were removed from burial fill.

The cemeteries on the Paracas Peninsula were used from about 300 bce to 200 ce, and represent at least two burial traditions (Paracas Cavernas and Necropolis-type burials, the latter equated with Topará pottery) that include high-status individuals. The Paracas Cavernas contained individuals wrapped in plain and decorated textiles. The Necropolis burials were in the midden of older, abandoned domestic structures. These individuals were elaborately prepared for the afterlife in the form of mummy bundles and were accompanied by long wooden staves that served as grave markers. A false head was placed on the top of the mummy and adorned with a wig of human hair, headgear, and jewelry. Pottery, weaving utensils, and fishing gear are some of the offerings found within and around the prepared bundle, intended to accompany the deceased into the afterlife.

Trephination (cranial surgery) had been performed on the forty-odd skulls that Tello collected in 1925 from the surface of looted tombs at Cerro Colorado. The surgery, considered to be therapeutic in nature, was performed to release pressure from head wounds and remove broken-bone fragments. The physical remains leave little question that from 300 bce on there was considerable conflict.

See alsoArchaeology; Tello, Julio César.


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Roncal Pretell, César. Paracas: Flora, fauna e historia de una cultura milenaria. Lima: G y R Inversiones, 1998.

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Tello, Julio C., and Toribio Mejía Xesspe. Paracas segunda parte: Cavernas y Necropolis. Lima: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, 1979.

Wallace, Dwight. "Paracas in Chincha and Pisco: A Reappraisal of the Ocucaje Sequence." In Recent Studies in Andean Prehistory and Protohistory, edited by D. Peter Kvietok and Daniel H. Sandweiss, 67-94. Ithaca, NY: Latin American Studies Program, Cornell University, 1985.

Wallace, Dwight. "The Topará Tradition: An Overview." In Perspectives on Andean Prehistory and Protohistory, edited by D. Peter Kvietok and Daniel H. Sandweiss, 35-47. Ithaca, NY: Latin American Studies Program, Cornell University, 1986.

Weiss, Pedro. Osteología cultural, prácticas cefálicas. Lima: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, 1958–1961. See especially Part 2, "Tipología de los defor-maciones cefálicas—Estudio cultural de los tipos cefálicos y de algunas enfermedades oseas."

                                                       Anita Cook