Gas Pipe Workers Accidentally Unearth Chilca Culture Burial in Peru
Workers laying pipes for the gas company Calidda in Chilca, which is 37 miles (60 km) south of Lima, Peru, have recently uncovered the remains of eight people buried together in a Chilca culture common tomb 800 years ago. Found buried with them were exotic grave goods to take into the afterlife, including musical instruments, food, and bags with coca leaves (the natural stimulant base for cocaine).
Archaeologists working for the Calidda gas company as they discovered the Chilca culture burials in the city of Chilca, south of Lima, Peru. ( Calidda)
The Chilca Culture Tomb Wasn’t the First Calidda Find
This is not the first time that workers of Calidda, which has been laying pipes in the region for the last 20 years, have discovered archaeological treasures that throw light on the rich pre-Spanish history of Peru . In fact, the company employs a team of archaeologists. Imagine that: a pipe-laying company that has an archaeology department!
In the process of laying almost 6000 miles (10,000 km) of pipeline across the Peruvian capital of Lima and its adjoining cities, the company is credited with a whopping 300 archaeological discoveries, some over 2000 years old. And the Columbian-based company has spent 2 million dollars (1,708,000 Euros) to “save” the finds it has made.
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One of its more interesting discoveries in the past was the 2018 excavation of 30 pre-Incan bodies in four burials, including ceramic utensil grave goods. Two years before that, in 2016, the company’s workers stumbled across the remains of Chinese immigrant farmers from the 19th century. Alexis Solis, an archaeologists working for Calidda, has been reported by the Mail Online as saying, “Lima literally sits atop a cultural bank,” with one layer of history on top of another.
One of the recently discovered Chilca culture burials with a shell piece grave good. ( Calidda)
The Latest Find: Human Remains and Grave Goods
However, the most recent discovery in Chilca would have to rank as one of the company’s most fascinating. The Chilca culture adult and child remains were wrapped in plant material and buried with ears of corn. Other food material, utensils, and wind instruments (including flutes) were found scattered around the bodies.
Houses discovered in Chilca have been dated back to 5800 BC and its known history extends all the way back to 7000 BC. The recent Chilca culture discovery dates to 1220 AD, a time when the Inca Empire was on the rise. However, archaeologists have been careful clarify that the Chilca culture was distinct from the Inca culture. Some of the eight Chilca dead had been buried with shells on their heads and had bags which contained coca leaves , traditionally chewed as a stimulant by indigenous populations in the region.
"It is an important find that gives us more information about the pre-Hispanic history of Chilca," Cecilia Carmago, another archaeologist on the Calidda team, who was quoted in France 24 .
Skimming Lima’s Ancient Past
Lima is located in an Andean river valley and was a base for various human civilizations thousands of years before the Spanish conquest of Peru in the early 16th century. As such, remains of cemeteries, houses, buildings, ancient roads, and irrigation canals lie scattered around the region. “The physical difference between the present and antiquity is but a few centimetres,” Solis said in an interview last year.
While Peruvian law mandates that archaeological discoveries be reported and handed over to the country’s Culture Ministry, it doesn’t always happen. One of the more shocking contraventions of this law has been the case of a real estate developer in 2013 destroying a 4500-year-old pyramid-shaped structure on the outskirts of Lima.
Reconstruction of one of the pyramids of Aspero, a well-studied Late Preceramic site of the ancient Norte Chico civilization, located at the mouth of the Supe River on the north-central Peruvian coast. (Dravinia / CC BY-SA 4.0 )
A Peek into Peru’s Pre-Hispanic Past
Think Peruvian history and what instantly come to mind are the Inca Empire and its most famous and well-preserved ruins of Machu Pichu . While the Europeans term the voyages at the end of the 15th century, and into the 16th century, as the “Age of Exploration,” the reality is that flourishing civilizations and cultures long pre-dated the arrival of the Spanish and the Portuguese in South America. While the respective journeys of Columbus and Cortes opened up the New World to the Old World, it was a period of devastation and destruction for the indigenous people and tribes of this region.
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There is no doubt that the Inca civilization that flourished for almost a century between 1438 and 1532 was the richest and most powerful pre-Hispanic empire in the Americas. Some historians argue that it was the most advanced state in the pre-Colombian Americas. Its origins are even older and date back to the 12th century when the Inca tribe established their capital at Cuzco.
Peru has also been home to several other pre-Hispanic cultures that remained isolated from the Inca expansion, including one of the oldest people in the world, the Norte Chico people.
The Chilca culture, to which the latest archaeological discovery has been attributed, remained distinct from other pre-Spanish cultures in Peru including the Incas.
Top image: One of the Chilca culture burials accidently unearthed by the Calidda gas company in the city of Chilca, 37 miles (60 km) south of Lima Peru. Source: Calidda
By Sahir Pandey
AFP. 2021. Gas pipe workers find 800-year-old bodies in Peru . Available at: https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210922-gas-pipe-workers-find-800-year-old-bodies-in-peru.
Morrison, R. 2021. Gas pipe workers in Peru uncover the remains of eight people buried in 800-year-old common tomb alongside food and musical instruments . Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-10020591/Gas-pipe-workers-Peru-uncover-remains-eight-people-buried-800-years-ago.html.