Uncovering the Culture of Ancient Peru

Uncovering the Culture of Ancient Peru

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A great book with lots of images and interesting facts about Peru's ancient cultures, aimed at young readers up to 12 years old. The information is presented in a very accessible way and will let children discover these cultures as well as learn about archeology.

Uncovering the culture of Ancient Peru is a book by Alix Wood that is part of a series about ancient Britain, Egypt, Greece, India, Mesopotamia, and Peru. The aim of this series is to get children interested in ancient cultures, archaeology, and history.

This book focuses on ancient Peru and its civilizations, including the most famous of them: the Inca Empire. Although the Inca are one of the most well-known peoples of South America, they were not the only civilization that lived in Peru. And so, in this book we also find information on the Chavin, Nazca, Moche and Wari civilizations, as well as their main monuments. The monuments included are Caral Supe (around 180 km north of Lima), Cumbe Mayo (Cajamarca), Chavín de Huántar (Huari region), Nazca (in the central-south region of Peru), the temples of the Moon and the Sun in Cerro Blanco (Nepeña district, Santa region), Pikillaqta (Quispicanchi region), Pachacamac (Pachacamac district, Lima region), Sacsayhuaman (on the outskirts of Cusco), Ollantaytambo (Urubamba region), the strange rocks in Saywite (Abancay region), Machu Picchu (Cusco region, Urubamba province), and the Red Place (or Tambo Colorado, in the Prisco region). Of course, since the book is targeted at children, all the monument descriptions have photos and images of the items or carvings found at the sites. Also, there is a map of Peru with the location of each monument so children know exactly where they are. Furthermore, there are some words in bold whose meaning is explained at the end of the book, in the glossary, so young readers can learn some new words.

As with the rest of the series, this book is recommended for children up to twelve years old, although it really depends on the reading skills of each child. Uncovering the culture of Ancient Peru is a great way for children to learn about archaeology without getting too tired and without having to read definitions that are way too complicated for their age. Also, with the glossary, they will learn new vocabulary related to archaeology and each specific culture that would be difficult to acquire in other contexts. Moreover, it is important to note that, depending on the children's own cultures or countries, Peru might be a place they know nothing about, so this book can be the perfect way to teach them about this country not only in ancient times but also regarding some of its modern history and geography. In conclusion, this book is an excellent choice when it comes to teaching our children something about new - and yet ancient - civilizations that may otherwise have been unknown to them.

  • OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Peru
  • FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Constitutional republic
  • CAPITAL: Lima
  • POPULATION: 31,331,228
  • OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Spanish, Quechua
  • MONEY: Nuevo Sol
  • AREA: 496,224 square miles (1,285,216 sqare kilometers)
  • MAJOR RIVERS: Amazon, Ucayali, Madre de Dios


Peru is the third largest country in South America, after Brazil and Argentina. It is made up of a variety of landscapes, from mountains and beaches to deserts and rain forests. Most people live along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, where the capital, Lima, is located.

Along Peru's west coast is a narrow strip of desert 1,555 miles (2,500 kilometers) long. Ancient people, called the Chimú and the Nasca, first inhabited this region thousands of years ago. The coastal desert makes up only about 10 percent of Peru, but it is home to more than half of all Peruvians.

The world's largest rain forest, the Amazon, covers nearly half of Peru. Called the selva in Spanish, this huge jungle, which also covers half of Brazil, is home to plants and animals that do not live anywhere else on Earth. Some scientists think there may even be Indian tribes there that have never seen the outside world.

The second highest mountain range in the world runs through Peru. These peaks, called the Andes, are so tall and forbidding that the ancient Inca people thought they were gods. They run from north to south and can be seen from Peru's beaches 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the west. The highest peak, Mount Huascarán, is 22,205 feet (6,768 meters) high.

Map created by National Geographic Maps


The people of Peru are a mix of many different cultures, including Indians, Spaniards and other Europeans, descendants of African slaves, and Asians. Until recently, most people lived in the countryside. But now, more than 70 percent live in cities. Most Peruvians follow the Catholic religion introduced by the Spanish.


Because it has so many different ecosystems, Peru is home to a wider variety of plants and animals than most other countries on Earth. For many reasons, Peruvians have not had as much of an impact on their natural world as many other countries, and much of these ecosystems have been undisturbed.

A 250-acre (100-hectare) plot of Peruvian rain forest is home to more than 6,000 kinds of plants! There are hundreds of species that are only found in the Amazon. To protect these plants and animals, Peru has created special forest areas called reserves.

On the Pacific Coast, many interesting plant and animal species have adapted to the dry desert climate. And off the coast, the Peru Current nourishes huge numbers of small fish, which in turn support large populations of bigger fish and seabirds, including Humboldt penguins.

Peru's mountains support special types of grasses and plants, which provide food for mammals like llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas. One plant that grows in the Andes, the puya raimondi, grows for a hundred years before blooming.

First Settlements

The first settlement in Peru took place about 20,000 years ago. They brought stone tools and were hunter and gatherers. Some of them settled in Paccaicasa, Ayacucho. The oldest remains found are 700 BC, it shows how the old people were, pointy heads, broad faces and 1.60 meters in height. The old Peruvians settlers examples of cave paintings in the caves of Toquepala (Tacna 7 600 a. C.) and houses in Chilca (Lima 5800 BC). The process of domesticating plants was to introduce the foundations for organized cultures and the construction of villages and ceremonial sites. As regional cultures that were integrated gradually, new techniques emerged, such as embroidery, metalwork and jewelry, leading the growth of cultures.

The History of the Inca Empire

Explore the Inca Empires. Photo credit: shutterstock

The Inca Empire, the largest empire and dynasty of pre-Colombian Amerca, flourished from 1438-1532 stretching from Chile to Ecuador, with Cusco as its capital. The empire originated in Cusco as nothing more than a small tribe based in what was to become the capital. Pachacutec was the first Inca ruler to expand the boundaries of the state of Cusco. Francisco Pizarro and his Spanish Conquistadors landed in Peru in 1532, capturing and re-founding Cusco as a Spanish colonial settlement in 1534. The city of Lima, “City of Kings”, was founded in 1535, with the Viceroyalty of Peru being established in 1542, transforming Peru into the principal source of Spanish wealth and power in South America. Peru was finally liberated from Spanish rule by Argentinean Jose de San Martin and Venezuelan Simon Bolivar in 1810.


Spanish is the official language of Peru, but several indigenous languages also have official status in areas where they are widely used. Once you leave the coast, Quechua is much more prevalent and therefore often quoted as Peru’s second official language.

English is not widely spoken by the majority of native citizens, but some speak more than they let on. It is always best to master the phrase, “Habla ingles?”, (Do you speak English?). It’s a good icebreaker and a friendly way to start some type of communication, even if it ends up only being charades.

If you’re moving to Peru or intend to stay for a long period, however, it’s a smart to learn the basics of Spanish. Not only will it make life easier, it’ll open a whole new world to you.

History of the Culture, Customs, and Traditions of Israel

The culture and traditions of the Israelites developed long before the country of Israel gained independence in 1948. The culture and customs of the Israelites can also be traced back to 1000 BCE. Currently, the culture of the Israelites reflects that of ancient Israel. It shows that the kingdom of Israel and that of Judah were related. Therefore, these two kingdoms shared common customs and cultures. The Judaism religion dates back to the times of the Hellenistic period when it first appeared in the Greek record. The Jewish culture, on the other hand, has links with the Kingdom of Judah. The culture and customs of the Jewish people can be defined as being either secular or religious. The term secular Jewish culture is often used to refer to various aspects such as Religion and World View, cinema, and media, architecture and art, the lifestyle of the Jewish people and their customs. Secular Judaism has somehow related to the secularization of Jewish culture, and it originated the Moses Mendelssohn philosophy.

From this description, it can be observed that Israel has different cultures and customs. The diversity of the cultures and traditions being experienced in Israel can be attributed to the fact that both the Judaism and Jewish culture have influenced the culture of this country. For instance, the Chief Rabbinate, a religious leader within the Jewish culture who is chosen by the local secular authorities, officially registers all the Jewish marriages that occur in Israel. After the marriage is registered, a traditional ceremony follows to make the marriage official. However, western culture is also very influential in Israeli culture today.

New Project Uncovers Ancient Games And Gladiators Through The Graffiti Of The Fans

Fans have always been passionate about athletics and sporting events, and so it makes sense that a common theme in ancient graffiti found at sites like Pompeii, Herculaneum, Zeugma, Aphrodisias, and many others is gladiatorial combat. A new NEH-funded project directed by Rebecca Benefiel at Washington & Lee University seeks to document the ancient graffiti of Pompeii and the neighboring city of Herculaneum. Often bawdy and rarely boring, these etchings give us insight into the importance of the Roman games in the lives of everyday people and indicate the different types of gladiators who fought in the arena.

A graffito from Pompeii dating to the 1st c. CE indicates the outcome of a match between gladiators . [+] Severus and Albanus (Image via Wikimedia under CC-BY-SA 3.0 license).

Although a number of inscriptions on statue bases and epitaphs survive from antiquity, graffiti give us unique insight into the lives of everyday Romans. They also indicate that Romans used walls, columns, and many other private and public areas within the ancient city as common writing surfaces. Whereas graffiti is legislated against and largely frowned upon today, the same attitudes do not appear in regard to most areas in the ancient city. What would modern cities look like if there was no paper and few regulations on where one could write?

A modern Latin graffito from the city of Rome reads: "Let's eat, drink, have fun first comes life, . [+] then philosophy." (Image via Michael Fontaine's Twitter, as part of a Paideia Institute seminar.)

Papyrus, parchment, and wax tablets were much more expensive for regular people than simply leaving a message on the wall. A number of graffiti from a peristyle house in Pompeii called 'The House of the Gladiators' tell us, for instance, that there was a heartthrob of a gladiator named Celadus whom women in the 1st century CE simply swooned over and wrote about: "Pride of the Girls / Celadus the Thracian."

Graffito of a gladiator from Pompeii and now at the Naples Archaeological Museum (Image via Carole . [+] Madge. See thousands of her photos on her Finding Hadrian blog).

In particular, the Herculaneum Graffiti Project is novel in that it brings together students from Washington & Lee University, Millsaps College, Sewanee: The University of the South, and the University of Richmond in order to document thousands of etchings that are quickly disappearing. It will then contextualize these Latin and sometimes Greek graffiti on a map of Herculaneum, a city which often takes a backseat to the more well-known Pompeii.

Brittany Hardy of the Herculaneum Graffiti Project talked to students in San Antonio about ancient . [+] graffiti and then the students tried writing them out (Image via the Herculaneum Graffiti Project with permission).

Teaching students about ancient handwriting and graffiti gives them a window into the life of two towns lost in the Vesuvian eruption of 79 CE and allows students to connect with the thousands that died tragically in the wake of the disaster (cont. on next page)

Graffito for a gladiatorial combat between gladiators Marcus Attilius and Hilarus, from Tomb 14EN, . [+] outside the Nucerian Gate at Pompeii (CIL IV 10238a: Image via the CIL and is in the Public Domain).

While the project is still in its early phases, the graffiti are slowly being loaded into a searchable database called EAGLE Europeana, the Europeana Network of Ancient Greek and Latin Epigraphy. The project makes inscriptions and graffiti available to the broader public.

Statuette of a gladiator from the 1st c. CE, now at the Getty Villa. The gladiator wears a mix of . [+] myrmillo and hoplomachus armor (Image courtesy the Getty Villa under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license).

But when does this gladiatorial graffiti end? At Pompeii, of course, it ended with the disastrous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE, but elsewhere in the empire, such writing continued on until the prohibitions against the games beginning in the 4th century CE. The emperor Constantine tried unsuccessfully to place limits on the games in 325 CE, but they likely continued until 438 in the city of Rome. Wild beast hunting and chariot races lasted even longer than that. The Byzantine historian Procopius cites the last recorded chariot race in Rome's Circus Maximus, which was in 549 CE.

As the hundreds of graffiti focused on soccer within the city of Rome today demonstrate, sports are just as important today as they were in classical antiquity. It is graffiti that often tell us about the women and men that populated the ancient Mediterranean, and, as it turns out, these people spent a lot of time drawing and writing about their favorite athletes.

New Clues About Human Sacrifices at Ancient Peruvian Temple

Evidence suggests the Moche ritually slaughtered war captives.

Human-sacrifice rituals at an ancient Moche temple in Peru likely featured the killing of war captives from distant valleys, according to an analysis of bones and teeth at the site.

The human remains—mutilated, dismembered, and buried in pits—help explain territorial struggles among the Moche, who ruled Peru's arid coast from around 100 A.D. to 850 A.D. (See also "Moche Burials Uncovered.")

Debate among scholars over Moche human sacrifices has centered on the question of whether they were ritual killings of elites or of war prisoners, says archaeologist John Verano of Tulane University in New Orleans, one of the authors of the report, available online and in an upcoming issue of Journal of Archaeological Science.

"They look like war captives," Verano concludes, pointing to the study's bone chemistry results, which suggest that sacrifice victims came from far away in the late days of the Moche empire.

The Moche left behind distinctive pottery, irrigation works, and giant adobe mounds, some adorned with murals depicting war captives.

Among the largest-known Moche ruins is the brick mound site of Huacas de Moche, located near the modern-day city of Trujillo, Peru. The mound consists of three platforms connected by corridors, plazas, and temples.

Roughly 70 sacrifice victims have been found there so far—an indication of frequent human offerings. That alone suggests the slaughter of captured warriors rather than rare killings of elites to appease the gods in religious rituals, Verano says. The victims were killed, displayed, and later swept into pits.

"You don't deny a proper burial, deflesh, mutilate, and turn your elites' bones into trophies as they did [at Huacas de Moche]," says Verano, whose work has been partly supported by National Geographic Society grants. "You don't make a drinking mug out of your elite [ruler's] skull."

Sacrifice ceremonies are depicted in Moche artwork, often showing the killing of bound, naked men. Priests and priestesses are portrayed offering goblets filled with the victims' blood to supernatural beings.

The sacrifice victims' bones were then left for vultures.

The new report is the result of work on the remains of 34 people, some buried in neatly ordered graves and others in burial pits, the latter including young men with their throats slit and bones dismembered.

The chief author of the report, J. Marla Toyne of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, led efforts to analyze oxygen isotopes in the remains of the dead.

The water that people drink leaves specific oxygen traces in bones and teeth, which can help determine where victims lived, both in infancy and in the last decade of their lives. In the case of the Huaca de Moche burials, the male elite—buried in neat graves—were all locals who drank the local river water.

In the heyday of Huacas de Moche, around 600 A.D., perhaps 25,000 people lived there. Two large temples, the Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) and the Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun), sat atop the mound.

"Who you are choosing to kill, who you are choosing to sacrifice, says a lot about how you see other people," Toyne says. "We are seeing a long-term shift in the origins of sacrifice victims to farther and farther away."

For the past two decades, archaeologists have suspected that some Moche states pursued empire-building along the Andean coast, says Peruvian Ministry of Culture archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, who was not part of the study team.

"The Southern Moche, based in the Huacas de Moche, seem to have been the truly expansionist ones," he wrote by email. "Marla Toyne's research proves this with isotopic information."

When Huacas de Moche was first discovered 50 years ago, archaeologists thought that it was the capital of a long-standing Moche empire rather than a city that had expanded its geographic dominance over time.

The new study suggests that Moche centers vied with each other for power and resources, which likely led to warfare. The battles led to the taking of captives, and it seems that captives were slain in sacrifice ceremonies.

Another intriguing result of the bone analysis is that elite women buried at the temples also appear to have largely come from elsewhere.

That points to a "patrilocal" system for the Moche, suggesting that they traded "princess brides" between centers, Verano says. "Not so different from now in some places."

Overall, the findings are updating the view of the enigmatic Moche, who didn't leave behind records as detailed as those of contemporaries such as the Maya of Central America.

"We have to do a lot of careful detective work, still," says Verano, who has been part of excavation work at Huaca de Moches for more than a decade.

The Pyramids of Caral

A German archaeologist named Max Uhle first stumbled across Caral in 1905 during a wide-ranging study of ancient Peruvian cities and cemeteries. The site piqued his interest, but Uhle didn't realize the large hills in front of him were actually pyramids. Archaeologists only made that discovery in the 1970s. And even then, it took another two decades before Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady kicked off systematic excavations of the region.

In 1993, working on weekends with the help of her students, Shady began a two-year survey of the Supe Valley that would ultimately yield a staggering 18 distinct settlements. No one knew how old they were, but the cities' similarities and more primitive technologies implied a single, ancient culture that predated all others in the region.

By 1996, Shady's work attracted a small fund from the National Geographic Society, which was enough to launch her Caral Archaeological Project working at the heart of the main city itself.

And when her team's initial results were published in 2001, their study set the narrative for Caral as we still appreciate it today. Global press heralded it as the first city in the Americas. “Caral . was a thriving metropolis as Egypt’s great pyramids were being built,” Smithsonian Magazine reported . The BBC said the find offered hope to a century-long archaeological search for a “mother city” — a culture’s true first transition from tribal family units into urban life. Such a discovery could help explain why humanity made the leap.

Ruth’s work would make her an icon in Peruvian archaeology. As a 2006 feature in Discover put it, “She has dug [Caral’s] buildings out of the dust and pried cash from the grip of reluctant benefactors. She has endured poverty, political intrigue, and even gunfire (her bum knee is a souvenir of an apparent attempted carjacking near the dig site) in the pursuit of her mission.”

She continues to study the ancient society today, eking out new clues buried in the desert. Over decades, her long-running project has revealed that the “Sacred City of Caral-Supe” covers roughly 1,500 acres of surprisingly complex and well preserved architecture. At its height, Caral was home to thousands of people and featured six pyramids, sunken circular courts, monumental stone architecture and large platform mounts made of earth. To researchers, these buildings are testament to a forgotten ceremonial and religious system.

She now holds honorary doctorate degrees from five universities and a Medal of Honor from Peru’s congress. In November of 2020, the BBC named her to their 100 Women of 2020 list.

But a controversy has also emerged in the two decades since the seminal study. Shady had a falling out with her co-authors in the years after their publication that turned nasty. Soon, other researchers had also started producing radiocarbon dates from the ancient cities that surround Caral. Surprisingly, some of those dates suggest they could be even older. Those dates could simply be evidence that these cities all existed simultaneously as part of a larger culture in this valley in the Andes. Or, it could be a sign that the true oldest city has yet to be found.

Aboriginal Australian Culture: Rock Art

How exciting is it, when you visit an art gallery in a big city like Sydney, Melbourne or Auckland?! One of the most exciting things, is to see what artists were painting years ago. Well, imagine seeing art from 30,000 years ago! Aboriginal people in Australia were using red ochre to paint on walls of rock shelters and caves, literally thousands of centuries ago. These ‘rock art’ paintings and also engravings show the beings of ‘the Dreaming’ and they are sacred sites because they show just how long Aboriginal people have been living there.

One of the largest collections of rock art is in the heritage-listed Dampier Archipelago in Western Australia, where the rock engravings are thought to number in the millions.

There are three main styles of rock art:

– engraved geometric figures such as circles, arcs, animal tracks and dots.

– simple painted or engraved silhouettes of human and animal forms.

– complex paintings, showing internal organs of humans and animals

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