THE CULTURE OF CAJAMARCA
In the region which is at present Cajamarca a long and important cultural process of the Andean type took place, which received influences from other contemporary regional cultures, settling into a definite pattern after an independent process of social development, during which it assimilated and blended different traditional cultures, religions and other local social features.
The Cajamarca Region was settled at the same time as the whole of the rest of the central Andes area, the oldest remains found to date being those found by archaeologist Cardich in the caves of Cumbe, i.e. stone tools and human remains from hunter-gatherers that are around 10,500 years old by Carbon 14 dating.
A theory held by archaeologist Julio C. Tello is that the Maraņon or Cajamarca Culture appears on the scene in the early intermediate period (around 200 BC), lasting until 800 AD.
Archaeology has provided us with some important information on the first agricultural communities established in the present Valley of Cajamarca, its environs, and different areas in the region, among which are:
Near the city of Cajamarca lie the remains of a ceremonial structure that is more than 3,000 years old. Evidences of complex social organization have also been found, heavily based on agriculture with the presence of abundant local ceramics.
This is a Ceremonial Center located very close to Huacayloma, but belonging to a later period, featuring amongst its remains ceramic masks; it has been determined that the period featuring these remains has a violent beginning, as the previous monuments were all destroyed. Those built later were striking ritual monuments, all located near Cajamarca.
This is a very important archaeological complex containing several buildings, among which we can mention the "Cumbemayo Channel". This channel is a prodigious feat of engineering by our ancestors, at an altitude of 3,760 meters above sea level, featuring a hydraulic system consisting of a 7,600 m long channel, of which 4,500 m are carved out of the rock, all of this enabling (in the year 500 BC approximately) the transfer of the waters from the Pacific basin to the Atlantic one; The channel collects the condensation water from the high Cordillera grassland, that acts like a huge sponge, collecting mist water. This area is known as Jalca. (See the Cumbemayo article in the same series); it also possesses several ritual edifices.
The Kunturwasi Temple:
The oldest samples of Cajamarca goldsmithry come from the ancient site of Kunturwasi (San Pablo district), where in the second millennium BC the local inhabitants started building the imposing stairways and stone walls of a pyramidal structure with a square and temples on its top. Likewise from the 7th to the 2nd centuries BC, representatives of the Cupisnique coastal culture settled in the area, a fact proven by the great similarity of their ceramic ware, goldsmith work, sculpture and architecture with that of the Chavin culture. The motifs of the ceramics found here are similar to those of Chavin architecture, with large-fanged deities and others with aquiline or owl-like features and other details of elaborate and complex decoration, well represented in the specimens on display at the local museum.
The Little Windows of Otuzco:
Some 8 km from the city of Cajamarca is located the place known as "Las Ventanillas de Otuzco" (the Little Windows of Otuzco), an impressive collection of funerary niches carved into the rock wall of a mountain; some of the orifices are mere niches, while others connect with a corridor leading to the heart of the mountain, where there is a room with more niches carved into the walls: other similar groupings exist in Bambamarca, Quilcate, San Cristobal, Cerro Yanguil and Combayo. All these tombs have been sacked a long time ago, so little is known of the funerary rites associated with them; however, the remains of ceramics indicate that they belonged to the Cajamarca culture, during the late intermediate period (900 to 1470 AD).
The Kingdom of Cuismanco and the Inca Conquest:
The last stage of Cajamarca's cultural development corresponds to the Kingdom of Cuismanco; at that time, it was the most powerful state, controlling a major part of the region (the present provinces of Chota, Hualgayoc, Santa Cruz, Cajamarca, Celendin, Contumaza, San Marcos, and Cajabamba), having formed an alliance with the Chimu to resist Inca conquest.
The Incas conquered Cajamarca in 1462, after a fierce battle in which Cuismanco Capac (who had sided with the Incas) died, signaling a transition stage of changing lifestyle, customs, tradition, religion and language that was superseded by the Spanish conquest 50 years later.
The ceramics of Cajamarca developed over five distinct stages. They were manufactured from kaolin paste, possessing a unique type of decoration, setting them apart from all the surrounding ceramic ware; the 1st, 2nd and part of the 3rd stages corresponded to the local development period, the remainder of the 3rd stage to the middle period, and the 4th and 5th stages to the late intermediate period and the Inca conquest.
Different researchers believe that due to their similarity there is a connection between the unique and particularly beautiful ceramics of Cajamarca and those of Central America, and especially those of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. This belief has not been confirmed or refuted to date.