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THE MARAŅON AND HUALLAGA
RIVER BASINS

The archaeological study of the settlement and cultural development of the area between the Maraņon and Huallaga Rivers, known as Rio Abiseo National Park and belonging to the San Martin Region, as well as its area of influence, started in 1965 with the first expedition to the then recently discovered Gran Pajaten. Over the next few decades, several Peruvian and foreign archaeologists have contributed to a wider knowledge of the chronology of human occupation in this area, as well as the regional settlement patterns and others that are more locally focused. Although the funerary complex of Los Pinchudos, has been previously described in another article of this series as a burial complex for immigrant peoples, recently arrived at the edge of the jungle, it may also be seen as a monument built by the complex societies that originated and developed within the mist-forest and all its area of influence. This cultural development started with the human occupation of outlying forest areas some 10,000 years ago (according to the archaeologists Lennon, in 1989, and Church, in his two reports of 1996 and 1999). If the evidence from all the archaeological sites that have been intensively researched to date is combined, one obtains an almost complete sequence of the regional pre-Hispanic occupation. The widest and clearest evidence comes from the archaeological excavations in the Manachaqui Cave and Gran Pajaten (Church 1994, 1996).

The Manachaqui Cave is a rock cave, located at 3,650 meters above sea level, in the sub-Alpine ecological region of the upper boundary of the forest. The stratified deposits in this area provided stone and other materials that were subjected to radioactive carbon-14 tests, showing three different stages in the pre-ceramic occupation. One interpretation of the data obtained from these strata suggests that the cave was a temporary camp for nomad hunters up to the last few centuries of the pre-ceramic period; during the latter time there is evidence of the practice of agriculture in the valley by groups of people who probably used the cave as a semi-permanent or occasional dwelling place.

Around 1500 BC ceramics began to be used in the cave. The analyses of the pottery designs found indicate contact with the early societies of the mountain forests of the Cajamarca sierra area, as well as other, perhaps more northerly ones (Chachapoyas). Towards the end of the Early Period (around 900 BC) the Manachaqui Cave took on the role of a temporary shelter for travelers along the inter-regional road network that developed during the "Early Horizon".

Ceramics from the years 900 and 400 BC are very similar in style to those of Chorrera and Upano in certain areas of Ecuador. After a 200-year break in the sequence of occupation, the cave came into use again.

Inca expansion left abundant evidence throughout the area. Apparently the Manachaqui Cave continued to be occupied, within an interchange system. In fact, there is abundant evidence of interregional communication in style forms and iconography, textiles, goldsmithry, ceramics and construction. During the "Late Horizon" we find impressive buildings in the forest, such as the main buildings of Gran Pajaten and La Playa. This latter period of the pre-Hispanic era is when the societies of the Rio Montecristo basin reach the peak of their development as seen in their amazing buildings, showing extraordinary architecture and stonework. The tombs of the "Los Pinchudos" funerary complex fall within this new architectural and decorative style, in the Montecristo valley. Other less-known sites, such as Cerro Central, also must belong to this period and area.

Escobedo in 1967. In 1975, Alex Cabrol took some general photographs where one can see aribalos and Inca ceramics inside the buildings and the remains of bones outside one of them, showing that the site had been visited previously to 1975 (according to Bonavia in 1968). Afterwards in 1980, the Peruvian archaeologist Federico Kauffman Doig studied the "Los Pinchudos" site, in regard to the prominent phalluses on the statues that hang from one of the buildings of the complex, located at 2,860 meters above sea level on the south bank of the Montecristo river, a tributary of the Abiseo. This site consists of a group of eight buildings at one level and one building under the first level, placed in a narrow rocky shelter, defined and protected by the geological structure. Here this 30m-long by 3.5m-wide funerary complex was built, showing a 5 meter difference in level between one end and the other. In 1985 the archaeological mission of the University of Colorado, commanded by Thomas Lennon drew up a diagram of the site, documenting the buildings in detail, and also collecting the ceramic objects found throughout the complex.

The team from the University of Colorado (US), concluded that the monument was built during the period of Inca rule (1450 to 1530 AD). Later, some new research by F. Kauffmann D, set out to prepare more detailed plans of the complex, as well as describe the buildings. Two technical reports were prepared in 1991 and 1996 respectively, informing the state of upkeep of the site and the critical condition exhibited by each of the buildings. Another report by the archaeologist Daniel Morales, presented in 1996, indicates the danger posed by the deteriorated state of the mausoleums. Within Rio Abiseo National Park area there are significant archaeological remains, including rocky overhangs used as shelters, ceremonial buildings, dwellings, platforms, terraces, roads and funerary complexes. Among the better known sites are the ruins of Gran Pajaten (located in Rio Abiseo National Park), as well as the mausoleum by the name of Los Pinchudos.

The buildings were set up on bedrock and built with worked stone blocks. These are of different sizes and shapes (rounded or rectangular, although all the shapes are irregular). The floors of some of the buildings are of stone slabs, and slate was used for building the walls. Wooden beams were used for roofing, and these were covered with stone slabs. An interesting feature is the iconography exhibited by some of the buildings on which the external walls featured carefully designed geometrical figures.

The excellent state of conservation of Los Pinchudos is due to its location north of the precipice. The strong tropical sun creates a micro-climate in which cactus and vegetation (thanks to the rainfall predominating in the valley) cover the area. Here one finds preserved five wooden statues (originally they were six), hanging from the eaves of the N° 5 Building. The still-visible traces of pigment on these statues show that they were painted (a tradition followed by the Chachapoyas of painting statues, as in De los Condores Lagoon). The excellent conservation of scraps of textiles and other artifacts is comparable to that found in De los Condores Lagoon (according to Von Hagen and Guillen, 1998; as well as informed by Von Hagen in his second report, 2000). These arid micro-climates enabled the Chachapoyas to bury and thus preserve the remains of distinguished individuals pertaining to the nobility. The selection of sites such as precipices or crags, is a sign that they wished to preserve these tombs from desecration by strangers, as well as providing excellent lookout points for their ancestors, who could thus eternally stand guard over the lands and activities of the community.


 
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