PACHA: The Chancay – Huaral – Atavillos Archaeological Research Project

The Chancay – Huaral – Atavillos Archaeological Research Project began in 1999, with the objective of conducting intensive research in two late pre-Hispanic societies of the Central Andes, today know as the Chancay and the Atavillos cultures. The first one developed on the desert Pacific coast, in the lower courses of the Chancay and Huaura valleys. The second one lived on top of the Andean summits in the upper Chancay valley.

The Chancay culture has been investigated only by few archaeologists (among them polish geologist and archaeologist dr Andrzej Krzanowski), despite the complexity of its settlements patterns and elaborated funerary customs. Chancay elites lived in the settlements which we can describe as proto-cities, with monumental architecture made of adobe bricks and stones, whereas the commoners dwelled in the villages. The Chancay people buried their dead on the extensive and complex cemeteries, where tombs of up to 10 meters deep have been found containing multiple individuals with up to more than a hundred associated objects, among them vessels, textiles, metal objects, wood and bone implements, objects lithic, among many others. As many other Andean societies, the Chancays wrapped their dead in textiles to obtain the form of the bundle or fardo, with an aim to convert the cadaver into the powerful ancestor called mallqui. Chancay fabrics and ceramics, which can be found in many collections and museums around the world, leave no doubt that those people achieved mastery in weaving and making pottery, which together represents their worldview and the spiritual culture.

For its part, the Atavillos culture was developed in the high Andean region, having as characteristic its extensive settlements located on the top of the highest hills, with its typical Kullpi buildings, up to 8 meters high, inside which they developed multiple activities (domestic, storage, funerary and ceremonial), some of them related to the cult of the ancestors and the tutelary hills (apus).

The PACHA project is led by archaeologist dr. Pieter van Dalen Luna, professor at the National University of San Marcos in Lima – Peru, with the participation of more than a hundred specialists in archaeology and related disciplines, both Peruvians and foreigners. Among the sites that have been investigated in recent years we can mention Cuyo, Lumbra, Macatón, Castillo de Pasamayo, Sacachispa, Andoma, Pampa de Animas, Hualmay, Cerro Colorado, among others of the Chancay culture; as well as the sites of Rupac, Purunmarca, Araro and Marca Piche, corresponding to the Atavillos culture.