The Macatón site

THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF MACATÓN

The archaeological site of Macatón is located in the lower valley of the Chancay-Huaral river, on its right bank, on a terrace located in the northern part of Macaton hill. With its altitude of 614 m a.s.l. is the highest, isolated spur in the whole lower valley. There is no doubt that in the pre-Hispanic times this place had great importance for local societies, and the Chancay people treated it as the pacarina (the place where all the people comes from, and where they return after death). In the upper part of the hill, there are ceremonial structures, probably connected to the ancestor cults. In the vicinity of Macatón there are many smaller archaeological sites, probably subordinated to it in the pre-Hispanic times.

In administrative terms, the Macatón cemetery is located inside the El Angel village, Huaral district and province, department of Lima. The coordinates UTM for the site are: 265200 E and 8729900 N.  

Chancay Valley, the location of the Macatón site is indicated by red arrow.

The Macatón cemetery is the most extensive funerary area in the Chancay-Huaral valley that was used in the last centuries before the Spanish Conquest. Unfortunately, many parts are totally destroyed and covered by modern buildings. However, thanks to the archival photography collection from 1945 and 1982, we are able to reconstruct its original layout, dividing the site to three sectors:

SECTOR A

This sector is the one that we have worked the most during this season and where we have made the excavation units. It is located in the north end of the spur of the Macatón hill, limiting with the agricultural lands. This sector has been heavily damaged and destroyed by modern settlements such as El Ángel and La Florida. It is an extensive funerary area of ​​constant occupation from the Middle Horizon (750 – 1050 AD) to the Late Horizon (1470 – 1533 AD), on which, at the end of the Late Intermediate Period (1050 – 1470 AD) and Late Horizon, rectangular enclosures were built with the construction technique that used huge mud blocks placed one on the top of another. There are as much as 150 enclosures, and some of them are interconnected forming residential, administrative and artisanal groups. Thanks to the photos from 1945 we know that there was a raised platform with a ramp located on the north-western part of the site. Such building, usually called “a pyramid with aramp” is one of the hallmarks of the Late Intermediate Period architectonic tradition. Originated on the North Coast and widespread on the whole Andean coast, raised platforms with ramp – together with a rectangular plaza located in front of it and other buildings – are interpreted as a palace or administrative centers. The presence of such construction on the Macatón site confirms its function as an important regional center of power.

The majority of the walls were constructed by placing blocks consecutively one on top of the other, with a layer of wet mud between them. The walls are usually wider in the lower part and thinner in the upper part, with an average thickness of 0.7 – 1.00 m. The constructive strategy of this sector was that firstly the external walls (with a height from 2.5 to 3 meters) were built to delimitate huge enclosures, and then inside those enclosures, they were building smaller walls which marked different areas, connected by internal passages. All enclosures are connected through streets.  Although on the surface these structures are poorly conserved, during the excavation we discovered their parts that still presented original decoration, including the graffiti (usually figures of birds, cats or fish), and most of the walls were painted white, with a whitish material similar to stucco.

On the surface, we found a cultural material such as ceramic fragments of different styles, both local and foreign, which evidences the interregional interactions of local Chancay populations with other distant regions. Among these styles, we have the Teatino, Huaura, Pativilca-Supe, Pampa de Animas (Middle Horizon); Chancay, Lauri Impreso, Huacho (Late Intermediate Period); Inca local, Chimú-Inca, Chancay del Tawantinsuyu (Late Horizon); and Early Colonial including a Colonial Chancay of the Tawantinsuyu-Colonial transition period.

Chancay tomb at Macatón – first level of offerings

We have also identified pieces of fabrics made from different materials such as cotton, camelid wool, plant fibers, and human hair; and executed in various techniques, such as tapestries, networks, gauze, plain fabrics, among others. We also found numerous human and animal bone remains, wood remains, ropes, some lithic artifacts, among others.

Sector A, ruined walls of enclosures.


SECTOR B

This sector is located southwest of sector A and covers almost the fifth part of the extension of the previous one. It consists of a funeral area (probably the part of the one of sector A), which extends until the first slopes that rise towards the low hills of sand of Macatón. Much of this sector has disappeared due to the spreading of modern settlement and the advancement of the surrounding agricultural lands. Numerous holes made by grave robbers can be seen on the present surface, with abundant cultural material left on the surface. There are no buildings, except for some adobe walls that were part of burial chambers.