Who are the main cultures in the North Coast of Peru?

The north coast of Peru saw expending a lot of pre-Hispanic culture for about 5000 years. Sometimes, those cultures developed simultaneously and in parallel, sometimes we saw a culture overtake others, creating regional domination areas. In this way, we can see making and come undone complex cultural relations and independent relations in all the region. Small glimpse of pre-Hispanic culture on the Peruvian north coast.

Huaca Prieta culture is one of the first civilization on the Peruvian coast in all the subcontinent. Appeared between 3500 and 2300 before JC, the age of preceramic, this people didn’t knew how to made jewels but they knew how to made fishing nets and weave. Their agricultural knowledge were limited to cotton and a few vegetables, and they lived thanks to the hunt, fishing and harvest. The few objects we have testify their artistic sense; beginnings of weaving, gravures on stiffs… The major archaeologic rests of this period are what we name “Huaca”, those tombs half-buried and recovered with a mound of land or stones. 

Between 1000 and 30 bf JC, the Chavin culture developed from the Central Andes through all the coast using cultural and artistic relation to impose, living a period of climax between 800 and 400 bf JC. Its name come from the major site it left behind and that was probably in the center of its cultural empire; Chavin de Huantar. On almost all the sites from this period, we can see representations of their major god, a feline (jaguar or puma) as well as others local animals. We have very few information about the day life of this civilization except some advances in agriculture. We have more information about their religious believing and their artistic development, which influenced the whole region. 

Mochica culture, also named Moche culture, developed between 200 bf JC and the year 850. It is one of the first culture who really started ceramic production, potteries, textiles and the use of metal on the Peruvian coast. Ceramics in particular are reputed for their decoration detailed with anthropomorphic or zoomorphic shapes, with often red, ochre and white colors. Most of all, it was the little erotic statues which made famous this civilization. All positions and combinations (men, women, and animals) are reproduced with realism. About the archaeological sites, we noted two: temple of the Sun and the Moon, two pyramids, basses and made of adobe onto which every successive dynasty added a stage. On the other side, agriculture and agricultural technics made a push forward at this period thanks to the mastery on irrigation technics, very useful in a deserted environment. The decline of Mochica civilization came a little bit before the Huari expansion and domination. 

A few time after the fulfilment of Mochica culture, it was the turn of Sican to take the control of the region. Between 750 and 1375, this people created a commercial and exchange grid between Pacific and the high Andean plains, from the south of Colombia to the north of Chili; precious stones, raw materials, shells, alpaca wool and, especially, various metals were traded daily. Indeed, Sican people is known to incredibly develop work technics on metals; molten gold with lost wax, fabrication of copper with arsenic (which is close to bronze), different gold, silver and arsenide alloys, all this in crucibles heated to more than 1000°! A very great number of this metallic objects have been found in sites left by the Sica; Batan Grande, Tucume pyramids… The other characteristic, a little bit strange, it’s the way they buried their dead; the head looking to the south, in tombs with different chambers and fulfilled with offerings and mortuary objects… It was the natural catastrophes that would overwhelmed this important culture on the Peruvian north coast. 

At the same time of Sican culture, Chimu culture developed between 850 and 1450. Even if their exploited less their artistic sense than Sipan (their ceramics are in one color, mostly dark), the chimu production is more oriented to functional objects and metallurgy. But, Chimu set themselves apart with incredible architectural realizations. The capital, Chan Chan, housed 10 000 habitants in well-decorated constructions (geometrics forms on walls, incrustation of metals and precious stones…); we can count a huge quantity of workshops , habitations, walls of 9 meters high, canals, tanks and temples where, presumably, they adored the Moon. The information we have about his civilization are relatively detailed; indeed, the Inca conquered this territory only 50 years before the Spanish arrival so the commentators could easily have information from older persons who lived during the Chimu Empire before the Inca arrival. 

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