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Appendix 1. Cahuachi

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About 20 kilometers downstream from the town of Nazca on the left bank of the similarly-named river there are half-sandbound fragments of ancient buildings named after once existing hacienda − Cahuachi. They represent low thick walls built of adobe blocks and located around the perimeter of the natural terraces on hillsides. On the biggest hill with a height of just over 25 m several levels of walls were formed. They did not simply follow the contours of the terraces, but corrected it and attributed more accurate and precise curb as well as rectangular shape in plan to their outer boundary. As a result, hills started to resemble Mexican step-pyramids. Cahuachi were located on the northern slopes of the first row of hills along the banks of the Nazca valley. Some walls were strengthened by buttresses supporting them from the outside and resting on the surface of the lower terrace.

The first detailed archaeological works at the site Cahuachi were conducted by William Duncan Strong in 1952-53. He was the head of the expedition of Columbia University (USA). His goal was to accomplish the archaeological study of the part of the coast of Peru. As a result of this work, the first map of the area was drawn, some excavations were conducted both inside and outside of some buildings. In the process of the excavations it was found out that they were made of adobe blocks of unusual shape, sections were described, and archaeological material was collected. Besides, high-quality aerial photography was conducted, which now allows us too see how this place looked before the beginning of the exploration (Figure 1, Figure 2). These photographs also became the basis of working maps.

The report concerning the results of the expedition never came out because of Strong’s death, but the Memoirs of the American Society of Archaeology (1957) published his hypothesis that Cahuachi was the capital of Nazca civilization with working and living quarters, ceremonial buildings, cemeteries and temples. From this conclusion it followed that this place could be of great interest for researchers.

Indeed, a cursory look at the aerial photos suggests that these we see traces of a settlement. Their elongation along the coast for 20 km gives hope for something extraordinary in scope and meaning. Cahuachi itself with its very dense constuction could be the center of this ancient settlement − some kind of a city. It occupied the area of about 5-6 km long.

But it took 30 years before a new generation of archaeologists came to this place. Since the mid-80s systematic archaeological research of the constructions is being done. One of the groups that worked there for 3 years was led by an American archaeologist Helaine Silverman. In 1993 she published a book called “Cahuachi in the Ancient Nasca World”, which is the most complete report on the results of the excavation of these structures to date. Its text is available at this address: Simultaneously with her, since 1984 and up to this day large-scale excavations organised by an Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Orefici are going on. He also directs the work on the reconstruction of the original type of buildings. All that we see in modern photos of Cahuachi is the result of his work (Figure 3).

Apparently, itis expected to turn this place into a significant tourist attraction in the future. Even now Mr. Orefici established a very nice museum in Nazca where numerous objects found during the excavations are exibited. It is currently believed that Cahuachi functioned from about the beginning of our era to the end of the first millennium.

 Aerial photo of Unit 2 “Great Temples” (by Strong, 1952) from the book by H

Figure 1. Aerial photo of Unit 2 “Great Temples” (by Strong, 1952) from the book by H. Silverman. (NB: Here and below, note the abundance of craters in the vicinity of the buildings and right on them).

 Unit 8 (by Strong, 1952) from the book byH

Figure 2. Unit 8 (by Strong, 1952) from the book byH. Silverman. It is clearly seen that people developed the hills in orthogonal system.

Looking at the smooth contours of structures in Figure 1 and 2 coated with a layer of sand, it seems that they have risen from the sea floor, where they were washed by waves and covered by deposits for a long time. And all this that we see is the remains of former greatness. However, it is not so. Under the cover of sand the structures are preserved almost intact.

 Cahuachi after reconstruction

Figure 3. Cahuachi after reconstruction. The central part, a view onto Unit 1 from the north (by AndyPixel, Panoramio 12377532).

For more than a quarter of the century Cahuachi are in the focus of constant attention of archaeologists. Despite this, the most important questions concerning their purpose still remain without a confident answer. It would seem that such numerous and primitive constructions can not seriously puzzle archeologists. However, it was not all so simple.

At the end of her monograph “Cahuachi in the Ancient Nasca World” Helaine Silverman devoted an entire chapter to possible purpose of these structures. Trying to tie together the data resulting from her excavations she did not find a better solution than to identify Cahuachi as an ancient ritual and ceremonial center (RCC). In her opinion, people used to come here from far away, stayed for a short time and conducted ​​ritual activities.

Similarly, the purpose of Cahuachi was interpreted by Dr. Giuseppe Orefici. At least, this is how his views were presented on the sites www.am-sur.com and www.bbc.co.uk, which I recommend to see after reading this section. Anyone who will do so will learn a lot of interesting things about the functioning of RCC and the meaning of geoglyphs. Unfortunately, in the Internet I found no works of the master himself concerning the results of the excavations at Cahuachi. If am I right, the fact of such closeness, perhaps, is not accidental.

At the same time, the report on the results of the work at Cahuachi during 1982-1994 entitled ”Nasca, Hipótesis y evidencias de su desarrollo cultural” written by Giuseppe Orefici exists at Andrea Drusini. It is kept at the Italian research center of archeological studies of pre-Columbian period (el Centro Italiano Studi e Ricerche Archeologiche Precolombian (CISRAP). 2003. 267 pp. Caja de 21 X 30 cms). Not being able to read it, let us turn to the book written by Silverman. The discovery of an ancient ritual and ceremonial center, especially a very big one, is an extremely rare event, and therefore requires some critical approach. An inner voice told me that it could not all be so simple.

In my opinion, wrong understanding of the processes that have been occurring in the region in the recent past that did not allow modern science to figure out the geoglyphs, had to affect the views towards other ancient objects. Without retelling the book, I will briefly outline my vision of the main reasons that led Silverman to such conclusions. The data obtained as the result of her archaeological research did not confirm the assumption expressed by Strong concerning the existence of a settlement here. The complex of fragments was not typical for this kind of object.

The structures themselves also did not look like the ruins of houses or temples. Low and thick adobe walls did not only frame the terraces, but also divided the space inside them into some rooms. They resembled strip foundations of some buildings, but they had neither holes for support posts nor any prints of weaving of reeds and poles usual for mud huts. Walls existed as if for themselves and did not hold anything. Hence, archaeologists concluded that the walls had no utilitarian purpose but were architectural elements. Of course, in the ancient world this could be done only for ritual purposes. Inability to find a rational explanation for the excavated walls was the first step on the way to the sacralization of the buildings. Their layout was also unusual (Figure 4).

First, between them there was no system of streets or walkways, where people could move. There were narrow corridors here and there about one meter wide and staircases made of adobe steps reinforced by poles, which were not designed for heavy traffic. This situation is very strange for a settlement. However, anything is possible in a sacral center, because mode of access to holy sites is unknown. The access could be limited.

 View of the central part of Cahuachi

Figure 4. View of the central part of Cahuachi. Marks “Unit ...” identify some places where Silverman led excavations. Red lines indicate sections.

Second, the details and the sizes of rooms (rooms and units as they were called by Silverman) were rather strange and did not correlate with living or support building. Some perimeters were hundreds of meters wide, while others were only a few meters wide. Larger ones, because of a small wall height (from half a meter to a meter) could neither serve as stock pens, nor have a protective function. Smaller one in most cases had no openings which could provide entrances inside the building.

Third, there was no usual complex of remains characteristic of settlements: garbage and manure heaps, furnaces and fireplaces, workshops, including weaving and pottery ones. At the same time, in the process of excavations they discovered many shards and sometimes whole pottery as well as the fragments of fabric. So, it was concluded that people did not live there constantly, and everything found there was brought from somewhere else. Then, the most natural thing to assume was that Cahuachi was the place of short and regulated stay, i.e. a place of pilgrimage. There were rare finds of whole dishes that could be used for ritual purposes.

Some other features and finds were tied to the sacred purpose of structures as well. For example, it was the abundance of craters around Cahuachi. As I wrote, they are now interpreted as the traces of search and excavation of graves by “black archeologists”. In the book of Silverman there is even a chapter “Looters and Looting” dedicated to this issue. The author believes, that the site is catastrophically looted and the most of graves have been emptied. Lots of craters around Cahuachi, that are pursued as graves, are regardedas a further evidence of the sacred orientation of the whole area, where people wanted to bury their loved ones.

An argument in favor of this was the discovery of burial places which according to the objects exhibited in the museum of Nazca included unique samples of funerary items. However, there are plenty of ancient tombs in the region in general. Then, there were some other unusual finds. In particular, in the sediment strata filling the room they found mummified human heads with a rope going through the skull. This so-called head trophy is a clearly ritual object. Besides, among the finds there were the bodies of adults and children in the poses improper for burial (for instance, upside down) with no traces of bone chambers or appropriate attire. This was interpreted as a sacrifice. Along with it, during excavations they found some neutral items: pots, numerous fragments of pottery, houseware, animal and plant remains (including edible), panpipe fragments, shells, pieces of cotton and woolen fabric, pieces of ropes, knitted toy dolls, and even faeces. Most of these could be the usual contents of garbage heaps. However, the heaps themselves were almost nonexistent.

Having acquainted with the logic of the authors I realized that the origin attributed to Cahuachi nowadays was formed rather by exclusion than was a result of a harmonious consideration of all the facts available. Such a situation always bears some possibility of finding a missing link that will put everything in place. Below I am going to present some things that seem to contradict the sacral origin assigned to this place.

The first strange thing was the elongation of this RCC along the valley. It would seem that a sacred place, where pilgrims go to, should have a more compact and definite localization. In any case, ritual actions, especially pagan ones, usually require a quite specifically designated object of worship. It is easier to believe this way. More doubt was caused by the absence of streets and squares for public events, that would seem mandatory both for settlements and ceremonial centers.

The second strange thing was the lack of a composite center (an architectural dominant) and any ruins of big structures, that could be temples or houses. Two of the most high and large hill where Silverman and Orefici focused their excavations and where, as it is believed, the main temples were located (Unit 1 and Unit 2) differ in two things only: they have higher density of structures and natural height. They did not form any architectural ensemble, that would make them the center of composition.

The third strange thing was the quality of constructions. In my opinion, it did not match any RCC either in the material or in the perfection of architectural forms. Despite the fact, that, in general, the organization of walls tended to be orthogonal, it was far from ideal. In the holy place of this scale it would be logical to expect a little more order, all the more so because people, who built it, most likely, either created the Nazca geoglyphs themselves or were the heirs of those skilled masters. Lots of of geoglyphs can still be seen only 1 km to the south of Cahuachi. There are geoglyphs to the north on the opposite bank of the Nazca valley, and on the nearby hills and valleys in the west and east. This closeness could not be accidental. Besides, when such large-scale ritual construction were built, one would expect the use of stone rather than adobe blocks, which is the cheapest and the least durable material. In addition, we know that beautiful outcrops of soft porous limestone were just a couple of kilometers away from Cahuachi.

The fourth strange thing was, if we assume that ancient people set out to give a more accurate outline to the hills, that the technology that they used which was far from optimal. It was much easier to turn the terraces into steps by cutting them or constructing additions rather than to erect walls around the perimeter, to strengthen them with buttresses, and to fill the gaps with soil.

The final strange thing is that the local folklore, apparently, did not preserve any special attitude about this place.

However, these are pretensions concerning general features of the structures that are visible to the naked eye. There are also questions about the nuances of their internal structure. Due to Strong’s work, deposits were uncovered in the sections on the hillsides. The character of their laying points to their water origin. There would be nothing unusual in this, unless uncovered layers contained scattered artifacts for all their thickness, that was 3-4 m. These were some fragments of adobe bricks, pieces of pottery, and corn cobs. This means that water was present in abundance in the area when people already lived there.

The results of the excavations in so-called “rooms” were also interesting.

First, almost all of them were filled with sediments to the top. Second, they often bore a well-defined horizontal stratification (Figure 5, Figure 6). The latter circumstance allowed to question the suggestion that the “rooms” were simply filled with soil. For me, as a geologist, this was a serious reason to think that the formation of layers might have taken place in water environment. It is there that a fine-grained loose material acquires the ability to spread and form horizontal layers and lenses.

 Small section through the south wall of the biggest unit №16

Figure 5. Small section through the south wall of the biggest unit №16. The north is on the right. The products of the erosion of adobe are marked along the northern surface of the wall. From the book by Helaine Silverman.

 Developed view of the excavation at the unit № 19

Figure 6. Developed view of the excavation at the unit № 19. Letter "F" with a number indicates the locations of interesting findings. From the book by Helaine Silverman.

Horizontal stratification was found not only in units and rooms, but also in many test pits. Often there were compact thin clay layers that Silverman called “ayapana” and “apisonado”. She described them as hardening in the process of drying of the aluviations on the soil after the overflow of the river or some heavy rain in the desert. So, again, it did not happen without water action. She identified similar layers within the unit as a floor. It was strange that sometimes there were several levels of such floors (Figure 7).

 5 layers of “apisonado” were excavated in this dug hole

Figure 7. 5 layers of “apisonado” were excavated in this dug hole.

In addition, the presence of water and its damaging effects was indicated by numerous destructions of the walls with the characteristic features of the erosion (melting) of adobe bricks, as well as the removal and burial of their pieces in the strata of the sediments on the slopes below (Figures 8 and 9). This is what Silverman wrote on this topic in the first chapter of her book:

«At Cahuachi we also see the effects of water erosion. The site surface is marked by gullies created by water action from infrequent strong rains; many of the mounds, such as Unit 2, show erosion channels caused by rainwater. The Room of the Posts on Unit 19 (see chap. 13) shows evidence of severe water damage on its eastern wall and northeast corner. Architect Giuseppe Orefici (personal communication 1989) excavated a major adobe wall on Unit 10 that had collapsed in antiquity, presumably as the result of a great flash flood; he is currently postulating a freak climatic disaster to account for the demise of Cahuachi».

I could not understand one thing: why there was no trace of such disaster in the surrounding valleys. There was no significant gullies up to the point of going into the deepened Nazca valley, no alluviations, no shingle spits along the direction of flows. Traces of watercourses are everywhere, but they are composed of sand. Hence, the water flows were not strong, and we cannot speak about any catastrophic downpours.

 Adobe debris indicating the erosion of the wall in the strata of deposits precipitation

Figure 8. Adobe debris indicating the erosion of the wall in the strata of deposits precipitation.

 Traces of erosion and destruction on the walls of so-called “Room of the Posts" on Unit 19

Figure 9. Traces of erosion and destruction on the walls of so-called “Room of the Posts" on Unit 19.

The most important thing that can shed light on the nature of water in Cahuachi is the location of washouts on the surface of the hills. The photo taken in 1952 (Figure 10) shows a hillside, which nowadays is completely covered by modern buildings (Figure 3). Here the gullies start almost from the top and cut through the brows of three terraces. I cannot explain them by climatic disaster, assumed by Orefici, because there is a contradiction between the size of the catchment area and the size of gullies. In addition, there are no gullies on a nearby hill, located slightly below, 50 m above the bottom (Figure 2). Why was not it affected by the climate disaster?

The conclusions presented in the article about Nazca geoglyphs make this a rhetorical question. Of course, it was not affected, because there was no climate disaster in form of showers. Instead, there was an outflow of artesian water from the hilltops. A similar outflow of water from the top can be seen on the neighboring large hill, which archaeologists call Great Temples (Unit 2). Its brow with a flat top on the north side is all cut by gullies (Figure 1). Water from it was poured onto the underlying terrace, which had adobe walls framing. A series of terraces located below could also get water flowing along special channels or by the way of water overflowing over the walls.

This nuance of gullies location is a very unnoticible detail. We should not demand itsexplanation from anyone, especially from archaeologists. Quite naturally, if anyone noticed it, all traces of water were attributed to the showers.

 Cahuachi, a view from NNW (Photo by Strong)

Figure 10. Cahuachi, a view from NNW (Photo by Strong). 40 years before the restoration of the terraces.

Another mystery is found on the top of this hill (Unit 1), the previous appearance of which can be seen in Figure 10. This is an artificial trench dug on the top and opened on the eastern side. This is how it looks now (Figures 11 and 12).

 Handmade trench on the hilltop (Unit 1)

Figure 11. Handmade trench on the hilltop (Unit 1). View from the south to the north. Photo by Strong in 1952. From Silverman’s book. (Gullies here also start from the top.)

Archaeologists still can not understand its purpose. Some believe that this is a tomb robbed in antiquity, others believe this is a kind of altar with the exit oriented towards Cerro Blanco − the sacred mountain of the Incas. In my opinion, everything is much more prosaic. Artesian waters used to flow from the top of the hill, as well as from the neighboring one, and the trench was made to organize its flow to the fields or to get rid of excess water. Lining the top with adobe blocks seen in Figure 12 on the right had the same purpose. They held water running from the sides. The layout of the adobe walls on the slopes of this hill readily allowed irrigation of “hanging gardens” by water flowingfrom the top. However, the configuration of the walls, which in this place are now reconstructed, makes me think that the organization of the flow was to drain the excess water rather than for irrigation purposes. Even though in Figure 13 we can see that the old layout was more complex than the modern one, it is not easy to understand it, because were were several levels of walls made on the slopes of the hill at different times, and they had different layout which overlapped each other.

 Trench on the hilltop

Figure 12. Trench on the hilltop. Its depth is about 2 meters, its width is 10 m, its height is 20 m. On the right one can see the remains of the top cover made of two layers of conical adobe bricks (red arrow). Blue arrow indicates the mountain Cerro Blanca. The strip of vegetation marks the valley of the Nazca river.

 View from the east to the trench exit

Figure 13. View from the east to the trench exit. In the top one can see some uncovered bedrock (marls). The trench goes down and sometimes turns into a tunnel. Bright smooth walls are a remake.

Once we accept the theory that we are dealing here with the artesian water that flew out of the hills, much of the structural features and the purpose of Cahuachi becomes clear. Filled with soil artificial terraces become simple agricultural structures, analogues of rice bays that people in southeast Asia still built on the slopes of the mountains. The purpose and design features of the walls in Cahuachi become clear as well. They were needed to keep incoming water and to form deepenings that could be filled with a large amount of soil. Loose cover on the hill represented by sea sand and pebble deposits could not be good soil. It did not hold water and required the additions of clay, fine-grained sand, and humus. Singnifican thickness of the walls supported by buttresses was needed to hold ground mass, which increased fluidity in water environment, hence, strongly pressed against the walsl. Clay horizons of the rooms, which were perceived as floors, and the coating of the walls with clay plaster also became clear. All of this was done for waterproofing of the created container to prevent leakage of water from the soil. During the excavations in the “floor”of so-called rooms and units in clay horizons many round craters of different size were opened. One of them is marked in Figure 7 (cyst of the finding 21). Usually, they were filled with sand, which sometimes contained a small amount of plant remains, gravel, or sherds. The abundance of such forms was noted by Strong. Archaeologists depending on the situation viewed them as hiding places or as holes for pillars. However, for some reason there were no treasures in those hiding places, which was blamed on robbers. Besides, there were no quarry stones around the holes, that would seem to be quite appropriate there. In my opinion, these places indicate the leaks of water through the defects of clay waterproofing. The rounded shape was acquired by them during a long period of water leaking. Clay was washed out, and its place was filled by overlying sand. Sand is washed because of constant filtration of water flowing through. An opposite process was also possible, that is, some springs might have worked ​​their way up in these places.

This new approach made it clear why there were no streets or squares. In order to maintain these fields, hanging corridors and stairs were sufficient. Paradoxical for a settlement almost complete absence of garbage heaps was due to the fact that all waste including kitchen waste and faeces were dumped by people onto the fields. I think that this custom has been preserved in Nazca until now. This explains large amount of garbage in the sediments and the presence of layers rich in organic material in the sections. In other words, Cahuachi did not represent a settlement or ritual-ceremonial center, but irrigated fields on the hillslopes extended along the Nazca valley. Hence, their confinedness to better lighted northern slopes (NB: we are in the southern hemisphere). The density of structures could be explained by the presence or absence of water for their irrigation. Especially interesting is the form of adobe blocks that were used for the construction of walls. Figure 14 shows some very original walls. One can see that they were not composed of usual rectangular bricks, but of some clay balls.

 Laying of adobe blocks

Figure 14. Laying of adobe blocks. Their modern state should not confuse anybody. They were deformed by the process of mountain building and shrank while drying.

In fact, these unusual bricks had a more or less flattened conical shape and a flat base (Figure 15). They were laid on this base with cones up, close to each other. The intervals between them were filled with clay. Using such way of laying in Cahuachi may have been due to the fact that it was necessary to achieve maximum waterproofing of the walls. Wedge-shaped blocks and tamping while filling provided fewer cracks. Rectangular bricks, which were known in those days, could not create proper tightness of the wall, because when laying them it was difficult to achieve complete filling of all joints between bricks with mud. More orderly stacking of rectangular bricks in this case was a disadvantage, because it created the system of weakened zones within the entire wall. When penetrated by water it would have been impossible to tell where exactly it leaks. Besides, rectangular bricks could not be tampered because they would break and create additional cracks.

 Adobe blocks used for the construction of walls

Figure 15. Adobe blocks used for the construction of walls. Museum of Cahuachi in Nazca.

Examining the location of Cahuachi we will see that not all of it is located as terraces on the hillsides. Parts of it did not follow these rules. These are, in particular, Units 4 and 16, which we can see in Figure 4. These were the very first adobe perimeters. They had a U-shaped configuration in plan and were several hundred meters long. When they were being built this place was a plain slightly inclined to the south. The hills did not exist yet. A perspective view from the south to Unit 4 is shown in Figure 17. The northern wall was absent, this is where water was flowing in. A section through the south wall of Unit 16 was shown before in Figure 5. There too were some adobe blocks washed by water. Water that used to trickle from subtle elevations that existed then in place of the hills gathered inside this fenced area. The wall worked as a dam. Once the flow of water stopped and was absorbed into the soil, a large plot was ready for planting. The scale of topography changes here can be estimated by looking at Figure 16, which shows the present location of the wall. Regardless of the slopes, it climbs the hills and goes down into the valley for all 300 meters like the Great Wall in China. Of course, the way it is now it cannot fulfill any supporting or terrace-forming functions. But it is this way now…

 The wall on Unit4

Figure 16. The wall on Unit4. View to the west from the hilltop. Unit 1. Notice the steepness of the slopes.

The absence of an unpermeable layer, which would stop water, could be a weak point of these first Cahuachi. Other structures that began to be created later on the terraced of newly formed hills after the beginning of the reorganization of the relief were equipped with water-resistant bottoms. This is “ayapana” and “apisonado” that Silverman took for a floor.

 Unit 4

Figure 17. Unit 4. Perspective view from the north. The southern wall of the Unit crosses two hills and a valley. In the picture one can clearly see some short crosswise supporting walls on Unit 1.

The most compelling argument in favor of sacred nature of Cahuachi is a huge number of craters, which with are considered by most archaeologists as excavated graves. On examination of these fields I was surprised by very little number of items that could not be of any interest for the robbers and had to be left in place. These, above all, are human bones and some items like fragments of urns and dishes, adobe bricks used for covering the hole, poles, etc. All of this was there, but only sporadically. In our forests I happened to see unearthed German cemeteries from World War II by treasure hunters (some of our people have such hobby). There were much more bones there. Traces of real graves, which we have seen in the routes, looked like holes and not like craters. Lots of them were on slopes of the hill near modern cemetery in Palpa and Pinchango Alto. A number of the above mentioned remains there did not cause any doubts that these were real graves.

The second thing that I could not understand was the lack of heaps of soil dug out by “black archaeologists” in the process of digging. There were only craters. It was hard to imagine that next treasure hunters spread around the soil that had been taken out.

The third thing that alarmed me was the abundance of such places and the density of the overlaying of craters upon each other in the basin of the Rio Grande. Look at Figure 18. Does this surface look like a man-made one? Only on this spot of about a hundred meters in diameter one can count up to more than a thousand craters. At the same time, there are no heaps, working platforms, or walkways. Besides, craters greatly fiffer in size. Really, could the depth of burials and the size of tombs differ so much?

In addition, there is one more thing. The picture in Figure 18 was taken by Strong in 1952, at the dawn of this business. It was only 30 years ago that the first archaeologists identified the value of ancient ceramics encouraging their workers to search for it and paying well for the finds. Nazca ceramics was not known to the world of lovers of antiquities yet, therefore it was of little value in the market. There was no gold or silver here. I do not think that in this a situation huaqueros would dig holes with such enthusiasm. The origin of craters is likely a natural one. I suppose they appeared due to the dissolution and subsidence of the underlying carbonate solid deposits. Craters only mark this process from the surface.

 According to Silverman this is how robbed area looks

Figure 18. According to Silverman this is how robbed area looks. Foto by Strong, 1952.

I saw something similar in shape on the shore of the Arctic Ocean at the beach, where the previous year ice was buried under fresh storm sediment. For some reason, it melted in the form of craters, which were repeated by sand and gravel poured into them. Perhaps here too, near the sides of valleys characterized by improved drainage the processes of the dissolution of underlying bedrock due to artesian waters flowing down from the hills were especially intense. After all, it was to these places that such craters were confined to. In the area of ​​Cahuachi, the bedrock underlying sands is presented by rather soft carbonated clays and limestone. Carbonate and clay component was washed out, which could well lead to bedrock shrinkage. Further, the process of erosion could be additionally controlled by the location of cracks. Hence, this may be the reason of forming craters along the lines, which is mistakenly taken for human activity (Figure 19).

The proposed solution is only a hypophisis, but it can be checked by deeper digging of craters not stopping when “sterile” deposits deprived of cultural remains are reached. In the days before the reorganization of the relief and in its initial stages, most likely, there were no craters. The profiles of the valleys were less contrast, the groundwater level was high, and there was no intensive karstification along bench faces due to trickling water. Here, close to their homes, people buried their dead. But burials were not as massive as it is believed now. Later, during the formation of craters, some of the graves got opened in their sides. This led to suppose that they were robbed.


Figure 19. Cahuachi. Linearity of craters’ location.

So, removing Cahuachi from Ritual Ceremonial Center into the category of agricultural structures we reduce its status, but get closer to the truth and give answers to many questions related to it. Perhaps, this suspicion of routine purpose of the structures, despite the most interesting findings, prevented Giuseppe Oreffici from publishing the materials of the excavations. It is one thing to study the ancient Vatican of South America, as one of the archaeologists pretentiously named Cahuachi, and it is quite another thing to dig some prehistoric gardens, even containing ancient tombs.

Let us conclude the topic of Cahuachi, about which much more can be written, by mentioning some possible causes of its depopulation. Destruction of the walls, which were found during the excavations, certainly was not done by enemies or worshippers. It is unlikely that people even continued the process started by nature. I think that the destruction of Cahuachi was a consequence of earthquakes that accompanied the most active phases of mountain building in the Andes. During this phase many other ancient constructions in South America were destroyed, for example, Oyyataytampe and Puma Punku. These earthquakes, judging by their consequences, are not comparable with those that we see now. This is understandable, since tectonic activity is on the decline now. Devastating effects of the earthquakes could be enforced by water that filled the “rooms”, and by deformation of the walls directly in the zone of tectonic dislocations, along which the hill grew up. It was then that people could sink or get buried in the deposits. Strong and Silverman found corpses of an old woman and a two-year child in the strata with no signs of graves. It could also happen that they died falling into the quicksand over some spring wells spurting out of the bottom of terraces (I wrote about many craters filled with washed sand, which were opened in the process of excavations). Cahuachi was forsaken because, like the surrounding plain, it was deprived of water, without which agriculture was not possible there.

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