The Chilca Valley lies on the eastern coast of Peru, surrounded by the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean , called the puna zone. The puna zone is a barren, wind-swept area consisting of open fields and rolling grasslands and has an altitude of 4000 m. It was believed that this land was insignificant and basically an area where hunters sought out animals when meat supplies were low. The Chilca Valley was an important traveling route for coastal inhabitants to the highlands. Two major sites have been discovered within this area, namely Tres Ventanas and Kiqche. These two sites are located on the rim of the puna zone about 3900 m above sea level.
The people of the Andean culture who inhabited this region were hunters and gatherers. They inhabited this region from the Early Archaic Period through the Formative Period. (8000-4500 BP.) Animals such as deer and camelid, which were natives of the Andean Mountains, were the prime sources of protein and fat for these Middle Archaic peoples. It wasnt until about 10,000 years ago, that this culture began to synthesize into a predominantly gardening community. Evidence at both the Tres Ventanas and Kiqche sites suggest the primitive forms of such vegetables as potatoes, yams and ullucos. This process of evolving took place primarily because of the domestication of the camelid and the lessened population of hunted animals. Other artifacts found at such sites include clam shells and various sea shell structures. These artifacts tell us that the Chilca Valley was a vital means of travel from the Pacific Coast to the Andes Mountains, thus inferring trade between surrounding communities.
The reasons for the abandonment of these two areas of civilization seem to vary between researchers. Some believe the over-whelming instability of climate due to fluctuating rainfall and extreme temperatures drove the people off to surrounding communities. Others maintain that over-population and a depletion of resources brought about disaster amongst the people and slowly the culture was erased. Still, the question remains as to why this culture chose such an extreme place to inhabit when the coast and surrounding basins provided much more subsistence. Until further data is collected and artifacts found, this question haunts those who have come into contact with it.
Jennings, Jesse D. Ancient South Rick, John W. Prehistoric Hunters of the High Andes, Academic Press Inc 1980.
Click here for the Spanish version