Dimensions of Picimachey Cave
Width: 55 meters
Depth: 25 meters
Height: 10 meters
Altitude:2,900 meters Above Sea Level
(All dates are in BP - years before present)
The Ayacucho (Eye-ah-coo-choo) Basin is located within central Peru and consists of several archeological sites which date from 23,000 B.C. to 1470 AD. The basin itself has been a host to an estimated 23 civilizations from the Wari to the Inca. Though there are many sites within the Ayacucho Basin, the civilization known asthe Ayacucho, occupied a relatively long timespan of roughly 2,000 years, and was the second civilization to live within the Basin. Ayacucho has been known by many names such as Flea Cave, Ayacucho, and by the multitude of archeological sites found in the Ayacucho Basin.
The site which has yielded the most archeological artifacts has been Picimachey Cave. Picimachey Cave is located 24 kilometers north of Ayacucho City. It has been estimated by archeologists that the cave and it's inhabitants were living during a time after the glacial period, which made the basin a forest zone, rich with plants and animal inhabitants. The preservation of the Picimachey Cave has been theorized to have been caused by a stream which backed up into the cave and deposited a thin layer of peat around the Picimachey settlement. This thin layer of peat aided in the preservation of hundred of tools, which have given archeologist's a greater picture of what life was like within Ayacucho Civilization.
The Ayacucho Basin has yielded many artifacts of the Ayacucho civilization. Though there were five sites excavated, Picimachey Cave has yielded the most tool artifacts. All of the artifacts of Picimachey and of the Ayacucho are pre-ceramic, and consist mostly of stone and bone tools. Though clay was used in some tools such as braziers and mortars, it was not processed by modern ceramic techniques.
Other tools found within Picimachey Cave have shown extensive use of bone and stone tools. Most of the bone tools served a variety of purposes, most of which were used in the processes of hunting and gathering, or in the butchering of meat. The presence of some polished bones and stones are evidence that some tying and binding activity was done. Also the presence of mortars used for the refinement of food allude to an extensive use of foraging for plant materials. There is also some evidence (though slim) that the Ayacucho may have also used wood in their architecture as well as their tool making processes.
The Ayacucho were extensive hunter gathers as is evidenced by the presence of bones within Picimachey Cave. The Ayacucho hunted animals such as mastodon (a large elephant like creature), puma, deer, paleo-llama, and saber-toothed tiger. These animals were probably hunted by use of such tools as the atlatl and spears. The bones of the animals killed were often times used extensively in tool making processes. In addition, the skins were used to cover the Ayacucho huts.
The Ayacucho also were extensive gathers. Pollen samples taken from the site have shown that the Ayacucho did gather in conjunction with hunting. It is estimated that from the climate of the Ayacucho Basin they were able to sample both the plant and animal life equally. There is also some indication from the presence of a ceremonial hut that Ayacuho used medicinal plants and herbs during either their shamanistic rites or for healing.
There were two types of architecture of the Ayacucho. The first type of architecture appears to take the form of a communal hut, the second as a ceremonial hut. The communal huts held many tools, plant remains and shallow clay-lined pit which served as braziers. The communal hut usually took on the shape of a rectangle, and were constructed in the following ways.
There were two types of architecture of the Ayacucho. The first type of architecture appears to take the form of a communal hut, the second as a ceremonial hut. The communal huts held many tools, plant remains and shallow clay-lined pit which served as braziers. The communal hut usually took on the shape of a rectangle, and were constructed by placing hardwood planks on the ground and held in there by wooden stakes approximately 1 meter apart. Then small saplings were driven into the ground a meter apart from each other. The saplings were then made to form the frame for the huts and animal skins were then placed atop the frame to form the walls.
The second type of hut had multiple purposes which appear to have been ceremonial in design. The structure was Y-shaped and was placed away from the other huts. Activities that took place within the huts consisted of shamanistic practices, the processing of meat, group feasting and healing practices. Items found within the hut consisted of clay lined braziers, pieces of animal hides, burned reeds and seeds, and several species of medicinal plants including chewed leaves. These huts were constructed by making a foundation of sand and gravel. Upright poles were placed every half meter and acted as a pole frame for the hide coverings. A raised platform in the back of the hut gave the structure it's "Y" shape. The platform was 3x4 meters high.
Lumbreras, Luis. The Peoples and Cultures of Ancient Peru. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, 1974.
Keating, Richard. Peruvian Prehistory. Cambridge University Press: New York, 1988.
Moseley, Micheal. The Incas and Their Ancestry. Thames and Hudson: 1993.
MacNeish, Richard, Bradley Vierra, A. Nelken-Terner, and Carl Phagan. Prehistory of the Ayacucho Basin, Peru. University of Michigan Press: 1980.
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