Archaeology in Peru

Peru ranks as a preferred choice for practicing Archaeology. The country is full of remains of ancient cultures and constructions of stone or mud, which are witnesses of the empire grandeur. Some of these places are Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of Urubamba and the nearby ruins in Cusco, Sipan in Lambayeque, Chan Chan in La Libertad, Chavin de Huantar in Ancash, Kuelap in Amazonas and Pachacamac in Lima.

The Inca Empire was a recent arrival during the process of cultural development in the Andes during pre-Hispanic era, and the history of the Incas barely accounts for a century within the 20,000 years of human occupation of the Peruvian territory.

After the Incas, the Chavin civilization (1500-400 BC) achieved numerous works in engineering, agriculture and architecture in the northern highlands. Along the coast, the Moche civilization (200 BC-700 AD) is famous for its pottery and pyramid shaped temples. This area was later controlled by the Chimu Kngdom (900-1450 AD), who built the biggest clay city in the Americas.

To the south, the Nasca civilization (200BC-900 AD) etched an impressive series of figures into the desert. These lines and figures are known as the Nasca Lines. Also to the south, graves belonging to the Paracas culture (800- BC-600 AD) have unearthed superb weavings pointing to the magical and religious vision that governed the lives of this ancient civilization.

Centuries later, the Incas (1300-1500 AD), settled Cusco as the center of their empire, building major constructions such as Sacsayhuaman, Pisac and the Koricancha. Here myth and history merge. The many Inca roads, towns, people and traditions are a living example of the Andean spirit and strength.



The pre-Columbian Chachapoyas culture, conquered in the 15th century by the Incas, has left a landscape scattered with villages and burial sites which until recently has been largely overlooked by archaeologists. Located in the cloud forests around the town of Chachapoyas in Peru’s northern Amazonas Department, these sites are dominated by the mighty fortress of Kuelap, perched majestically atop mountaintop cliffs overlooking the verdant Andean landscape.


Archeological Complex built around 1100 AD in stone and mud; the site spreads over four hectares and served as an urban center for the Chachapoyas civilization.

The Sarcophagi of Karajia

One of the main attractions in Chachapoyas is the “Laguna de las Momias” (Mummies Lagoon), a region where archaeologists have discovered more than 280 mummies and the Karajia burial tombs, which stand 2-meters high and are made of hardened day. Wedged into a mountain cliff, the sarcophagi appear to guard over their ancestral grounds.



Chavin de Huantar

Tourists are exempted of paying 19 percent Peruvian Sales Tax on accommodation throughout Peru. In order to grant this excemption, hotels request a copy of passport (data and date of entrance) upon arrival of pasengers.


Located in the coastal valley of Casma, rich in archaeological remains, Sechin is a large stone temple which has been almost completed restored on three sides, the walls are faced by carved stone monoliths representing gruesome battle scenes. The temple is Pre-Chavin, about 1,500 BC. There is a small museum next to the temple.
These remains can be visited en route from Lima to Trujillo (or vice versa) or from Huaraz to Trujillo or Lima.


Necropolis of Otuzco

Enigmatic monument known as the windows of Otuzco. Cavities excavated in a rock face, of different depths and some with carvings in high relief. Academics (among them Julio C. Tello) consider them to be funeral caves. These are spectacular relics of the Cajamarca culture.

Inca Baths

The Inca Baths, hot springs where Atahualpa, the last Inca, was staying when the Spaniards arrived.


An impressive complex of enigmatic stones, which include a pre-Inca aqueduct, cut into the rock, a rock sanctuary as well as numerous petroglyphs. Although man inhabited the Cumbemayo area 9,000 years ago, hunting and using rudimentary stone tools, Cerro Consejo was modified from time to time by Huacaloma, Layzon, Cajamarca and Inca civilizations. With its terraces, tracks, caves and waterholes hewn in the rock it was the most important populated area around the canal and, as such, is perhaps one of the best places for scientists to understand the wise and ancient people who established their dominion over the water.




Sacsayhuaman is an imposing example of Inca military architecture. Located 2 km from the city of Cusco, the fortress was hewn from vast granite blocks to protect the city from the tribes coming form the eastern jungle. This site is divided into three vast zigzagging terraces and flanked by massive stone walls, some up to 300 m long. Later, during the Colonial times, the site was used as quarry to provide stone for colonial buildings.


Qenqo is a vast rocky hilltop carved into staircases, holes and channels, probably built to store the chicha (fermented maize beer) used in Inca rituals. The site features a semi-circular patio studded with several large niches surrounding a stone figure embedded within a chamber, rather like and inside its own shrine.


Tambomachay is another fine example of Inca architecture made up of platforms, niches and fountains which still function today, as water flows down through them from a spring higher up in the hills. During Inca times, this was a sacred site used for worship of the water deity, one of the shrines that made up the system of imaginary grid lines that irradiated out to sacred spots or indicated the time and place of the ceremonies.

Puca Pucara

Administrative and military center, made up of terraces and stairways.


Large Inca agricultural, social, religious and administrative complex.

Pisac Ruins

Colosal terraces, constructions and fortified towers with fine architectural finish.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, “the Lost City of the Incas”, was a flourishing ceremonial and agricultural site, probably the gateway to the jungle marches of the Inca Empire. The central buildings were erected with the polished stone works of the Cusco Imperial style, though the site was probably occupied well before the Incas started their expansion. It was associated with the earth cult revolving around the Coca leaf, which was a privilege of the Inca Royal family and priests. The ruins, staircases, terraces, temples, palaces, towers, fountains, the famous Intiwatana and the Site Museum below the ruins require at least one day, some say two. Machu Picchu can be reached from Cusco by train or helicopter, or through the Inca Trail. Travelers can take a full day tour or stay for overnight at one of the nice hotels, one at the ruins, three down in the valley or in small hostels.

Choquequirao, The Sister City of Machu Picchu

Choquequirao or “Chokekirao” is 3055 and is located on an ample Andean plateau in the Convention province, in the center of the Vilcabamba Valley. Its archeological sites are considered as important as Machu Picchu, this is why it is called Machu Picchu’s sister city. Archaeologists presume that it is one of the several lost citadels in Vilcabamba, where the Inkas refuged in 1536.
The archaeological site is 47 km away from the town of Cachora, where the beauty of colorful vegetation landscapes make the trek an incredible experience. Also the Canyon of the Apurimac River can be appreciated while it is descended, at any moment you will be able to contact with local nature.

The construction of the archaeological site is attributed to Pachacutec, the 9th Inca and shows the high advance of the Inca architecture. There are constructions of two floors with niches in the walls, doors and niches of double jamb, channels of irrigation. Among the used materials are stones joined with mud mortar. The extension of the complex is calculated approximately in 500 Hectares. Among the greatest buildings there are reservoirs, terraces, towers, channels of irrigation built for a mayor Inca city.

The first well-known information on Cachora comes from the cosmographer Cosme Bueno in 1768, in which he talks about the archaeological site. In 1865, Emilio Colpaert publishes the map of Cusco, where he signs the horse road to Choquequirao from Cachora and another route to the Victoria mines. The most important visits and greatest scientific contribution was made by the historian Hiram Bingham in 1909, accompanied by a neighbor of the city of Abancay, Castro y Cáceres. After his famous discovery Binghan returns to Choquequirao to gather information to be included in the book about of Machu Picchu.

It is necessary to understand the religious character of this complex. The architecture is distributed around a main square or and is very well complemented by nice terrace works. The archeological sites are distributed on the lower part of the Choquequirao Hill and they are grouped in different quarters. Each one is separated a little bit from the next, probably following a functional and social rank. The trip to Choquequirao is long and tiring but certainly unforgettable. You will leave Cusco on the Abancay Road and at Km 154 you detour to the Cachora Village where the trek will begin. To reach Choquequirao you should be in good physical condition. The route starts at 2900 meters above sea level at Cachora and ends at 1530 meters above sea level at the Apurimac River. On the second day you will hike up to 3085 meters above sea level where the complex lies. To return, you will use the same trail.


Regional Museum of Ica and Stone Museum

The Regional Museum, which displays numerous and interesting artifacts from the various cultural periods of regional history.

Dr. Cabrera Museum

This museum holds a valuable series of engraved stones depicting primitive life scenes. This collection makes a good summary of the origin of the Peruvian civilization before the Inca Empire. Here are found pottery, textiles and evidence of medical practices by the Paracas and Nasca cultures.

Julio C. Tello Museum

Located 5 km (3 ml) from Paracas beach, This museum houses ceramics and textiles depicting daily life scenes, pieces that show the evolution of the Paracas culture. At a short distance, the necropolis of the Cabezas Largas is found.

Tambo Colorado Fortress

Inca architectural complex, presumably used as a control station of the Andean migration towards this area.


Archeological site located 2 km east of Nasca, with a large square, deposits, ceremonial areas, barracks, niches, trapezoidal windows and other buildings.

Cantayoc Aqueducts

These remains are located 4 km from Nasca. A complex system of underground aqueducts that allowed taking advantage of the underground water is an evidence of this culture’s technological development in the exploitation of the land.


17 km from Nasca, Cahuachi is an archaeological area comprising a series of adobe pyramids with open spaces or squares between them. In the early stages of the Nasca culture, it served as a ceremonial center.

Chauchilla Inka Cemetery

8 km from Nasca, there are tombs desecrated by “huaqueros” (temple and tomb diggers) who have left skeletons, skulls and other remains out in the open.


Nasca Lines and Figures

Mysterious markings drawn on the sand spreading over an area of 350 km2 (135 sq. miles). These lines feature several animals and plants such as a spider, a monkey, a dog, a hummingbird among others, in dimensions ranging from 15 to 300 meters each, with a depth of around 30 cm. These huge drawings are best appreciated from air.


100 km. south Nasca, are the fossilized remains of whales from primitive times. The first paleontological museum in Peru, the Fossil Museum of Sacaco, with general information about the local geology and images of the animal’s life in that area, can be visited here.


The Museum “Royal Tombs of Sipan”

In april 1987 the sumptuous Royal Tomb of the Lord of Sipan was discovered in the northern province of Lambayeque. An archeological investigation of the site was promptly issued, commanded by Doctor Walter Alva and crewed with a team of Peruvian experts on pre-columbine cultures. It has been dubbed “The Golden Wonder” by Times magazine, and National Geographic has published an article named “Discovering the Richest Tomb in the New World”. It represents, without a doubt, the most important archeological finding of recent times, and the collection has traveled throughout the world in a series of impressive expos in Europe, the USA and Japan.

The Royal Tombs of Sipan funeral complex houses within its walls illustrious rulers of the Mochica culture. The most notorious of these include the Lord of Sipan, the Old Lord of Sipan, and the Priest. With them dwell their many companions and guards. It is a mystical treasure that manifests the artistic and cultural wonders of Ancient Peru.

The Museum Royal Tombs of Sipan is located on the outskirts of the city of Chiclayo, in the northern coastal province of Lambayeque, on a 7 hectare plot. It resembles a truncated pyramid composed of five prisms which are laid diagonally and bare replicas of the royal standards of the Tomb of the Lord of Sipan. The red and yellow colors which decorate the building are similar to the ochre colors the Mochicas used in their decoration.
The purpose of the museum’s architectural design is to recreate the spirit of the Mochica temples, and to serve as a fully functional museum as well as a mausoleum for the Lord of Sipan and his companions. It was inaugurated in 2002, and is one of the most sophisticated museums in the region.

This museum sharpens all senses: Visitors feel that they are taken back to ancient times to visit the Royal Court and discover the Moche society. To achieve this effect, modern animation techniques have been used to depict the life and customs of this village.

This is complemented with samples of the magnificent Moche pottery, its crops and activities such as metallurgy, works of precious metals, and religious practices.
But this museum goes beyond the past. Currently, it lodges a craft workshop, where modern Moche villagers keep up their textile, craft and metalwork traditions to show the visitors interested in knowing the ancient and contemporaneous Peruvian culture.


Bruning Museum

This museum exhibits more than 1,400 archaeological pieces from Lambayeque, Mochica, Chavin, Vicus, Inca and other civilizations, the most important are 10,000 years old. There you can see, as well, the original Lord of Sipan. The gold room exhibits 500 masterpieces.


At 35 km (22 ml) from Chiclayo, it is worldly known for the excavations in Huaca Rajada where the Lord of Sipan was found. The tomb holds golden, silver and copper ornaments, clothing, vases and personal objects of great value. It is made of several structures, lake the royal platform and is considered as one of the most important places of the Moche civilization. Sipan became famous since 1988, when the local archaeologist Dr. Walter Alva opened the Tomb of the Lord of Sipan, full of gold, silver and copper objects.



This vast site, known as The Valley of Pyramids, can be seen from a spectacular cliff-top about 30 km north of Lambayeque. The complex has 26 adobe buildings that served many functions from rituals to housing. Its construction began in the 10th century. Tucume was the last capital of the Lambayeque Kingdom; initially the first capital was in the Pomac forest, known as Sican.


Pachacamac Temple

31 km south of Lima, see the remains of the ancient pre-Inca sanctuary dedicated to Pachacamac, the “God Creator of the Earth”. The interesting site museum, the Temple of the Sun, the “Acllahuasi” and some other secondary temples can be visited.

Archaeological and Anthropological Museum

This museum features the different areas of the Peruvian culture: the Archaeological and Anthropological area, founded by Julio C. Tello, presenting the history and development of Peruvian pre-Hispanic cultures through an abundant collection of ceramics, metals, textiles, organic material and physical anthropology; the Gallery of the Origins; the Formative Gallery as well as the Chavin, Lima, Mochica, Metallurgic, Textiles, Chimu-Lambayeque and Chancay halls.

Mujica Gallo Gold Museum

Private collection of pre-Inca and Inca gold ritual objects and jewels weapons, ceremonial robes, vases, funerary masks. One Chimu tunic alone is made of 16,000 pieces of gold. Also on display is a remarkable collection of antique arms spanning the 15th – 19th century.

Larco Herrera Museum

Impressive private collection of pre-Inca pottery. More than 45,000 ceramic pieces, pre-Columbian textiles and mummies. Also housed in this museum is the incredible collection of erotic pottery.


Sillustani Pre-Inca Cemetery (Tombs-Chullpas)

These ruins are located about 32 km from Puno, on the road to Juliaca and are one of the best in the region. These circular stone towers, the Chullpas, which overlook a small lake, are huge funerary monuments built by the Collas to keep their mortal remains. Each structure is at least 12 meters high. The way they were built, with a smaller diameter in the base than at the top challenges the laws of equilibrium.

La Libertad

Chan Chan

Chan Chan, the largest Clay City of pre-Columbian America, was the capital of the Chimu Empire, dates from 1,300 AC and was built in an area of 20 sq. kilometers. Friezes and high relief decorations can be observed.

Dragon Temple

This Chimu pyramidal temple is located about 5 km to the north of Trujillo. Its walls are 11 m high. Here you can admire friezes decorated with serpents, warriors and dancers.

Sun and Moon Temples

Archaeological group of adobe pyramids dating from the Mochica period (4th to 10th century). The Moon Temple (Huaca de la Luna) was built with more than fifty million adobe bricks.

El Brujo

This Archaeological complex is located 60 km from Trujillo. It covers 6 hectares and dates from 3000 BC. Its main section is a 90-foot high-truncated pyramid. It also presents some of the best friezes in the area, including stylized designs of fish, priests and human sacrifices. There are also many burial sites from the Lambayeque culture, which followed the Moche.

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