Before talking about the funerary architecture of Paracas, we must know a little more about this ancient pre-Columbian culture.
The culture of Paracas
The Paracas culture It is an important pre-Columbian civilization that settled in ancient Peru, in the province of Pisco (Ica) between 700 years BC. and 200 AD.
The Paracas culture was contemporary to the Chavin culture, which was developed in parallel in the north of Peru.
most of information about Paracas It comes from the archaeological excavations undertaken by the Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello and his assistant at that time, Toribio Mejía Xesspe in 1920.
Today it is my intention to bring you closer to what is perhaps one of the most defining characteristics of what is known about the Paracas culture, the funerary architecture of its necropolis.
When talking about the funerary architecture of ParacasWe must analyze it based on two different periods, the period of the caves and the period of the necropolis.
Cave Period: (700 BC - 200 BC)
In this period, the funerary culture was strongly influenced by the Chavin culture of northern Peru. The funerary architecture has an underground component, since rises deep into the Nazca desert, instead of ascending on its surface.
This can be identified with that feeling common to many ancient peoples and tribes as Los Moches, to seek closeness with the “Mother Earth”, With the underworld, the maternal womb. Moreover, the appearance of mummies in such burials, all of them located in the fetal position, reinforce this thesis of the return to the origin, within the “Pachamama”.
So, the Paracas tombs from this period were excavated on the rocks with a structure of "high neck bottle”And with a depth of more than 6 meters, at the bottom of which they seated their mummies for eternal rest. The mummies were found in perfect condition, thanks to the climatic conditions of the Nazca desert.
Some of these mummies showed evidence of practices of trepanations and cranial deformations, something they share with peoples like the Egyptians. Undoubtedly, the deformations obey some aesthetic pattern of social disintegration, used to identify and "mark”To the nobility and high hierarchy, differentiating it from the rest of the Paraca people.
Regarding the trepanations, its origin may be due to medical techniques, perhaps to relieve cranial pressure or as a remedy against migraines and other similar ills.
Trepanation has always been a primitive method with which the first civilizations tried with greater or less success to alleviate the ills of the mind.
Necropolis period: (200 BC - 200 AD)
In this period the main settlement moves from the banks of the Ica river to the Pisco river and the Topara ravineIt is possible that due to climatic changes or less exploitation of the resources of this strip of land and the need to meet the needs of a town with an increasing number of individuals.
In this last phase, the necropolises evolved into a multitude of great underground chambers burial. Its architecture does not lose that component of affinity with the terrestrial, but a more complex and detailed system is developed in its burials.
Archaeologists are of the idea that each great chamber would be owned by a certain caste or family, where they buried their ancestors throughout many generations.
Every mummy was located in the fetal position and fixed to this position by means of leather bandages, to later be wrapped in elaborate ritual costumes and decorated with extensive funerary furnishings.
The main difference with the previous period was the construction of authentic necropolis. That is to say, while in previous times the burials, following these patterns, were punctual, in this period they seem to be something common, creating authentic necropolis, hence the name with which this last phase is identified.
The proliferation of burials of social classes “wealthy”, Whose members were informed with their best clothes and trousseau (It is relevant to mention the exquisite ceramic pieces that represent the main Paracas deities, which undoubtedly influenced later cultures such as the Inca) suggests that it was at this stage that the Paraca town it suffered an important demographic explosion, appearing an important noble class, perhaps, originated by the descendants of the main Paracas military leaders, after the conquest of new territories.
In any case, within the nobility itself both military and religious, a stratification and differentiation of the degree of influence of these families in the Paraca people can be identified.
The reason for it lies in the design and depth of each grave, and of course the decoration of the walls of the same with ceramics of different complexities and qualities.
Of course, the quality and quantity of the trousseau and clothing with which their mummies were buried, helps to sustain the previous premise.
From the year 200 AD purely Paracas archaeological evidence was no longer found, this is undoubtedly due to the fusion of its culture with that of Nazca, but this is part of another story.