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The Archeological Pearls of Chira
The Pre-Columbian history in and around the second largest city of Piura urges a bigger investigation.

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The huacas of Chalacalá Baja, near Sullana, Peru.
All photographs by César Rivas, special to FACTORTIERRA.NET

SULLANA, Peru - Locals in Upper Chira Valley call them "lomas" (hills in English)  and their houses are around them. Inclusive, one of them is the source for making adobes or unbaked bricks in Chalacalá Baja Town.

But at least around 550 years ago, they seemed to be funerary monts. "There are at least about 30 huacas like those between Sullana [City] and  La Peńa," Archaeologist Daniel Dávila Manrique explains. We have already shared with him the experience of identifying and verificating evidences of this kind in Malingas and Sapillica, only that right now  this has been one of his first investigation subjects.

In fact, his first field assignment  to achieve his proffessional license was visiting Lower  Chira Valley, finding vestiges from Montelima Town, among Tamarindo (Paita) and Ignacio escudero (Sullana) Districts, towards Tangarará, Marcavelica District (Sullana), where the Spanish conquerors founded San Miguel, their first settlement along South America, in 1532.

From Tangarará, the spanish city of San Miguel moved constantly. Circa 1534, it moved  to Monte de los Padres, at Upper Piura Valley's coastal zone, where the rests of Piura La Vieja site only remain nowadays (La Matanza, Morropón). Later circa 1570, it moved to Paita Bay until it ended its exodus in 1583 at the property called Bellavista or also El Chilcal, amid Medium Piura Valley, next to Piura River. The grand total is a 265-270 km or 165-168 mile journey in six decades.

But let's return to our starting point at Lower Chira where Archaeologist Dávila assures  that Hispanic-architecture homes  in Tangarará are made over little monts those could belonged to Pre-Columbian communities, as it is possible to see easier as  we approach to Chira River, next to the demolished bridge that connected it to Sojo, Miguel Checa District (Sullana), in the other bank, where the famous estate-house is located, built beside a huaca or sacred site known as La Mariposa.

Following up that bank towards East, already in Sullana City, it is a traditional tale that  the so-called Loma de Mambré, one of the three hills it is settled down, was a deposit of handicraft very visited on Holy Fridays, when the people used to extract huacos or pottery and chaqiras or colored necklace beads. 1,5 km or 1 mile towards SouthWest, at El Alto de la Paloma Hill, the highest of the metropolitan area, some people  living in Barrio Sur tell they also found these objects  just behind the Health Ministry's Hospital.

The common aspect of both hills is they raise up just from Chira River, and following its flow up,  1,5 km or 1 mile away theNortheast of Loma de Mambré is El Cucho, where a huaca was located, which a public midden and latrine only remains today, but that it was visited during 1980s and 1990s decades by huacos-&-chaqiras illegal extractors.

The sector known as Upper Chira (Alto Chira in Spanish) begins in El Cucho, what was regularily visited by many archaeologists during the 20th century, like the Japanese Archeological expedition and the Archaeologist James Richardson III.

Going on the river up is Chalacalá Baja Town, about 15 km or 9 miles away the Northeast of Sullana City. FACTORTIERRA.NET was there in 2010 researching the zone in general and in 2012 producing a story  that ended to connect Chalacalá Spanish estate, what has no longer vestiges -none visible at least- to a cult brought from Africa.

The Chalacalá's name was around and around Archaeologist Dávila's head after finding 18th-century colonial administrative documents, which described its demarcation and inclusive they specified the huacas inside the Spanish estate by a drawing. "On the document, the Spaniards used  the monts like milestones," he explains, "and one of them  is just behind the  town's Catholic chapel."

By  the support of the  Sullana Province's Councellor Hebert Muńoz (2007-2015), we were with Archaeologist Dávila in 2010 trying to call the attention of the community for protecting the archeological site.

The archaeologist had already prospected the zone by using aerial photographs. He wondered and still wonders an about 3-hectare or 7410-acre terrain, miracolous preserved considering the surrounding cropfields, where banana for exportation is mostly growed.

"They're funerary monts," he clarifies, while he guides us on the field. After locating the first one, the highest, we see other four ones towards the river. We estimate the most prominent  could be higher as two-floor house and a bit more, while the others just reach two meters or 6,7 feet. Currently they seem to be mont-shaped but it is not clear what  its original architecture was.

The nearest second one  is being predated  for making adobes, while the others are amid a relatively flat terrain an leafless bushes, typical at Equatorial Dry Forest.

The last one of them is  almost on the river's rim. In fact, when going up the fifth one, where seems to meet two air fronts, judging the continuos sound of smashing invisible currents and the formation of swirls, is possible to see La Horca Town in Querecotillo District (Sullana), nearby La Peńa, one of the references  quoted by Dávila, but also another place called Cabo Verde Alto, where is belief there is a Pre-Hispanic wall, somekind ruins perhaps.

The studies made at Chira Valley, since 1960 by David Kelley and James Richardson III the two following decades, determined  all these archeological vestiges could be raised between 1100 and 1470 A.D., and could belong to Piura Style (Ethnohistory refers to them as Tallans).

"We cannot talk about a society in particular," Dávila warns. "We need to investigate on the field and maybe  do restricted excavations in the place for having  a biggest precision  about its kind, date, and meaning."

One way to manage  the care and preservation of this cultural patrimony is by organizing, promoting, and learning among the nearby community itself living next to the site about the care, promotion and protection of the knowledge related to these places. It is suggested  to proceed the same way at other towns where these vestiges are found.

Once the archeological research gives conclusions, the following step will be to design  and plan the highlighting of these archeological sites, but that will be a long-term work yet. The archeological research, the conservation, and its responsible touristic implementation  would be a way to keep them and becoming them known not only right around and worldwide too.

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