More History of Peru - History

More History of Peru - History

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When the Spanish landed in 1531, Peru's territory was the nucleus of the highly developed Inca civilization. Centered at Cuzco, the Inca Empire extended over a vast region from northern Ecuador to central Chile. In search of Inca wealth, the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro, who arrived in the territory after the Incas had fought a debilitating civil war, conquered the weakened people. The Spanish had captured the Incan capital at Cuzco by 1533 and consolidated their control by 1542. Gold and silver from the Andes enriched the conquerors, and Peru became the principal source of Spanish wealth and power in South America.

Pizarro founded Lima in 1535. The viceroyalty established at Lima in 1542 initially had jurisdiction over all of South America except Portuguese Brazil. By the time of the wars of independence (1820-24), Lima had become the most distinguished and aristocratic colonial capital and the chief Spanish stronghold in America.

Peru's independence movement was led by Jose de San Martin of Argentina and Simon Bolivar of Venezuela. San Martin proclaimed Peruvian independence from Spain on July 28, 1821. Emancipation was completed in December 1824, when Gen. Antonio Jose de Sucre defeated the Spanish troops at Ayacucho, ending Spanish rule in South America. Spain made futile attempts to regain its former colonies, but in 1879 it finally recognized Peru's independence.

After independence, Peru and its neighbors engaged in intermittent territorial disputes. Chile's victory over Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific (1879-83) resulted in a territorial settlement. Following a clash between Peru and Ecuador in 1941, the Rio Protocol--of which the United States is one of four guarantors--sought to establish the boundary between the two countries. Continuing boundary disagreement led to brief armed conflicts in early 1981 and early 1995, but in 1998 the governments of Peru and Ecuador signed a historic peace treaty and demarcated the border. In late 1999, the governments of Peru and Chile likewise finally implemented the last outstanding article of their 1929 border agreement.

The military has been prominent in Peruvian history. Coups have repeatedly interrupted civilian constitutional government. The most recent period of military rule (1968-80) began when Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado overthrew elected President Fernando Belaunde Terry of the Popular Action Party (AP). As part of what has been called the "first phase" of the military government's nationalist program, Velasco undertook an extensive agrarian reform program and nationalized the fishmeal industry, some petroleum companies, and several banks and mining firms.

Because of Velasco's economic mismanagement and deteriorating health, he was replaced by Gen. Francisco Morales Bermudez Cerruti in 1975. Morales Bermudez moved the revolution into a more pragmatic "second phase," tempering the authoritarian abuses of the first phase and beginning the task of restoring the country's economy. Morales Bermudez presided over the return to civilian government in accordance with a new constitution drawn up in 1979. In the May 1980 elections, President Belaunde Terry was returned to office by an impressive plurality.

Nagging economic problems left over from the military government persisted, worsened by an occurrence of the "El Ni–o" weather phenomenon in 1982-83, which caused widespread flooding in some parts of the country, severe droughts in others, and decimated the schools of ocean fish that are one of the country's major resources. After a promising beginning, Belaunde's popularity eroded under the stress of inflation, economic hardship, and terrorism.

During the 1980s, cultivation of illicit coca was established in large areas on the eastern Andean slope. Rural terrorism by Sendero Luminoso (SL) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) increased during this time and derived significant financial support from alliances with the narcotraffickers. In 1985, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) won the presidential election, bringing Alan Garcia Perez to office. The transfer of the presidency from Belaunde to Garcia on July 28, 1985, was Peru's first exchange of power from one democratically elected leader to another in 40 years.

Economic mismanagement by the Garcia administration led to hyperinflation from 1988 to 1990. Concerned about the economy, the increasing terrorist threat from Sendero Luminoso, and allegations of official corruption, voters chose a relatively unknown mathematician-turned-politician, Alberto Fujimori, as president in 1990. Fujimori implemented drastic orthodox measures that caused inflation to drop from 7,650% in 1990 to 139% in 1991. Faced with opposition to his reform efforts, Fujimori dissolved Congress in the "auto-coup" of April 4, 1992. He then revised the constitution; called new congressional elections; and implemented substantial economic reform, including privatization of numerous state-owned companies, creation of a more investment-friendly climate, and much improved management of the economy. FujimoriÕs constitutionally questionable decision to seek a third term and subsequent tainted victory in June 2000 brought political and economic turmoil. A bribery scandal that broke just weeks after he took office in July forced Fujimori to call new elections in which he would not run. Fujimori fled the country and resigned from office in November 2000. He currently resides in his parentsÕ native Japan, amid controversy regarding his involvement in corruption scandals and human rights violations during his tenure as President. A caretaker government presided over new presidential and congressional elections, held in April 2001, which observers considered to be free and fair. The new elected government, led by President Alejandro Toledo, took office July 28, 2001. Regional and Municipal elections were held in November 2002, a majority of which were won by opposition or independent parties.

The Toledo government has restored a high degree of democracy to Peru following the authoritarianism and corruption of the Fujimori years. Suspects tried by military courts during the war against terrorism (1980-2000) are now set to receive new trials in civilian courts. Trials of those accused of corruption and collusion in the corrupt dealings of the Fujimori years are underway. On August 28, 2003, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR), which had been charged with studying the roots of the violence of the 1980-2000 period, presented its formal report to the President. TheÊGovernment of PeruÊis now weighing its response to the CVRÕs recommendations that human rights violators be tried and that the government take measures to, in some fashion, indemnify parts of the population that suffered during those years, chiefly rural Peruvians of ethnically Indian descent. President Toledo has made a number of cabinet changes, partly in response to scandals but also to create a more effective government. Toledo's governing coalition has a plurality in Congress and must negotiate on an ad hoc basis with other parties to form majorities on legislative proposals. Toledo's popularity in the polls has suffered throughout the past year, due in part to scandals and in part to dissatisfaction amongst workers with their share of benefits from Peru's macroeconomic success. After strikes by teachers and agricultural producers led to nationwide road blockages in May 2003, Toledo declared a state of emergency that suspended some civil liberties and gave the military power to enforce order in 12 departments. The state of emergency has since been reduced to only the few areas where the Shining Path terrorist group was operating. Potential candidates and their parties are already beginning to maneuver with an eye on the 2006 elections.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel, located in the Eastern Cordillera of southern Peru, on a 2,430-meter (7,970 ft) mountain ridge. [2] [3] It is located in the Machupicchu District within Urubamba Province [4] above the Sacred Valley, which is 80 kilometers (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco. The Urubamba River flows past it, cutting through the Cordillera and creating a canyon with a tropical mountain climate. [5]

  • Peru
  • └ Cuzco Region

For most speakers of English or Spanish, the first 'c' in Picchu is silent. In English, the name is pronounced / ˌ m ɑː tʃ uː p iː tʃ uː / [6] [7] or / ˌ m ɑː tʃ uː p iː k tʃ uː / , [7] [8] in Spanish as [ˈmatʃu ˈpitʃu] or [ˈmatʃu ˈpiktʃu] , [9] and in Quechua (Machu Pikchu) [10] as [ˈmatʃʊ ˈpɪktʃʊ] .

Most archeologists believe that Machu Picchu was constructed as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained generally unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to international attention in 1911.

Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of how they originally appeared. [11] By 1976, 30% of Machu Picchu had been restored [11] and restoration continues. [12]

Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. [3] In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide internet poll. [13]

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The current configuration of Peru took form on 28 July 1821 when it declared its independence from Spanish rule. The declaration followed the occupation of Lima by the Argentinian general José de San Martín and the fleeing of the royalist forces to the interior of the country. But it really was not until 1824 and the battles of Ayacucho and Junín that the royalists were defeated and Spanish power in the whole continent was finally overthrown. These final battles were led not by San Martín, but rather by the Venezuelan generals Simón Bolívar and Antonio Joséde Sucre. San Martín had already retired to Europe after seeking Bolívar's support to secure Peru's independence. In this manner, Peruvian independence was obtained a couple of years later than most other South American states. This tardiness was due to the politically and religiously more conservative nature of the Peruvian aristocracy, the large presence of Spaniards in the territory, and the solid Spanish military stronghold of Lima.

National Identity. Peruvians maintain a very strong sense of national identity supported by a series of common characteristics such as language, religion, food, and music. Spanish and Catholicism have historically provided a zealous sense of national belonging and cultural identity. These national characteristics have also enabled a national ethos to withstand the regional and ethnic differences inherent in the Peruvian population. Before the advent of roads or railways, the sheer difficulty in traversing Peru's geography was one of the greatest obstacles to solidifying a national identity. Since the 1960s, and especially due to a large internal migration toward the major urban centers, regional differences have seemed to present less of a destabilizing peril. This same migration phenomenon also has provided some relief to the divisive hierarchical structure of racial and ethnic differences. Since independence, mainly Indians and blacks, and mestizos to a lesser degree, have suffered the brunt of racial discrimination. This uneven ethnic structure has made it difficult for these groups to fully participate as national citizens and to identify solely as Peruvians. Nevertheless, even with these regional and ethnic differences, a national identity is still solidly in place, most probably also due to the centralized nature of the education system and bureaucratic structures.

Ethnic Relations. A Peruvian identity is most firmly found among the white elite and large mestizo communities. The three other ethnic groups—Indians, blacks, and Asians—tend to have much more complex identity formations as Peruvians. Indians above all have faced five centuries of ethnically discriminatory and genocidal practices against its population. Even after independence their general treatment was not radically different. Indians are still portrayed as backwards and inferior and perform the hardest and less remunerative forms of labor. The more than sixty Amazon Indian groups still face cultural extinction as a result of oil exploration, agricultural production, and mining colonizing campaigns.

Afro-Peruvians also have suffered the brunt of racial and cultural discrimination since their emancipation in 1854. Through the lack of opportunities to improve their social situations, most Afro-Peruvians have been limited to rural work or domestic labor. The black community has traditionally occupied the coastal parts of the nation and has its major concentrations along the areas of Chincha (three hours south of Lima) and the neighborhoods of La Victoria and Matute within Lima. Meanwhile, black men in Peru have been particularly enabled to excel as national icons within both local and national soccer teams. This iconization of Afro-Peruvian athletes as national sports heroes stands in sharp contrast with the friction that the community has on the whole encountered as part of Peruvian culture.

Chinese and Japanese immigrants came to Peru in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Both groups were brought in to work as rural laborers in the large hacienda/estate holdings. Japanese migrants have experience a more difficult integration because of their lesser tendency to marry outside their culture. The election of a Peruvian president of Japanese ancestry, however, has brought into question many of the traditional assumptions regarding the friction between Asian-Peruvians and their national counterparts. Some analysts have argued that Fujimori was voted into power by Indians and mestizos who saw themselves being closer to an Asian-Peruvian candidate than to one representing the traditional white elite.

Simon & Garfunkel’s version

During the 1960s, Andean bands became very popular in Europe. One of these groups was called Los Incas. They performed their own version of ‘El Cóndor Pasa’ with Andean instruments. After Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkel saw them perform the song live in Paris, he learned the melody and added his own lyrics to it. Under the name of ‘If I Could, this version by the American folk band became the most popular song across Europe at the time, notably in countries such as Spain, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. However, Paul Simon didn’t know the copyrights to the song didn’t actually belong to a member of the Incas, who himself thought that ‘El Cóndor Pasa’ was a popular Andean composition of the 1800s. After a copyright lawsuit between the son of Alomía Robles and Simon, the undisputed authorship of the Peruvian composer was reestablished. One hundred years after it was written, ‘El Cóndor Pasa’ is now in the public domain.


The first inhabitants of Peru were nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in caves in Peru's coastal regions. The oldest site, Pikimachay cave, dates from 12,000 BC. Crops such as cotton, beans, squash and chili peppers were planted around 4000 BC later, advanced cultures such as the Chavín introduced weaving, agriculture and religion to the country. Around 300 BC, the Chavín inexplicably disappeared, but over the centuries several other cultures - including the Salinar, Nazca, Paracas Necropolis and Wari (Huari) - became locally important. By the early 15th century, the Inca empire had control of much of the area, even extending its influence into Colombia and Chile.

Between 1526-28, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro explored Peru's coastal regions and, drawn by the riches of the Inca empire, returned to Spain to raise money and recruit men for another expedition to the country. Return he did, marching into Cajamarca, in northern Peru, before capturing, ransoming and executing the Inca emperor Atahualpa in 1533. Pizarro subsequently founded the city of Lima in 1535 but was assassinated six years later. The rebellion of the last Inca leader, Manco Inca, ended ingloriously with his beheading in 1572.

The next 200 years proved peaceful, with Lima becoming the major political, social and commercial center of the Andean nations. However, the exploitation of Indians by their colonial masters led to an uprising in 1780 under the self-styled Inca Tupac Amaru II. The rebellion was short lived and most of the leaders were rounded up and executed. Peru continued to remain loyal to Spain until 1824 when the country was liberated by two outsiders: the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar and the Argentinean José de San Martín. In 1866, Peru won a brief war with Spain but was humiliated by Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-83), which resulted in the loss of lucrative nitrate fields in the northern Atacama Desert. Peru also went to war with Ecuador over a border dispute in 1941. The 1942 treaty of Rio de Janeiro ceded the area north of the Río Marañón to Peru but the decision was fiercely contested by Ecuador. Border skirmishes have continually flared up, usually around January, the month when the treaty was signed. The squabbling has died down in recent years, as both countries work to impress potential foreign investors (who tend to be scared off by territorial skirmishes), and a treaty is in the works that should finally bring an end to this dispute.

Cuban-inspired guerrilla uprisings in 1965 led by the National Liberation Army were unsuccessful, but a series of nationwide strikes coupled with a violent insurgency by the Maoist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrillas caused political instability in the 1980s. However, the 1990 presidential election of Alberto Fujimori and the capture in 1992 of inspirational Sendero Luminoso leaders has brought a sustained period of peace. Peru has once again become a favorite destination among adventure travelers from around the world.

Culture of Peru

Peru’s culture is a set of beliefs, customs and way of life inherited from the native Incas, Spanish conquistadors and settlers. Immigrant groups such as Africans, Japanese, Chinese and Europeans have also contributed to the society, blend of cultures and ways in which Peruvians live. Whatever their ethnic background Peruvians agree on the importance of family and religion. In many cases generations of a family live together where the younger look after the elderly and help each other in difficult times.

Peruvians express their culture through their music, literature, art forms, dance, clothing, celebrations, religion, education, sports and clothing.

Fine Arts and Crafts

Art in Peru has been an important part of its culture for thousands of years dating back to pre-Inca times. Many skilled craftsmen continue the tradition today. Native Amerindians still spin cotton, llama, alpaca and sheep wool into yarn and weave the yarn into cloth that will be used to make clothing and other textile.Weaving is not limited to wool, residents of the floating islands of Titicaca Lake weave reeds to build the islands and the houses where they live. Weaving have distinctive colors and patterns distinguishing particular villages.

Other hand made crafts include wood carving and jewelry, specially gold and silver. Retablos from Ayacucho are colorful wooden altars with carved religious and everyday scenes and figurines. Pottery is made to reflect ancient Moche and Nazca patterns and designs. Many hand made crafts can be found in markets as souvenirs.

During the colonial period artists came from Spain and Italy and most of their art was related to religion, their paintings and sculptures are found in many churches today. Native Peruvian painters emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they were known as the Cuzco school of painters. The theme of their work was mostly religious but they also included local landscape scenery. The best known painter of the Cuzco school was Diego Quispe Tito. The nineteenth century was characterized by paintings of battles, independence war and heroes. The following century was mostly influenced by the great Mexican muralists best represented by José Sabogal. Modern art is mostly abstract and the best known modern painter is Fernando de Szyslo. The most famous Peruvian sculptor is Joaquin Roca Rey.

Music and Dance

One of the most important part of any Peruvian party, maybe after food, is music and dance. Andean music is world famous for the sweet sounds of its flutes and panpipes. String instruments introduced by the Spaniards such as charango, harps and violins complement the sounds of native drums, brass and wind instruments. Andean people have at least 300 different dances but the most popular is the huayno which is danced with vigorous stamping of the feet, dancers wear colorful costumes. Puno is the folklore capital of Peru.

A couple dancing marinera

Music from the coast is very different from Andean music. It is called Criollo music and has its origins in Spanish and African rhythms. The most popular criollo dance is Peruvian marinera, a traditional and graceful courtship dance performed using handkerchiefs. Its music is accompanied by cajon and guitar. One of the most popular composers and singers of criollo music was Chabuca Granda. Another new kind and popular music that emerged in the 1950s is chicha. Chicha has its origins in the shantytowns sourrounding Lima and it is named after a popular fermented corn drink. Chicha is a mix of Afro-Peruvian and Andean beats.


Peruvian food is different in each region, so what they eat depends on where they live. Cuisine from the coast is based on seafood. Dishes from the Amazon use fish available in rivers and lots of tropical fruits. Andean cuisine is based on potatoes and meat. Thousands of years ago potatoes, maize, quinoa and the meat of llamas and guinea pigs were the only resources in the Andes. Today Peruvians combine those staple foods with others introduced by Europeans to create tasty and unique dishes. Some ancient cooking methods are still used today such as pachamanca, a hole dug in the ground and covered with hot stones where meat and potatoes are cooked.

Ceviche is a typical dish from the coast


Peruvians are soccer crazy. It is the national sport played by every school age child, most popular among males than females but the majority of the population share a strong passion for “futbol”. There are two main teams in Peruvian soccer, Universitario de Deportes and Alianza Lima. Both clubs have dominated soccer in Peru for decades, their rivalry ignites the passion in soccer fans. The most important achievement in futbol was when the Peruvian team qualified for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico defeating and eliminating all time favorite Argentina. In 1978 Peru qualified again for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Soccer became a passion shared by all regions and social status and not just confined in Lima.

For people who live in coastal cities a popular sport is surfing. Chicama Beach is known for having the longest waves in the world.

Bullfighting was brought to Peru by the Spaniards and continue to be a tradition. Many Peruvians are passionate about bullfighting and it is best enjoyed at Plaza de Acho, the oldest bullring in the Americas. In Plaza de Acho there are also demonstrations of caballos de paso or steppping horses, a long established tradition in coastal cities.

Bullfighting in Plaza de Acho, Lima


In every city in Peru, where there is a plaza, there is a church. Christianity was brought to Peru 500 years ago and today more than 90% of the population consider themselves Catholics. The Spaniards encountered Inca religion whose beliefs they considered pagan. The Incas worshiped stones and other natural resources, sacrificed animals and had multiple gods. Spanish priests tried to eradicate the native religion but it was mostly transformed, what is left today is a mix of values and beliefs known as syncretism. Many Amazonian tribes were not reached by the early influence of Christianity due to their remoteness. These communities have maintained their original religion. Many national holidays and festivities have their origin in religious celebrations.


Children begin preschool when they are 5 years old. There are 6 grades in primary school and 5 grades in secondary school. After that they can choose to go to university or learn job skills at a technical school. Public school is free in Peru but not all attend or those who attend drop out early. In rural areas schools are far away from home and with no public transportation it is hard for children to get an education. Aside from the inaccessibility of schools, poverty is another factor children do not attend school as they are often needed to tend the farm and animals and provide for their younger siblings. About 25% of children do not complete primary school and only 50% go to secondary school. Standards in public school are not high, teachers are paid poorly, classes are large, schools have poor infrastructure and there are shortages of textbooks and basic school supplies. Private schools are a better option but only for those who can afford them.

School children in a rural area in Peru

There are public and private universities, some of them are internationally recognized. The oldest university in the Americas, University of San Marcos, was founded in Lima in 1551. Public university students are often active in politics many times causing student strikes.


Humans have marked their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment. Joann Fletcher, research fellow in the department of archaeology at the University of York in Britain, describes the history of tattoos and their cultural significance to people around the world, from the famous " Iceman," a 5,200-year-old frozen mummy, to today’s Maori.

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What is the earliest evidence of tattoos?

In terms of tattoos on actual bodies, the earliest known examples were for a long time Egyptian and were present on several female mummies dated to c. 2000 B.C. But following the more recent discovery of the Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in 1991 and his tattoo patterns, this date has been pushed back a further thousand years when he was carbon-dated at around 5,200 years old.

Can you describe the tattoos on the Iceman and their significance?

Following discussions with my colleague Professor Don Brothwell of the University of York, one of the specialists who examined him, the distribution of the tattooed dots and small crosses on his lower spine and right knee and ankle joints correspond to areas of strain-induced degeneration, with the suggestion that they may have been applied to alleviate joint pain and were therefore essentially therapeutic. This would also explain their somewhat 'random' distribution in areas of the body which would not have been that easy to display had they been applied as a form of status marker.

What is the evidence that ancient Egyptians had tattoos?

There's certainly evidence that women had tattoos on their bodies and limbs from figurines c. 4000-3500 B.C. to occasional female figures represented in tomb scenes c. 1200 B.C. and in figurine form c. 1300 B.C., all with tattoos on their thighs. Also small bronze implements identified as tattooing tools were discovered at the town site of Gurob in northern Egypt and dated to c. 1450 B.C. And then, of course, there are the mummies with tattoos, from the three women already mentioned and dated to c. 2000 B.C. to several later examples of female mummies with these forms of permanent marks found in Greco-Roman burials at Akhmim.

What function did these tattoos serve? Who got them and why?

Because this seemed to be an exclusively female practice in ancient Egypt, mummies found with tattoos were usually dismissed by the (male) excavators who seemed to assume the women were of "dubious status," described in some cases as "dancing girls." The female mummies had nevertheless been buried at Deir el-Bahari (opposite modern Luxor) in an area associated with royal and elite burials, and we know that at least one of the women described as "probably a royal concubine" was actually a high-status priestess named Amunet, as revealed by her funerary inscriptions.

And although it has long been assumed that such tattoos were the mark of prostitutes or were meant to protect the women against sexually transmitted diseases, I personally believe that the tattooing of ancient Egyptian women had a therapeutic role and functioned as a permanent form of amulet during the very difficult time of pregnancy and birth. This is supported by the pattern of distribution, largely around the abdomen, on top of the thighs and the breasts, and would also explain the specific types of designs, in particular the net-like distribution of dots applied over the abdomen. During pregnancy, this specific pattern would expand in a protective fashion in the same way bead nets were placed over wrapped mummies to protect them and "keep everything in." The placing of small figures of the household deity Bes at the tops of their thighs would again suggest the use of tattoos as a means of safeguarding the actual birth, since Bes was the protector of women in labor, and his position at the tops of the thighs a suitable location. This would ultimately explain tattoos as a purely female custom.

Who made the tattoos?

Although we have no explicit written evidence in the case of ancient Egypt, it may well be that the older women of a community would create the tattoos for the younger women, as happened in 19th-century Egypt and happens in some parts of the world today.

What instruments did they use?

It is possible that an implement best described as a sharp point set in a wooden handle, dated to c. 3000 B.C. and discovered by archaeologist W.M.F. Petrie at the site of Abydos may have been used to create tattoos. Petrie also found the aforementioned set of small bronze instruments c. 1450 B.C.—resembling wide, flattened needles—at the ancient town site of Gurob. If tied together in a bunch, they would provide repeated patterns of multiple dots.

These instruments are also remarkably similar to much later tattooing implements used in 19th-century Egypt. The English writer William Lane (1801-1876) observed, "the operation is performed with several needles (generally seven) tied together: with these the skin is pricked in a desired pattern: some smoke black (of wood or oil), mixed with milk from the breast of a woman, is then rubbed in. It is generally performed at the age of about 5 or 6 years, and by gipsy-women.”

What did these tattoos look like?

Most examples on mummies are largely dotted patterns of lines and diamond patterns, while figurines sometimes feature more naturalistic images. The tattoos occasionally found in tomb scenes and on small female figurines which form part of cosmetic items also have small figures of the dwarf god Bes on the thigh area.

What were they made of? How many colors were used?

Usually a dark or black pigment such as soot was introduced into the pricked skin. It seems that brighter colors were largely used in other ancient cultures, such as the Inuit who are believed to have used a yellow color along with the more usual darker pigments.

This mummified head of a woman from the pre-Inca Chiribaya culture, located at the Azapa Museum in Arica, Chile, is adorned with facial tattoos on her lower left cheek. (Joann Fletcher) The tattooed right hand of a Chiribaya mummy is displayed at El Algarrobal Museum, near the port of Ilo in southern Peru. The Chiribaya were farmers who lived from A.D. 900 to 1350. (Joann Fletcher) A tattooed predynastic female figurine (c. 4000-3500 B.C.) is displayed at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford. (Joann Fletcher) The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is home to this tattooed predynastic female figure. (Joann Fletcher) This female figurine from Naszca, Peru, is now displayed at the Regional Museum of Ica. (Joann Fletcher) Small bronze tattooing implements (c. 1450 B.C.) from Gurob, Egypt, can be found at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London. (Joann Fletcher) This blue bowl (c. 1300 B.C.), housed in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, Amsterdam, features a musician tattooed with an image of the household deity Bes on her thigh. (Joann Fletcher)

What has surprised you the most about ancient Egyptian tattooing?

That it appears to have been restricted to women during the purely dynastic period, i.e. pre-332 B.C. Also the way in which some of the designs can be seen to be very well placed, once it is accepted they were used as a means of safeguarding women during pregnancy and birth.

Can you describe the tattoos used in other ancient cultures and how they differ?

Among the numerous ancient cultures who appear to have used tattooing as a permanent form of body adornment, the Nubians to the south of Egypt are known to have used tattoos. The mummified remains of women of the indigenous C-group culture found in cemeteries near Kubban c. 2000-15000 B.C. were found to have blue tattoos, which in at least one case featured the same arrangement of dots across the abdomen noted on the aforementioned female mummies from Deir el-Bahari. The ancient Egyptians also represented the male leaders of the Libyan neighbors c. 1300-1100 B.C. with clear, rather geometrical tattoo marks on their arms and legs and portrayed them in Egyptian tomb, temple and palace scenes.

The Scythian Pazyryk of the Altai Mountain region were another ancient culture which employed tattoos. In 1948, the 2,400 year old body of a Scythian male was discovered preserved in ice in Siberia, his limbs and torso covered in ornate tattoos of mythical animals. Then, in 1993, a woman with tattoos, again of mythical creatures on her shoulders, wrists and thumb and of similar date, was found in a tomb in Altai. The practice is also confirmed by the Greek writer Herodotus c. 450 B.C., who stated that amongst the Scythians and Thracians "tattoos were a mark of nobility, and not to have them was testimony of low birth.”

Accounts of the ancient Britons likewise suggest they too were tattooed as a mark of high status, and with "divers shapes of beasts" tattooed on their bodies, the Romans named one northern tribe "Picti," literally "the painted people."

Yet amongst the Greeks and Romans, the use of tattoos or "stigmata" as they were then called, seems to have been largely used as a means to mark someone as "belonging" either to a religious sect or to an owner in the case of slaves or even as a punitive measure to mark them as criminals. It is therefore quite intriguing that during Ptolemaic times when a dynasty of Macedonian Greek monarchs ruled Egypt, the pharaoh himself, Ptolemy IV (221-205 B.C.), was said to have been tattooed with ivy leaves to symbolize his devotion to Dionysus, Greek god of wine and the patron deity of the royal house at that time. The fashion was also adopted by Roman soldiers and spread across the Roman Empire until the emergence of Christianity, when tattoos were felt to "disfigure that made in God's image" and so were banned by the Emperor Constantine (A.D. 306-373).

We have also examined tattoos on mummified remains of some of the ancient pre-Columbian cultures of Peru and Chile, which often replicate the same highly ornate images of stylized animals and a wide variety of symbols found in their textile and pottery designs. One stunning female figurine of the Naszca culture has what appears to be a huge tattoo right around her lower torso, stretching across her abdomen and extending down to her genitalia and, presumably, once again alluding to the regions associated with birth. Then on the mummified remains which have survived, the tattoos were noted on torsos, limbs, hands, the fingers and thumbs, and sometimes facial tattooing was practiced.

With extensive facial and body tattooing used among Native Americans, such as the Cree, the mummified bodies of a group of six Greenland Inuit women c. A.D. 1475 also revealed evidence for facial tattooing. Infrared examination revealed that five of the women had been tattooed in a line extending over the eyebrows, along the cheeks and in some cases with a series of lines on the chin. Another tattooed female mummy, dated 1,000 years earlier, was also found on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, her tattoos of dots, lines and hearts confined to the arms and hands.

Evidence for tattooing is also found amongst some of the ancient mummies found in China's Taklamakan Desert c. 1200 B.C., although during the later Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-A.D. 220), it seems that only criminals were tattooed.

Japanese men began adorning their bodies with elaborate tattoos in the late A.D. 3rd century.

The elaborate tattoos of the Polynesian cultures are thought to have developed over millennia, featuring highly elaborate geometric designs, which in many cases can cover the whole body. Following James Cook's British expedition to Tahiti in 1769, the islanders' term "tatatau" or "tattau," meaning to hit or strike, gave the west our modern term "tattoo." The marks then became fashionable among Europeans, particularly so in the case of men such as sailors and coal-miners, with both professions which carried serious risks and presumably explaining the almost amulet-like use of anchors or miner's lamp tattoos on the men's forearms.

What about modern tattoos outside of the western world?

Modern Japanese tattoos are real works of art, with many modern practioners, while the highly skilled tattooists of Samoa continue to create their art as it was carried out in ancient times, prior to the invention of modern tattooing equipment. Various cultures throughout Africa also employ tattoos, including the fine dots on the faces of Berber women in Algeria, the elaborate facial tattoos of Wodabe men in Niger and the small crosses on the inner forearms which mark Egypt's Christian Copts.

What do Maori facial designs represent?

In the Maori culture of New Zealand, the head was considered the most important part of the body, with the face embellished by incredibly elaborate tattoos or ‘moko,’ which were regarded as marks of high status. Each tattoo design was unique to that individual and since it conveyed specific information about their status, rank, ancestry and abilities, it has accurately been described as a form of id card or passport, a kind of aesthetic bar code for the face. After sharp bone chisels were used to cut the designs into the skin, a soot-based pigment would be tapped into the open wounds, which then healed over to seal in the design. With the tattoos of warriors given at various stages in their lives as a kind of rite of passage, the decorations were regarded as enhancing their features and making them more attractive to the opposite sex.

Although Maori women were also tattooed on their faces, the markings tended to be concentrated around the nose and lips. Although Christian missionaries tried to stop the procedure, the women maintained that tattoos around their mouths and chins prevented the skin becoming wrinkled and kept them young the practice was apparently continued as recently as the 1970s.

Why do you think so many cultures have marked the human body and did their practices influence one another?

In many cases, it seems to have sprung up independently as a permanent way to place protective or therapeutic symbols upon the body, then as a means of marking people out into appropriate social, political or religious groups, or simply as a form of self-expression or fashion statement.

The history of Peru in this region

At this point, it should come as no surprise to anyone who has read anything I’ve written that I’m always fascinated with history in general. I’m always interested in learning more about the region I’m in, hopefully deeper than the traditional touristy destinations allows.

MACHU PICCHU, PERU – JANUARY 18: The Inca ruins of the Machu Picchu sanctuary on January 18, 2014 near Cusco, Peru. The 15th-century Inca site, MachuPicchu also known as ‘The Lost City of the Incas’ is situated high above the Urubamba River. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site it was discovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

What I always find appealing about destinations like Peru is that the history of the region is open and waiting. You really don’t have to look very hard to find the past. Places like Cusco wear their history of their cultures on their sleeves.

The wealth of Incan archaeological sites around Cusco seem impossible to fathom at first. And seeing it all might be overwhelming to work all into one trip, though I’m happy to give it a solid try. Machu Picchu is definitely on the list, but there’s more than that.

Ollantaytambo, Moray and Pisac are all high priorities for me. But other ruins like Sacsayhuaman are a relatively easy walk from Cusco. Coricancha is actually in the middle of the city itself, which is just further evidence of how tangible the history is here.

The history of Machu Picchu is complex and fascinating, and before you arrive at the Lost City of the Incas, you might be interested in learning about it. This site is not only an impressive remnant of the Inca civilization it is also one of the world's most important archeological sites. It should come as no surprise how many travelers plan hiking tours to reach the lost city, but how many of them know what they're looking at? A little background can go a long way to enhancing your visit to Machu Picchu.

One incredible fact about Machu Picchu is that although it was built in the 1400s, it was hardly known of outside the region until 1911. An American professor named Hiram Bingham found the site despite the fact that the Incans did a thorough job at keeping secret the lost city, which is located nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. Once this discovery occurred, a wealth of information about the history of Machu Picchu was uncovered. There were 135 skeletons that were found at the site, and more than 100 were women. Archaeologists have speculated that Machu Picchu was a temple or sanctuary for high priests and women who have been referred to as Virgins of the Sun, though more recent research has convinced many that it was built as an estate for the Incan emperor Pachacuti, who ruled from 1438 until 1471 or 1472.

There are many intriguing aspects of the history of Machu Picchu, with one of the most fascinating being the relatively small period of its use. This intricate and beautiful complex was built at the height of the Inca Empire, but it was in use for less than 100 years-around the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru, in the early sixteenth century, Machu Picchu was abandoned. After its rediscovery, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, and the visitors have not stopped arriving since, as the iconic peaks of Machu Picchu are among the most dazzling archaeological sites worldwide.

This site has helped historians to learn more about the Inca civilization. Archaeologists have divided all the sections of the site into three categories: religious, agricultural, and urban. If you hire a guide during your trip to Machu Picchu, you will always know what you're looking at. Examples of some elements of the larger site include Great Central Temple, known for its intricate stonework. Nearby is the Temple of the Sun where the best stonework of the whole archeological site can be found. When you visit Machu Picchu, be prepared to climb steps that reveal astounding views of the whole valley.

Another interesting historical fact that perhaps saved important details about the Inca civilization is the fact that the Spanish conquerors never found Machu Picchu. While the Spanish were responsible for plundering many other Incan sites, this most sacred site remained a secret. Over the course of centuries, much of the site became overgrown. While it was known by the local people, it wasn't discovered for the rest of the world until 1911 when an 11-year-old boy led Professor Bingham to the site. Bingham called his book about the ruins The Lost City of the Incas-it makes for fascinating reading before a trip to Peru if you want to arrive well versed in the history of Machu Picchu.

Chinese in Peru in the 19th century

Between 1849 and 1874, more than 100,000 coolies arrived in Peru as a result of Ley China, which allowed for the importation of an indentured work force of Chinese laborers in order to meet Peruvian need for labor after the slaves were emancipated in 1854.[1] In 1876, the census in Peru registered 49,956 Chinese (slightly underestimated) out of a population of 2,699,160.[2] However, between 1849 and 1876, nearly half of the Chinese brought to Peru, ages 9 to 40, died from exhaustion, suicide, or ill treatment of the deceased, few were women, given that women made up less than 1% of the Chinese population recorded before 1860.[3] By 1876, nearly 12,000 Chinese were living in Lima, representing 10% of the urban population at the time.[4]

Chinese Laborers in Peru circa 1900

Most Chinese workers labored in the sugar and cotton industries, where plantation agriculture expanded significantly in the nineteenth century as a result of the guano boom that invigorated the Peruvian economy. Peruvian planters benefited from high world sugar prices, which lasted until the 1880s, and high demand for cotton, which increased during the U.S. Civil War. The only obstacle to continuing growth for the sugar and cotton industries was a dearth of labor. Due to Great Britain’s termination of the slave trade to Peru in 1810 and the declining number of slaves, between 1892 and 1854, the number of slaves fell from 40,337 to 25,505.[5] In order to alleviate the problem, Congress passed an immigration law subsidizing the importation of contract laborers. Between 1839 and 1851, 450,000 pesos were paid to subsidize immigration at the rate of 30 pesos per immigrant to anyone who imported at least fifty workers between the ages of 10 and 40.[6] China was a good source for laborers at the time because political unrest and a relatively weak government that could not enforce order reduced millions to refugee status and made them vulnerable to labor contractors and merchants eager to profit. A typical coolie contract could last from four to eight years, often longer, depending on the hacienda owner. Unscrupulous owners could extend a coolie’s contract if they managed to increase his debt by claiming absence during work hours or charging extra for goods and services rendered.

Chinese laborers in Peru mined guano, helped build railroads, and toiled on cotton and sugarcane plantations until the end of the coolie trade in 1874. This new policy helped to bring about the decline of the Peruvian economy in the 1870s and 1880s.[7] The end of the coolie trade was a result of Chinese governmental stability (it now had the ability to execute labor contractors and blockade Macao to cut off the supply of labor) and British refusal to allow the coolie trade to continue.[8]

Chincha Islands, where large deposits of guano were located, courtesy of Manuel González Olaechea y Franco and The Illustrated London News

On plantations, the coolies faced limited mobility via debt peonage and tightly controlled lives via corporal punishment. On plantations, many coolies resisted total domination by planters through tactics very similar to those of African slaves and indentured servants, sometimes going against Chinese contractors that acted as enforcers.[9] Coolies would steal, run away, pretend to be sick, strike, and hold back or disrupt production in order to frustrate owners in the hope of gaining concessions that would better their living conditions.

In general, the Peruvian government was unconcerned about the everyday abuses of the coolies and even created legislation to help the planters. All Chinese were required by law to carry a letter from their employer stating that they had completed their work contracts and were required to register with local authorities and purchase a “boleto de su ocupación.”[10] Even though a special Chinese Commission, made up of Chinese and Peruvian officials, was formed in 1887 to inspect the living conditions of Chinese subjects in Peru, the Commissioners too were unconcerned about the general welfare of the coolies, caring only about “gross injustices, such as corporal punishment, illegal imprisonment in plantation jails, contract violations, and wages that fell below the subsistence level.”[11] While both planters and the Peruvian government recognized the need for Chinese labor, even that acknowledgement was not an incentive to treat them well instead, racist views about unworthiness of the Chinese race prevailed. Runaways, who often fled to escape terrible living and working conditions, were pursued by subprefects, governors, and police, and punished by having to work off the costs of their recovery. Eventually, a majority of the coolies finished their contracts and chose to continue working on the plantations. According to Michael Gonzales, without Chinese workers, “Peruvian planters could never have survived the crisis of the 1870s and 1880s and emerged as wealthy businessmen and political leaders in the 1890s.”[12]

Some coolies also migrated to the cities after successful completion of their contract. In cities such as Lima, some Chinese men were employed as domestic servants or artisans they had more freedom to form households with native Peruvians, resulting in children of mixed race beginning in the 1850s.[13] While the coolies were called raza amarilla, china, chinos de la Gran China, chinos del imperio celeste, Celestes, or Nación asiática, in respectful terms, and los amarillos or Macacos in popular but less polite terms, their mixed-race offspring, who began emerging in 1870, would not be given any particular name or racial category until the twentieth century.[14] As historian Isabelle Lausent-Herrera points out, the lack of racial classification by authorities, a practice that extended as far back as the corporate society of the early colonial era, signified that the Chinese-Peruvians had no real place in Peruvian society.

By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however, the Chinese were beginning to carve a place for themselves in Peru. In the late 1880s, a few Chinese became planters themselves, while others became established merchants. Wing On Chiang & Cia. of Piura sold opium to planters, and a major wholesaler in Pisco was a Chinese man named José Elías.[15] These men, however, were exceptions to the rule as most Chinese established small stores, restaurants, vegetable stands, or worked as artisans.[16]In the late nineteenth century, urban Chinese formed native place associations and established hierarchies within their communities in the cities and integrated themselves into Peruvian society by converting to Catholicism. While the Chinese community experienced its share of tensions from within and without the community during the twentieth century, the Chinese have largely survived and flourished in Peru.

[1] Isabelle Lausent-Herrera, “Tusans (tusheng) and the Changing Chinese Community in Peru,” Journal of Chinese Overseas 5 (2009): 116.

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