Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

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The geoglyph of Cerro Sagrado

Cerro Sagrado (Sacred Mount) is located in the Azapa Valley, eight kilometers from the Pacific coast. The mountain slope that faces the valley holds a geoglyph outlined in dark stones that contrast against the lighter shade of the hillside itself. The glyph includes huge figures of humans, camelids, snakes and lizards, all visible from a great distance away.

Some 2.5 kilometers north of Cerro Sagrado, beside the river, is the ancient Inca village of Pampa Alto Ramírez that contains the remains of 30 dwellings made of lightweight material, some small llama corrals and large underground storehouses, a cemetery, farm fields and two freshwater springs that provided water for crop irrigation and consumption by the village’s 200 inhabitants. The people who lived here were no doubt mitimaes, tribute laborers brought from the Altiplano by the Incas to dry and salt fish and supervise the locals as they farmed, extracted marine resources and collected guano from nearby islands. These residents would also have organized the transport of these articles in llama caravans bound for the mountains and Altiplano of Arica.

Five hundred years ago, Cerro Sagrado was a major site of worship among the locals and among the caravanners traveling along this route. In fact, bodies in the local cemetery are all positioned facing the geoglyph. The final traces of the village disappeared three decades agoto make way for a highway and modern agricultural operations. The geoglyphwas restored, however, and is now one of themost emblematic icons in the zone of Arica.

Location: Azapa Valley, XV Region of Arica-Parinacota

Timeframe: Approximately 1000–1500 A.D.

Site: Cerro Sagrado

Source:   C. Santoro and I. Muñoz, 1981, “Patrón habitacional incaico en el área de Pampa Alto Ramírez”, Chungara 7: 144–171, Arica.