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Cajamarca culture

Posted by Carmen Maria Guevara Protzel on Aug 17, 2019 8:09:00 AM


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Cajamarca (also known as Kashamarka) is the largest and capital city of the Cajamarca region and an important cultural center in the northern Andes.

In the Cajamarca region you can find countless examples of pre-Hispanic archaeological sites, breathtaking landscapes, and colonial architecture. In 1532, the Battle of Cajamarca took place right there, and it marked the Spanish victory over the Inca Empire.

Going back to the beginnings of the Cajamarca culture, it began to flourish during the first millennium AD. The city of Cajamarca is situated on an inter-Andean valley at 2750 m. The valley is irrigated by the rivers Chonta, San Lucas, and Maschon. The etymology of the name Kasha Marka (sometimes spelled Qasamarka or Cashamarka) is uncertain. Some believe that it may mean "town of thorns," while others think it combines the Quechua words "kasha" and "marca" (cold and place).

The Legacy of Cajamarca Culture

For more than 2,000 years, the city was occupied by several cultures. In nearby archaeological sites (such as Kuntur Wasi and Cumbe Mayo), there can be seen traces of various pre-Chavin cultures.


Cajamarca art has an unbroken stylistic continuity from around 200 BCE until the Spanish conquest in the mid-1500s. If we take into account the series of expansions of their powerful neighbors in this area, it is remarkable that they managed to preserve their artistic expression. This expression is mostly characterized by ceramics made with white kaolin paste.

Cajamarca ceramics achieved their most extensive distribution and highest prestige in 700-900 CE during the Middle Cajamarca phase. Ceramics from this period have been found in many Wari Sites (as far as Pikillacta in the Cusco region). The construction of a large terraced mountain city-fortress of Cerro Chepen is attributed to a joint effort between Cajamarca and Wari polities.

As for the Cajamarca cutlery, it was distinctive and had a wide distribution, being recognized as a prestige ware in the region. The first Cajamarca ceramics that were made between 200 BCE and 200 CE were primarily found in the Cajamarca Basin.

During the period of early Cajamarca ceramics (200-450 CE), the cutlery had more diverse and complex decorations and was distributed extensively. These ceramics were found on the Pacific and Amazonian sides of the Andes and the North Highlands.

Final Cajamarca Phase

The number of settlements started dropping with the collapse of Wari influence in the region. However, by the Final Cajamarca phase (1250-1532 AD), they gradually increased, and Cajamarca maintained its prestige. The Cajamarca settlement centers, such as Santa Delia (Cajamarca Valley) and Tantarica or Guzmango Viejo to the coast in the west became large (more than 20 ha). More remnants of elite residential units as well as the largest number of fine ceramics are found in this region than in any other early Cajamarca site.

Between 1463 and 1471, Inca generals Ccapac Yupanqui and Tupac Inca Yupanqui conquered and integrated the city of Cajamarca to the Inca Empire.

The Carnival in Cajamarca

 Contact us If you are looking to explore the remanants of the Cajamarca culture  or if you want to attend the Cajamarca Carnival, or to find out more about our tours in Peru.


Carmen Maria Guevara Protzel

Topics: culture, history, archaeology, heritage

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