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Day 39 Cochasqui Pyramids!
Pyramids as a word would be a bit deceptive for those at Cochasqui. They were not at all pointed at the top as those in Egypt, Mexico, and other sitings. In fact the drawings and mockups made me think more in line with a tadpole, with it’s big head and long tail. That’s only as far as shape is concerned.
This is a view that shows the ramp used to move the stones for the upper levels of the burial mounds.
The particular culture that built these structures, dates back to 700 A.D. Known as the “Caras,” agriculture was their primary source of sustenance and focus. The particular area chosen for these strange shaped structures, and their living area, was so strategically selected that if kept them from ever being conquered by the “Quitus,” the dominant culture just prior to the domination of the Incas.
Eventually the ruler of the Quitus united the two cultures by marriage to the princess of the Caras, and the combined culture became known as “Quitu-Cara.”
The Quitu-Caras worked the land and prospered from it. Pottery can be seen in the museums that shows a progressive improvement in the quality, from the thick utilitarian, to finer, ornamented beads and pieces that were used as money.
As with nearly all cultures, there was a wide variety of musical instruments that include an early example of a marimba, made from bamboo. There are also flutes, whistles, and huge horns such as we would think of in the Swiss Alps. These were used to send alerts, alarms, or signals of good news.
While the Caras were not a warlike culture, none the less they had conflicts to defend their territory, and armament to go along with fighting those battles. It’s hard to imagine that back in 700 A.D. they were wise enough to use helmets made of wood during battle. More often than not such things were not common until after the arrival of the Spanish hoards, using their steel shields, helmets, spears, and swords.
The pueblos or castles as they might be considered, were unique as well. The miniature reconstruction of the royal fortress is fascinating to think that such defenses were so well constructed and thought out. This is one of the reasons for the fact the Caras were never conquered as a culture.
The museums at Cochasqui are full of artifacts that are representative of advances of the Caras. As mentioned earlier the clay pottery which eventually became so well made as to be used as a form of money, or barter.
The land of Cochasqui was originally owned by a Spanish family. During their ownership, it was believed the mounds would surely contain gold, as did similar ruins left by the Incas. Rather than try to excavate one of the mounds, water was diverted from a nearby river, so run across one of the mounds.
The idea was to allow the water to wash away the dirt, leaving behind the gold which was heavier. What they found instead were 500 cadavers! No gold.
These cadavers were entrusted to anthropologists in Quito for discovery of what so many cadavers could mean in relation to this culture. Were they sacrificed to the gods of the Caras? Did 500 human beings face a sacrificial altar at the whim of Royalty?
The official explanation is these were voluntary sacrifices to please the gods of the Caras on an individual basis, and not the violent sacrifices many times written about of other cultures, such as the Incas. Believe it or not!
Other interesting accounts about this strange area, is the fact that Russian astrologists visited the area, to learn the possible culture behind the positioning of the mounds. As it turns out, some were aligned exactly with several constellations, namely Scorpio, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
In addition, two platforms were discovered, believed to be representations of the sun mad moon. Dates and time were religiously kept by the Caras using the “moon” platform, and small troughs of water.
If my understanding is correct, when the moon was present, a conical shaped stone was placed in the water trough, and based on the reflection in the water would determine the day, time and month. I’m certain there is more to it than that. I was likely trying to take photos or videos and missed important info.
The Caras used a 13 month calendar of 28 days, divided into four seasons, much the same as many countries use today. Their high, holy day was March 21st, which is their “solstice.” This is the one day per year that the sun casts no shadow, because of the Earth’s position to the sun on this particular day.
Our guide, Segundo Gualapuro, was excellent and patient to answer my impulsive questions that would interrupt his excellent delivery of history and facts. It is obvious he loves what he does. Had it been possible, I would have stayed and asked questions, which he would have gladly answered. Time is always a factor.
Cochasqui is one of those places that is low on the radar of most tourists, as it doesn’t have the flair or pizzaz of a Machu Pichu, or Ingapirca. What the area may lack in visual appeal, the museums make up for with artifacts. You get just a small taste of what I saw on this page. Come see for yourself.