Paracas Culture


The word paracas comes from the Quechua word ” para-ako ” which means ” sand falling like rain “. The Paracas culture is one of the oldest complex societies known in South America . It was of great importance in the history of Peru and they were recognized for their great textile art , their impressive mummies and for cranial trepanation , with the aim of healing fractures and tumors in the skull.


What is the Paracas culture?

The Paracas culture was an important social group that developed in Peru , it was a pre-Inca civilization , famous for its ability to make fine textiles , for the implementation of surgical techniques to save the lives of soldiers who went to war.



The Paracas culture is an archaeological culture of Ancient Peru that originated at the end of the upper formative period in the Paracas peninsula . It is believed that they had an affiliation with the Chavín culture , one of the oldest in Peru, but the origin of the Paracas culture remains unknown, even to archaeologists. The extremely dry environment of the area where it was located favored the extraordinary preservation of the remains of the mummies that were discovered. The Paracas culture is famous for its characteristic tombs , funeral bundles , mantlesthat cover them and by the application of the techniques of trepanation and artificial deformation of the skull.


Location of the Paracas culture

The Paracas culture emerged and developed on the southern coast of the Pacific Andes Central in the province of Pisco, Ica region , in what is now known by the name of Peru , around the years 600 to Y150. C., and they extended to the Cañete Valley in the north and to the Llauca Valley in Arequipa in the south 


This culture was discovered by Julio C. Tello , an archaeologist of Peruvian origin during 1925. During one of his expeditions, he managed to discover the cemeteries located in Cerro Colorado and Cavernas . In this place, he found many funeral bundles, capes, turbans and ornaments that the Paracas culture used for personal use.

Characteristics of the Paracas culture

Among its main characteristics we can mention:

  • In addition to depending on fish and other resources from the sea, they were farmers, growing beans, corn, red peppers, cassava, and peanuts.
  • They were artisans
  • They were theocratic .
  • Its economic base was agriculture and
  • They made polychrome ceramics .
  • His fabrics were colorful and harmonious.
  • They performed trepanations


The periods of the Paracas culture were established by Julio C. Tello , its discoverer, and it was based on the different burials he found. The periods are as follows:

  • Paracas Caverns Culture : This period is located between the years 700 and 200 BC It was named after the series of tombs that it found which were shaped like an inverted cup , with deep wells that led to a series of underground chambers , in which they found the mummies covered with bundles , which were cloth surrounded by offerings , mainly food. In this period they dedicated themselves to agriculture, war and religion .
  • Paracas Culture Necropolis : It was developed in the years 200 to -200 AD Its name means City of the Dead , and it was given this name, because the Paracas were in charge of building several cities for their dead . It was a rectangular cemetery , and their dead were wrapped in fine cloth , with gold ornaments and different pieces of pottery . In this period the corpses were mummified .


As for religion, they managed to separate the world of the divine from the real . They carried out burials and worshiped the god of rain , who was represented by a feline that could fly. They performed ritual sacrifices of people and animals , and believed that in the afterlife the dead had another life, so they mummified their corpses. They buried their dead with the objects they might need when they arrived in the afterlife, and covered them with robes embroidered with images of gods so that they would not feel alone.


The inhabitants of the Paracas culture had to work hard the lands to make them fertile , because in the place where they were located, these lands were arid , so they implemented great knowledge of irrigation and took advantage of underground water , which allowed them to work in agriculture . They used the excrement of the birds as fertilizer for their lands and managed to produce cotton, lima beans and corn.

Cultural manifestations


Textiles were valued as a means of sharing religious knowledge and beliefs . They were used to indicate status and authority . Some textiles were more than 34 meters long and required a large number of people and a complex organization to manufacture , made from camelid wool and vegetable fibers . The bright colors were produced with natural dyes.


The main type of architecture was the funeral home of the necropolis . Their tombs were excavated on rocks with a depth of more than 6 meters and at the bottom they placed their mummies . Later, they implemented large cameras that were owned by a specific family and each mummy was placed in a fetal position wrapped in leather bandages . The tombs were decorated with pottery, grave goods, and clothing .


The sculpture was based mainly on the elaboration of figures of men and women , they were carved in stones and had a series of inlays.


Their pottery was of the polychrome type , as they used different colors, it was post-firing paint and pumpkin- shaped . The vessels could also be circular in shape with short spikes. Sometimes they had pictures of animals .


Some of them did gold work on non-moving parts. They used the silver color and the amalgamation , which they obtained through the use of mercury . His pieces made of gilded copper were very representative and some were made of silver . They made ornaments for personal use , masks, nose rings, necklaces and headdresses.

Political and social organization of Paracas culture

militaristic society existed within this culture in the Paracas Necropolis period, and this period was greatly influenced by the priests and the warrior nobility . The culture in general was influenced by the Chavín culture , and they used theocratic government . The priests were in charge of the ceremonies and implanted an oppressive system. The social organization was then divided between the priests , the war nobility and lastly, the people . The population consisted mainly of peasants who feared these gods.

Paracas culture economy

Its economy depended mainly on agriculture and fishing . They were skilled fishermen and created irrigation channels for the lands. They managed to create aqueducts in the deserts and produced fertilizers .

Cranial trepanations

The Paracas culture practiced cranial trepanation . This was a form of surgery that they performed in the brain , they made a hole in the skull to treat the different traumas suffered by their soldiers in wars. According to studies carried out on the mummies, many of them had scar tissue , indicating that many of these soldiers managed to survive this type of surgery , however, it is unknown if they had any kind of physical sequelae . The holes in the skull were covered by plates made of gold and tools such asknives and scalpels made of volcanic stone . The surgeon in charge of the operations went by the name of Sir Kah.

Leave a Comment