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Peru Viajes

Edition 2015
The Tawantinsuyo
The Inka
Inkan Religion
General and City Planning
Materials and Lithic Tech
Inkan Architecture
Coca Leaves
Andean Camelids
Andean Condor
Inkan City of Qosqo
Present-day Festivities
The Cathedral
Saint Blaise Church
Convent of Our Lady of Mercy
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Home >> Peru Cities >> Cusco Travel Information >> Agriculture



Existing an evolutionary sequence in Peruvian culture, its technology and agricultural produce is also consequence of cultural evolution since the first farmers in a pre-ceramic epoch were possibly the men of Chilca in the southern coast of Peru. According to archaeology they began developing incipient agriculture about 5 to 7 thousand years ago cultivating squash, pumpkins, lima beans, and probably also chilies, cotton, ginger, "lucuma" (a small brown nut-like fruit) and prunes. By 6275 B.C. Peruvian Man began cultivating "proto-maize" and about 3,400 years ago peanuts. After different stages of adaptation and acclimatization all over the Peruvian territory, developed agriculture in Qosqo was started with the Marcavalle and Chanapata cultures around 1000 B.C. This farming evolution arrived to the Tawantinsuyo with many cultivated products and increasingly developing technology.

One of the biggest realizations of the Tawantinsuyo was to eradicate starvation, through constant biological research, acclimatization, domestication of wild plants for human consumption, and very intensive work. The Quechuas having two well-defined natural seasons, in their rainy season and part of the dry were devoted to agriculture and in their dry season were constructors and artisans. Few ancient civilizations in the world developed a farming substructure with characteristics that were found here. Just take a look at farmlands near Qosqo in order to imagine the Tawantinsuyo's deep farming conviction, where all the valleys and flatlands were cultivated. They took advantage even of dry and rocky mountain slopes where farming terraces were built; to construct them all urged qualified technology and very intensive work. When making the terraces, at first stone retaining walls were built and then the empty spaces were filled up with stones or sand in the lower part and the upper side with fertile soil brought in certain cases from some kilometers away. All these farming terraces were totally irrigated with aqueducts that almost always went over many kilometers from their harnessings in springs, rivers or lakes. Moreover, in order to keep humidity of the fertile soil that was about one meter deep, there was a clay layer between fertile and sterile soils. Normally, cameloid manure, island birds' manure or some other fertilizers and even anchovies (in the coast) were used. Fertile mountains were and are still cultivated; today, it is also possible to find farmlands on mountain slopes with inclinations of even 30 or 35 degrees.

Agriculture since immemorial times was and still is closely tied to certain divinities and different astral bodies. Andean people believed and still believe that without help from their gods they could not develop good farming. Cultivating the " Pachamama" (Mother Earth) urges profound faith and conviction, and support of ceremonies and magical-religious rituals; frequently, she must get offerings in form of what traditionally people name " payments" or " dispatches", otherwise she could show her annoyance and punish the humans. The Tayta Inti (Father Sun), the Mama Killa (Mother Moon), and the stars forming different constellations also determine crops and Andean people know how to observe them as well as their different variations. They perform their activities according to their observation; so for example, it is broadly known that brightness of some constellations must be observed because the brighter their stars are seen the lesser rains they will get in the next farming season.

Acquired techniques and knowledge were really impressive. Some poor lands, as it happens today, were cultivated alternating crops and some times they were left to "relax"; that means that they were not cultivated for determined periods in order to allow them recover naturally their mineral richness. Obviously, working conditions were very hard because just human strength was used. The most symbolic farming tool they used was the Taqlla or Chakitaqlla which is a foot-plow consisting of a wooden stick having a metal or another harder wood head. That tool is introduced into the earth with a hard kick and the help of arms and the whole body; it removes the soil when taken out. Another very diffused tool was the star-shaped or round stone club used as bend or hammer to wear clods away.

It is a really difficult task to do an inventory of all the cultivated and consumed vegetable products in ancient Peru. Modern world recognizes that approximately 60% of the vegetables consumed today all over the world are native from this part of the earth. That is, adapted, domesticated, acclimatized and even hybridized by our ancient cultures. The most important products in the Tawantinsuyo's daily diet were the " Sara" - Maize or Corn- (Zea Mays) and " Papa" - Potato- (Solanum tuberosum). Maize in its primitive form began being cultivated over here since the year 6,275 B.C. (Verified by Earle Smith Jr., N.Y. 1980, based in some samples gathered in the "Guitarrero" cave, Ancash), while that in Mexico (samples of the "El Riego" cave, Tehuacan) since the year 5,200 B.C. approximately. Nevertheless, no where else in the world it was or it is still cultivated maize of the same quality found in the inter-Andean Valleys of Qosqo. In the Urubamba Valley the variety of maize "Parakay" or "White" has the biggest and best flavor in the world. Not even in Mexico is there such a number of varieties that over here are so easily found (approximately 150). Besides, potatoes are possibly the most important heritage that Peruvian culture gave to mankind. Potatoes are the tubers that nowadays people eat even in the farthest away remote corners of the world. They may be cultivated from the sea level to the edge of the high barren plains over 4200 mts. (13800 ft.). Before 6000 BC nomadic people began collecting wild potatoes in the areas of Qosqo and the Titicaca Lake. Surely, ancient Peruvians who were very skillful in this art, had to devote many centuries in order to domesticate potato plants which in their savage state are bitter and insipid. Solanum tuberosum is the common potato known throughout the world; it has eight species and thousands of varieties. Today, in the different continents it is normal to find about five or seven varieties of potatoes, while that in the Andean Region of Qosqo about 3000 different varieties are cultivated commercially. Besides, in laboratories of the International Potato Center in Lima about 5000 are found. Some other important crops that began being broadly used in modern nourishment are Quinua (Chenopodium quinoa) from which there are hundreds of varieties -some writers call it "mountain rice" or "Indian rice"- and Kiwicha (Amaranthus caudatus) also known as Amaranth or Achita . Some years ago Amaranth was introduced in North-American astronauts' diet. In some Andean towns there is a tradition which tells that in the Tawantinsuyo its consumption was intensive, but the conquest came and the Spanish invaders discovered that it was too rich a cereal and they thought that if "Indians" continued eating it they would get stronger and more intelligent than the Europeans. So taking advantage of evangelization they forbade its consumption arguing that Jesus Christ never ate it and its name did not exist in the Bible.

Following are some of Peru's most common native vegetable products that were and still are basic in nourishment of people in the Andes. Many names have no translation or equivalents in English:

SPICES AND SEASONINGS.- Chiqchipa, Congona, Kunuca, Manka P'aki, Marancera, Misk'iuchu, Muña (Mint), Pumakiro, Quilquiña, Roqoto (Hot Pepper), Piris (Chili), Wakatay (Black Mint), etc.

EDIBLE FLOWERS.- Achuma, Ch'uku, Qontoya, Wiqontoy, Mutuy, Pataw, Pisonay, Quillkiña, Kiswar, Soronto, Uchu-Uchu, etc.

VEGETABLES.- Achupalla, Awaimantu, Airampo, Akhana, Api-Tara, Kaiguas, Qochayuyo (Aquatic Algae), Habinka, Hat'aqo, Lakawiti (Squash), Llulluch'a, Tomato, Camona (Palmetto), Cayara, Chamay, Chauka-Chauka, Zapallo (Pumpkin), etc.

FRUITS.- Achupalla (Pineapple), Aratiku (Soursop), Caimito, Qapuli (Sour Cherry), Qupuasu and some other sorts of Cocoa, Custard apple or Bullock heart, Qoqona, Cashew nut or Cashew apple, Hawaq'ollay (Giant-Cactus), Masasamba, Pani or Pijuayo, Pucha (Papaya), Toqte (Walnut), Elderberry, Cyphomandra or Tree-tomato, Ubos (Plum), Umari, Inchiq (Peanut), Cashum (Cucumber), Matus (Guava), Pakay, Palltay (Avocado), Palillo, Ruqma or Lucuma, Sapote, Shupe or Sicana, Taqso or Tumbo, Tintin (Pomegranate), Tuna (Prickly-Pear), etc. It seems that there is some sort of native American Banana.

BULBS, ROOTS, TUBERS.- Amka (Potato), Apichu (Sweet-Potato), Flour Kumara, Arracacia or Viraka, Ginger, Ashipa or Jiquima, Llakjon or Llacon, Maka, Tropaeolum or Añu, Oxalis or Oca, Sachapapa, Xanthosoma or Unqucha, Ullucus or Olluko, Yuka (Manioc or Cassava), Achankaray (Begonia), Ckoto- Ckoto, etc.

CEREALS.- Sara (Maize), Quinua, Qañihua, Kiwicha (Amaranth), Achis, Magu.

LEGUMES.- Cazza or Parka, Kidney Beans, Lima Beans, String Beans, Pashuru, Tarwi (Lupine Beans).

MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS.- Kachi (Salt), Chako (edible clay), Pasa or Pasalla (another whiter clay), Catawi or Isku (Lime, it contains calcium), vegetal ashes (for example, for soaking and pre-cooking corn in order to prepare mote or mot'e), Llipt'a (small black ball made from ashes of qañiwa, quinua and some other plants in order to chew coca leaves), etc.

A really broad field was that of Andean natural drugs and medicaments among which there are thousands of medicinal plants. Their characteristics and properties are known by the healers (Hampiq or Hampiqamayoq) and all common people. Andean traditional medicine has always direct relationship with ancestral gods and some other magical-religious elements.

Likewise, meat consumption was largely practiced in Inkan nourishment. Early chroniclers stated that supplies that filled the storehouses ( Qollqa or Pirwa) were mainly dry or dehydrated food, kept in that state in order to ensure its storage and consumption in long time periods. Among those goods were Dry Corn, Chuño (dehydrated potatoes), Ch'arki (Charqui or Jerk: salted dry South-American cameloid's meat) and salted dry fish. Fishing in the sea by that time included all the commercial fish and mollusk species also captured today, preferring Tuna Fish and Tollo. The fish species being abundant in rivers and lakes were the Gona, Catfish, White Sardine of the Urubamba River, the Chakechallwa or Golden in Huanuco, the Suqui or King Fish of the Chili River, Cachuela or Karachi, the Mauri Suchi, Lluchcca, Ahuacuyamor, Kakas, Umani, Chichiñi or Ispi, Qoyche, Qoriochoque, Moro, etc. Moreover, some other aquatic species were eaten such as the Mayupuma or Amazon Otter; and wild or domesticated turtles in tropical zones. Also wild fowl were hunted but mainly nursed including different species of ducks, partridges, turkeys and hens. Likewise, the diet was completed with White-Lipped Peccaries, Collared Peccaries and Capybaras; as well as herbivorous animals as the Anta, Tapir, Awara, Sachavaca, Deer, Guemal, etc. Without any doubt, the most important dish was the Qowi, Cuy or Guinea Pig, which was domesticated and nursed in the houses' kitchens. It has very rich meat and was and still is considered a magical animal. The biggest amount of red meats, though, came from South-American cameloids; that is, Alpacas, Llamas, Vicunas and Guanacos. Special alpacas and llamas were domesticated and nursed in large numbers; they were also a good supply of quality wool, milk, and served as pack animals.



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