amauta (quechua) professor or master – person of great wisdom
as far as we know the Inca did not possess a written or recorded language. Like the Aztec, they depended largely on oral teaching as a means of maintaining their culture. The general population received knowledge and skills passed on by their forebears. But the royal classes and a few specially chosen individuals were formally educated by the Amautas.

quarried stone used for building

the Callejon de Huaylas
stretches for about 200 kilometres, running from north to south in the department of Ancash and separating two mountain chains,  the snowcapped Cordillera Blanca, containing many of Peru’s highest mountains including Mount Huascarán, and the Cordillera Negra. The Río Santa runs through the valley which formed an important location for the Chavín culture.

roasted corn kernels

cauqui (kawki)
cauqui today is nearly extinct but is spoken in the village of Cachuy in Yauyos province in the high plateau around Lima. Sebastian Barranca and Julio C Tello, like the renowned nineteenth century scientist Antonio Raymondi, believed there was a linguistic link between kawki and the aymara spoken on the Titicaca plateau

Chachapoyas - cloud people sacha (mountain) puya (fog)
or Kuélap, culture dates from about 800 AD until 1532, when they were conquered and assimilated by the Inca Pachacuteq.  Inca legend talks of the cloud people as being a tall warrior race, fair of skin and hair.  And there is an unusually large proportion of fair skinned natives in this zone, with no known European ancestry. During the Inca civil war, many of the Chachapoyas were conscripted into Huascar's army and incurred heavy casualties in the ensuing battles. When his brother Atahualpa was finally victorious, many more were punished for their allegiance to his rival by execution or deportation.  It was possibly due to this harsh treatment that many of the Chachapoyas initially chose to side with the Spanish colonialists when they arrived in Peru and Guaman, a local ruler from Cochabamba, allied to the conquistador Francisco Pizarro. When the Spanish finally did occupy Cochabamba, they proceeded to extort what riches they could from the local people. 

a small ten stringed lute. The back of the instrument is traditionally made from an armadillo shell.

strips of dried meat similar to beef jerky

chicha de jora
a cloudy, fermented corn beer
Chicha played a large part in both everyday and ceremonial life in the Inca Empire and was fermented in large, round-bottomed clay jars, set in reed baskets. Traditionally brewed by women, the chichera would sometimes add bits of charcoal to ward off evil spirits. Today you will still see people flicking some drops of chicha onto the ground in the four directions of the compass before drinking, following the age old custom of honoring the earth goddess Pachamama 

can be made of pork, chicken or fish.
The small pieces of meat are lightly seasoned and deep fried. The most popular in Peru are the crispy fried pork pieces, cooked in their own rendered fat in large pots over a wood fire

The Chinese first came to Peru in the 19th century as indentured servants working the guano islands, railroads and coastal sugar plantations, where they suffered horrendous conditions.  Their contracts did however include the obligation to provide certain foods and they maintained their culinary traditions. Eventually when they settled as free citizens, they imported seeds for ingredients such as ginger and snow peas, and began to set up small establishments in the area which has now become a bustling Chinatown in downtown Lima.   The impact on the Peruvian palate has been striking and long-lasting. The word chifa is used for both the resulting fusion cuisine and the corner restaurants which are a feature of any neighbourhood in the country today.

stone burial chamber or funerary tower

cloth mummy bundle
The bundle would usually contain a flexed body in the foetal position, which was topped with a mask or headdress. Tello uncovered hundreds of fardos at Paracas. They were wrapped in multiple layered intricately decorated textiles, some with more than sixty layers

fertility rite involving branding cattle and sheep, and ritual offerings to the powerful deities associated with mountains or lakes. The campesinos believe that failure to observe these rituals can bring death upon the herds and members of the family. 

ruin or ancient structure, usually funerary mounds or pyramids. The term literally means an object that represents something revered and as such can also traditionally include natural locations and formations.

generic name in Peru given to any artefact found at pre-Columbian sites; mostly earthenware vessels and other finely made pots linked to ceremonial or religious use.

grave robber 

lomo saltado
very popular Chinese - Peruvian fusion stir fry dish of beef, potato, onions and tomatoes, flavoured with native yellow chillies (aji amarillo). This is a firm favourite at the corner chifa (Chinese restuarant) and at home.

Mama Quilla (Mother Moon/Golden Mother)
Inca moon goddess, daughter of Viracocha and consort to Inti. She is the mother of Manco Capac, the first Inca. She is the deity of marriages, the calendar and festivals and feast days

dried, hollowed out pumpkin traditionally used in mountain communities as a drinking vessel or a dish for food; also commonly employed as a chamber pot.  Nowadays intricately engraved mate burilados, using traditional hand carving techniques, are made into a variety of decorative objects.

Contemporary with Nazca in the south, the Moche civilization is thought to have evolved during the first century A.D. and spread over an area on Peru’s northern coast stretching from the Lambayeque valley to Nepeña just south of what is today the port of Chimbote. The Moche state was militaristic and highly stratified. They developed large scale irrigation systems and were skilled engineers.  Main sites include the Huaca del Sol, a large pyramid comparable in size to Egypt’s Sakhara pyramid, and the Huaca de la Luna whose temple walls are decorated with motifs of a fearsome fanged deity, with the head of a marine bird and a nest of snakes for hair.  The distinctive Moche style pottery, dark red on cream background, is decorated with depictions of fishing and hunting, but violent scenes of death, war and human sacrifice are also common.  The El Brujo site, probably the most important religious and political centre of the Moche culture also features scenes of ritual combat, blood offerings and human sacrifice, alongside images of an owl-spider divinity.  But amongst all the decapitation, dismemberment and blood ritual, the Moche craftsmen were evidently very skilled in reproducing facial features, expression and personality.  They were also highly accomplished metal workers, producing beautiful ornaments in gold, silver and precious stones. One of the most spectacular discoveries relating to the Moche culture was the royal tomb of the Lord of Sipán in the late 1980’s, one of the richest finds in the New World. 

small brightly coloured, yellow and red skinned tuber, with very moist flesh, most commonly eaten in stews. Olluco and other nutrient rich mountain tuber crops such as oca and mashua are staples of the Andean diet

traditional domed shaped yeast bread, flavored, with candied fruit peel and raisins,  originating from fifteenth century Milan

aguardiente de Pisco
named after the port of Pisco, a clear brandy made from the grapes grown in the Ica valley which cuts through the coastal desert plain about 300 kilometres south of Lima.  Juice from the pressed grapes is left in a puntaya – holding vat for 24 hours. It then travels through a series of troughs and channels to the fermentation vats, where after 10 to 12 days the resulting wine is transferred to a traditionally handmade mud and copper still or falca.  After distillation, the colourless eau de vie will rest in large clay pots called pisqueras for 2 – 3 months before it’s finally ready to be bottled.

There are four distinct types of Pisco
  • Pisco Puro  - made only from the dark Quebranta grape, it is quite dry and very good for cocktails
  • Pisco Aromático - is produced from either Muscat, Italia, Moscatel or Torontel grapes and has a more intense, fruity, aroma and flavour.  
  • Pisco Acholado – a blended Pisco, made from a mix of two or more varieties of grape – this one is particularly good taken neat in shots.
  • Pisco Mosto Verde – is the most expensive of the four to make. The grape juice is not allowed to ferment completely, retaining a little sugar content, and the resulting Pisco has a rich velvety texture.

La Puna (Altiplano)
name given to the southern Andean high plains of Peru and Bolivia. At more than 4,000 meters above sea level, the high arid plains, covered in short coarse grasses, are rich in minerals and have traditionally supported a hardy native Andean population. The harsh winds that blow across the plateau are also called puna.

traditional Andean flute

quero quechua qiro - cup or goblet 
traditional wide lipped drinking vessel. They were mainly of clay or wood, although the Inca had queros of finely worked and decorated gold

a series of multicoloured knotted strings spun from llama or alpaca fibre used as a kind of coded language by ancient Peruvian civilizations to count objects and record history.
Quipus had a varying number of strings and information was relayed by the position knots were placed on them, and by the colour of the strings. Quipus were transported by relay runners (chasqui) carrying messages throughout the vast territory of the Inca Empire.

The Sechín complex lies in the Casma valley situated on the coastal plain, just over 300km north of Lima, between the towns of Chimbote and Huarmey. It is one of the largest and most ancient monumental sites in Peru.

The huge mound at Sechín Alto, at over 40 meters tall, is the largest of its time period. The site was always well known, given that due to its enormous size it was in full view. 

However, in 1937 Tello was led to a place the local people called el Indio Bravo because of a human face carved on a large rock. As it turned out this face was only part of a stone that was still three quarters buried underground. Tello eventually discovered more than ninety of them. The Cerro Sechín temple (1770 – 1510 BC) is now best known for the macabre stone frieze that Tello uncovered and Hernan recorded. Made from huge slabs of local granite, the monolithic façade features gruesome representations of death and mutilation. Warrior like figures carrying clubs or staffs, and wearing loincloths and hats proceed around the walls, surrounded by naked victims and their severed body parts engraved on smaller stones.

The site also includes Sechín Bajo, Taukachi-Konkan and 

Moxeque which is another significant site. The square based stepped pyramid (1800-1400 BC) made of stone and mud brick has curved corners. The complex contains large plazas and living units as well as terraces and cemeteries. Several smaller buildings and atriums at the top can be reached by a stairway, cutting through the temple’s façade which is decorated by deep niches with large sculptures of human figures made with clay in different colours. 

trepanation (also sometimes known as trepanning or trephination)
surgical procedure drilling a hole in the skull in order to expose the brain for medical treatment

ucuco ucumari (spectacled bear)
arboreal bear with thick brown fur. It gets its name from the pale yellow coloured bands across the base of the nose and the forehead. Nocturnal and generally solitary except for the bond between mothers and their cubs, not much is known about the behavior of these bears in the wild. The only known species of bear left now in South America 

verruga (Peruvian warts) 
common name for the mosquito borne disease Bartonelosis, occuring only at a very specific altitude (between 1,000 and 3,000 msl) in some Andean valleys.  A very unpleasant malady, the first phase of the disease is characterized by lethargy, fever, excruciating pain in the articulations and anemia, becoming severe as the disease progresses. During later phases the body erupts in warty tumours (hence the name) which can range from the size of a pea to that of an orange. Warts then rupture and cause heavy bleeding. It is an endemic and reemerging disease in modern day Peru and Ecuador, although mortality rates are low

tenant farmer or sharecropper

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