SANTIAGO – During construction of a road in Chile’s El Olivar region, located some 470 kilometers (290 miles) from Santiago, workers came upon archaeological remains that experts call a historic discovery that will enrich the world’s understanding of pre-Columbian communities.
Infrastructure works along that stretch of a highway, designed to connect the cities of La Serena and Vallenar, have uncovered the burial grounds of several pre-Columbian cultures that inhabited the area as early as 1,700 years ago.
Since the discovery last July, a team of 30 archaeologists and another 50 experts have been at work in 452 digs excavated to reconnoiter an area full of impressive material items dating back to ancient times.
“These finds will provide us with new information about the ways of life of northern Chile’s pre-Columbian cultures,” Paola Gonzalez, lead archaeologist of the research project, told EFE.
During the archaeological survey, experts have found 49 areas with the remains of burials and dwellings belonging to the Molle, Animas and Diaguita cultures.
The latter culture was a pre-Columbian people greatly influenced by the Incas, and who lived between northwestern Argentina and northern Chile.
“Unfortunately, the Diaguita culture is better known for its beautiful polychrome ceramics than for its way of life,” Marcos Biskupovic, archaeologist for the La Serena Archaeological Museum, said.
Gonzalez and archaeologist Gabriel Cantarutti head the recovery of both human and animal bones in the Coquimbo region, as well as of household utensils and ceremonial items.
“These finds will allow us to fill in the blanks in the chronology of pre-Columbian peoples,” Biskupovic said.
The bones of about 100 bodies have been found in quite a small area, together will 49 places with signs of formal burials.
Over time, such discoveries could increase exponentially, since they show this to be one of the richest archaeological sites in northern Chile, Gonzalez said.
Because of the large number of bone deposits found, archaeologists and local authorities propose converting the area into a museum.