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Paracas History

The geologic history of Paracas is like an open book. The oldest rocks are from the pre-Cambrian Super-eon (600 million years old). Rocks bearing plant fossils, such as at La Mina Beach, are over 300 million years old. The yellow strata, such as at La Catedral, date from the Upper Eocene epoch (35-40 million years ago) and the white rocks from the Upper Miocene and Lower Pliocene (4-15 million years ago).

Between 750 BC and 100 AD, the Paracas culture thrived on the Paracas Peninsula. Archaeological excavations show they had a detailed knowledge of irrigation and water management. The Wari Kayan burial site has intricate subterranean burial chambers in which dead ancestors were placed. The mummies were wrapped with layers of incredibly ornate and finely woven textiles. The Paracans are best known for these woven textiles. Paracas Bay also holds historical significance, as it was the spot where Jose de San Martin disembarked with liberation forces and began the campaign for independence to end the Spanish viceroyalty.

Since ancient times, nitrate-rich guano (seabird excrement) has been mined from the islands, including by the Mochica of Peru’s northern coast and the Chicha. During the mid-19th century, Islas Chincha was the base for guano mining operations. The islands still have ruins of worker housing, a hospital and other installations. Today, the Peruvian government operates a program to ensure sustainable guano removal.

After the devastating 2007 quake that destroyed Pisco, reconstruction here was rapid and the human population has grown. Chaco Beach and Paracas have become the center for tourism to the national reserve and Islas Ballestas.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

15 Jun 2012

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