Jan Bartek – Icestech.info – Many ancient places in Peru are as beautiful as valuable to history. Not far from the city of Cajamarca, there is a fascinating archaeological site known as Ventanillas de Otuzco situated on a volcanic rock. What makes Ventanillas de Otuzco unique are its artificial caves that have long interested scholars.
Located at 2,650 meters above sea level, the artificial caves of Ventanillas de Otuzco are said to have been used around (200 A.D -800 A. D) by the Cajamarca Culture to bury their dead. This pre-Inca necropolis has a unique architecture with hundreds of windows for each deceased individual. Each of these caves has an entrance that is either rectangular or quadrangular, with a height of 50 to 60 centimeters.
Ventanillas de Otuzco. An ancient pre-Columbian Peruvian archaeological burial site called the Otuzco windows or windows of Otuzco is situated near Cajamarca. Credit: Adobe Stock – Justin
When examining the necropolis, researchers could not understand why no complete skeletons could be found inside the caves.
Excavations at the site and nearby indicated Ventanillas de Otuzco was used as a secondary burial place. The absence of complete skeletons suggests Ventanillas de Otuzco was a necropolis and a ritual site that symbolized Cajamarca’s cult of the dead and ancestors.
When the Cajamarca people buried their dead, they did not immediately put them inside this cemetery. The corpse was first buried in the ground. Then, after some time, some bones and skulls were deposited in the niches carved in the rocks of Otuzco, possibly for veneration purposes.
It was undoubtedly an interesting and slightly different burial practice conducted by the Cajamarca Culture.
The first documented study and investigation of Ventanillas de Otuzco was made by Julio César Tello (1880 – 1947), the father of Peruvian archaeology, who is widely regarded as the first indigenous archaeologist in South America. Tello, who explored many ancient sites in Peru, is credited with discovering the Paracas and the Chavin cultures.
When Tello reached Ventanillas de Otuzco, he unearthed a human burial belonging to a boy of approximately 12 years of age. The small child was found in a fetal position, without any metallic or ceramic evidence.
Secrets Passageways Inside The Volcanic Rock
In more recent times, scientists who examed the crypts hidden inside the volcanic rock discovered the niches were built in the form of galleries. The niches connected from the inside, with each other and
Ventanillas de Otuzco has 337 windows, and all “these holes lead to a corridor that connects to the heart of the rock mass where there are more niches, mostly simple, although there are also multiple niches that constitute passageways with lateral niches.
Legend tells that through some windows, you can enter dark and mysterious galleries, whose unattainable end inspired the imagination of man in the creation of secret passageways that would unite Cajamarca with the department of Cusco.” 1
Students of ancient Peruvian history are most likely familiar with the horrible Battle of Cajamarca, during which Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadors clashed with Atahualpa, and a huge force of Inca warriors.
The Ventanillas de Otuzco is a thousand-year-old funerary complex and mausoleum found about thirty minutes from the center of Cajamarca, Peru. Credit: Elisolidum – CC BY 4.0
Atahualpa was captured “offered to fill a room with treasure as a ransom for his release, and Pizarro accepted. Eventually, some 24 tons of gold and silver were brought to the Spanish from throughout the Inca Empire.
Although Atahualpa had provided the richest ransom in the history of the world, Pizarro treacherously put him on trial for plotting to overthrow the Spanish, for having his half-brother Huascar murdered, and for several other lesser charges. A Spanish tribunal convicted Atahualpa and sentenced him to die.
On August 29, 1533, the emperor was tied to a stake and offered the choice of being burned alive or strangled by garrote if he converted to Christianity. In the hope of preserving his body for mummification, Atahualpa chose the latter, and an iron collar was tightened around his neck until he died.” 2
This execution of the last Inca emperor Atahualpa vanquished the native resistance.
Pre-Inca Cajamarca People Manufactured Beautiful Ceramics
The pre-Inca Cajamarca people are today remembered for their magnificent necropolis, Ventanillas de Otuzco, a popular tourist attraction. However, let us not forget the Cajamarca culture produced beautiful ceramics. “It is a fine, whitish or cream-colored pottery, mostly tripod or base glasses, lenticular containers and globular jugs with small handles, as well as plates, glasses and spoons.
Cajamarca pottery. Credit: Met Museum – Public Domain
The decoration is done with a brush and achieves a floral, cursive or calligraphic effect, after a first moment of simple ornamentation. It manifests itself in the form of variegated patterns that completely cover the surface of the specimen, but there is also it in the form of simple geometric patterns that cover only part of the vessel.
It is a decoration that chooses minute motifs and occasionally ventures into the interior of the pitcher, taking place there in circles and straight, broken and parallel lines. Taking the surface we find that on the cream or orange background there are red, brown and black drawings, others being brick-colored only when the background curtain offers a creamy hue. Zoomorphic motifs are not lacking, such as snakes or reptile and feline heads; and also the phytomorphs as foliage.” 3
Those who wish to travel back in time and admire Ventanillas de Otuzco may keep in mind that “the ideal season to visit the Ventanillas de Otuzco is from May to September, which corresponds to a time of year with little rain.” 1
Updated on August 6, 2022
Written by Jan Bartek – Icestech.info Staff Writer
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Expand for references
- Peru – Las Ventanillas de Otuzco en Cajamarca
- Ellen Lloyd – Story Of Atahualpa: The Last Emperor Of The Inca Empire, Icestech.info
- José Antonio del Busto Duthurburu – Perú Preincaico
- Turisomo Peru – Turismo en Ventanillas de Otuzco