One of the first big settlements and ceremonial centers in the region of Lima was "El Paraíso" (The Paradise). The complex dates back to around 2200 BC. It is located north of the City of Lima about 2 km from the Pacific Ocean directly at the Chillón River and extends over 50 hectares. The main building is a big pyramid that was probably used as a temple or an administrative center.
Impressive are the other complexes of buildings where you can see the simple dwellings of its inhabitants. An estimate of around 1500 to 3000 people lived in "El Paraíso". The supply of sufficient food and all other necessities, for an at this time huge population, was only made possible with an effective utilization of all available resources, a successful economy and an ordered social structure. Despite the fact, that Lima is located in a small dessert stripe, two for the region unique circumstances allowed the early settlers to survive:
- The position at the Pacific Ocean which provided fresh fish and other sea food.
- Lima's special climate with high humidity all year round and low clouds during the winter months in particular.
The Andes create a natural border for the humidity from the ocean and so are plants and animals supplied with the necessary water. Another side effect are a lot of microclimates throughout the Lima area. The inhabitants of "El Paraiso" could feed on hunted animals, gathered wild fruits and berries. Some time later they utilized the Chillón River and developed a primitive irrigation system to increase the effectiveness of agriculture.
Already around 2000 BC cotton (for beautifully weaved cloths), maize, yucca, pumpkins, kidney beans, sweat potatoes and fruits like lucúma (also known as lucma) and guava were cultivated. The appearance of ceramics in the Lima region around 1600 BC made it possible to cook food directly on the fire and store it.
New Discovery at El Paraiso
Even though El Paraiso was named the largest and earliest example of monumental architecture in the New World, until today little archaeological investigation and excavation was done at this important ancient complex and therefore little is known about the life of Lima's ancient inhabitants. It is believe that the complex consisted of around 10 to 15 pyramidal structures. Unit I or the main temple of El Paraiso was assumably a ceremonial center used by the community. Unit IV is speculated to have been a feasting site associated with Unit I. Unit II and VI, today just big hills, may have been used for domestic or multi activity purposes.
But finally in December 2012 a new investigation and excavation project led by Mark Guillen started at El Paraiso. And already 3 month later a groundbreaking discovery was announced. Archaeologists found an ancient temple located next to the main temple of El Paraiso. First excavations uncovered an underground ceremonial center comprising of 4 levels each older than the other. The construction is believed to have been built around 3000 BC. The inside discovered fire place where presumably offerings were burnt earned the ceremonial center the name "Templo el Fuego" (Fire Temple). The project is financed until 2017. So we can hope for more interesting and revealing findings.