By Corey Sandler
When I was a child, one of my paternal grandmother’s favorite bits of poetry–and she had many–was this:
A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
I thought of her today, as we strolled along small resort town of Paracas, midway between the port of General San Martin where our ship was docked and the city of Pisco.
We’ve been here before, but it still is amazing to see the sprawling desert that comes right down to the sea in this part of Peru and in Chile to the south. There is not much fresh water to be had, but the ocean is full of fish and the pelicans are well-fed.
Paracas is a Quechua word that refers to the hurricane-like winds that carry sand. The desert near Paracas is stark beauty, mostly shades of red colored by iron deposits. In 1925 several major archeological sites were found in Cerro Colorado, the Red Hill.
Two sets of tombs were found on either side of the road, one holding about 40 sets of remains and the other hundreds. The larger site is considered much older, but the pair indicate this was a special place for the Paracas people. The older Paracas Cavernas is believed to date from about 800 to 200 BCE, and the nearby Paracas Necropolis from about 200 BCE to 150 of the Common Era.
In both places bodies are wrapped in textiles, many in a sitting position. Peru has done some basic excavation and research, but most of the artifacts are preserved as they were beneath the ground in this dry, remote place.
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