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Archaeology in San Pedro de Atacama

By Viator, May 2014

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The area surrounding San Pedro de Atacama is rich in archaeological remains for two main reasons, the first being that the desert's extremely dry conditions have often led to preservation of various artifacts. The area also has a long history of human population that predates the arrival of the Spanish to the continent.

History and archaeology buffs will love the R.P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum, located right in town, just off the plaza. The museum is named for its founder, a Belgian priest who established the museum in 1963, and explains the presence of the different indigenous peoples in the area through time. Artifact displays include everything from gold masks and weavings to vessels and a hallucinogenic snuff-like substance used by the original dwellers of the area.

But if you want to see where people lived and circulated, you’ll have to get a bit further out of town, to the Pukara de Quitor or the ancient village of Tulor. The former, an old fortification, is just three miles from town and has a great view of the surrounding area, historically providing a vantage point for any coming attacks. Much more extensive and used as a place to live, rather than for defense, is the ancient village complex of Tulor, which covers about 1.3 acres and is characterized by its round mud walls.

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