Tag Archives: Cultural

Ancient Peruvian Cultures – The Chimu

New archaeological sites tend to raise more questions that answers and are found regularly. We have learned many things about the various cultures that have hailed from Peru but, as always, there’s a fair bit of missing information.

This is particularly evident in the north of Peru where there have been a number of civilizations to crop up and then disappear over time. One culture would often borrow from one before it or, in some cases, take on attributes from cultures that it conquered. Because of this, there has been some confusion and disagreement over where one started and another began.

For example, the Moche flourished from 100 to 800 AD. Some accounts say that the Sican or Lambayeque flourished from 750 to 1375 when they were conquered by the Chimu. The Chimu are sometimes said to have existed concurrently, from 850 to 1450, and other accounts give them a later start date of 1100 or 1150.

What is known is about the Chimu is that the Chan Chan was the capital city of the Chimu Empire. It is the largest prehispanic mudbrick settlement in America and covers about 20 square kilometers. Here can be found the palaces of the kings as well as the nobles. It appears that it began with one large citadel which continued to be added to until there were more than 10 of these structures called ciudadelas.

These ciudadelas were like self-contained little towns. Each had its own buildings, burial sites and water supply. In the other parts of the city are evidence of trade and artisanship in the form of spinning, weaving and metalwork. When the Inca conquered the Chimus around 1470, they had an empire that spanned approximately 1000 km along the Pacific coast.

This civilization was known for its artwork and there is evidence that they took on some of the art style and possibly artisans of the Sican culture that they conquered. For this reason, there were some pieces of Sican artwork that were originally labeled Chimu until new information came to light.

One of the other things that this civilization is known for is its irrigation system. Agriculture was an important part of their economy and they built many systems of canals in order to keep a vast area of land irrigated.

As the Chimu were to employ, forcibly or not, the artisans of the Sican, the Inca did the same to the Chimu. Due to the outstanding metalwork by the Chimu, the Inca took many of their artisans to Cusco by force which may have played a part in the ultimate destruction of the culture.

Music, Culture, and Reality

A psychoactive is defined as that which has a profound or significant affect on the mental processes. Although typically used in the context of drugs and substances, this concept is often extended to anything evoking a seemingly ‘mystical experience.’ What people describe as mystical experiences are indistinguishable, neurologically and empirically, from deep and poignant religious experiences. Moments of oneness and insight are typical in both cases. In “The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902),” William James describes mystical experiences as ineffable, noetic, passive (rather, a sense of loss of control), and fleeting. From the remote mystics of Sufism and Kabbalah, to modern day ‘urban shamans,’ psychonauts have sought methods other than imbibement to investigate the cosmos within. Through meditation, breath control, lucid dreaming, sensory deprivation, and a host of other methods, music has stood among cultures in this service probably since early man first danced around campfires.

Ethnomusicolgist Gilbert Rouget explores the connection between music and trance throughout history. Perhaps music is more than simply a mortal construct, rather having cosmic significance. Playing music (and truly appreciating music) forces an individual to focus on the present moment, which in turn is the cornerstone of meaningful experience. This emphasis on the present moment is the consummation of all other psychonautical resources (mediation, entheogens, etc.). Subscribers of the shamanic and mystical often view the passage of time as an illusion of the human mind, and regard a ‘perpetual now’ as true reality. Interestingly this is where science begins to align with the esoteric.

Quantum Mechanics argues that particles move backwards as well as forwards in time and appear in all possible places at once. String theory proposes that the physical world is composed of little, tiny strings of vibrating energy (It seems appropriate to allude to chordophones). Terrence McKenna, recounting a DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) induced experience, asserts that the constant dance of ‘machine elves,’ (entities occupying a parallel world) creates reality as we perceive it. Are the rhythms of music akin to the language of reality? Is music a method of staying in contact with the underlying ‘Logos,’ being the true virtue in which all things exist? Whether it be Spring’s hymn of birds and bees or the elegant, geometrical dance of our physical world, music plays the universal tongue in a reality seemingly ripe with babbling discord.