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Pucará de Tilcara

Pucará de Tilcara

Pucará de Tilcara

The Pucará de Tilcara is the best known archaeological site in the Quebrada de Humahuaca. It is located on a hill south of the Huasamayo River at the confluence with the Río Grande. It was discovered in 1908 by Juan Bautista Ambrosetti and his disciple Salvador Debenedetti, both considered the initiators of archaeological science in Argentina.

The pucarás were high-altitude settlements, inhabited between the 11th and 16th centuries. They were located in strategic places either for defense or as a control point for the transport of goods, dominating the zones of obligatory circulation, especially along the Rio Grande. They may have corresponded to the political and religious centers of the main groups that populated the Quebrada de Humahuaca at that time: the Omaguacas, the Tilcaras and Tilianes.

The Pucará of Tilcara has the highest occupation density in the entire valley but does not include defensive architectural elements. The structures, of which the walls and foundations are visible, are part of the ancient dwellings, workshops, plazas and ceremonial spaces. It was the main settlement of the Tilcaras people, who inhabited the central sector of the Quebrada de Humahuaca. The beginnings of its occupation date back to 1,200 AD.

After the Inca domination (1,430 AD), some sectors were remodeled, expanding the urban extension to cover some 17.5 hectares. Archaeological remains allow to recognize up to 580 rectangular structures. The dwellings were organized in groups in the form of neighborhoods, with roads and plazas. Numerous spaces were remodeled for the construction of kanchas that, in many cases, seem to have been used for collective public ceremonies. Outside the residential area were cemeteries and garbage deposit areas. Archaeological work also identified more than fifty workshops dedicated to the production of metal, shell and stone artifacts (e.g. alabaster), as well as ceramics and textiles. The Pucara de Tilcara stood out within the Tawantinsuyu as an important political, administrative, productive and religious center at regional level, becoming the capital of the Humahuaca wamani(province).

It remained inhabited after the arrival of the Spaniards until the resettlement of the population in the present town of Tilcara, 1 km to the north.

The place was declared a National Monument, has been partially reconstructed and has a vehicular access. Next to the entrance is a High Altitude Botanical Garden for the preservation and research of the region's biodiversity.

In the center of the town of Tilcara, the Archaeological Museum Dr. Eduardo Casanova (named after the continuator of the work of J.B. Ambrosetti and S. Debenedetti) was inaugurated in 1968, based on the findings made in the Pucará de Tilcara. Today it houses a valuable collection of the Andean world (Peru, Bolivia, Northern Chile and Northwest Argentina) of more than 5,000 pieces.

(Summarized from information of the UNESCO Nomination of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, website of the Centro Universitario Tilcara and other sources.)

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Location, access:

Pucará de Tilcara
Tilcara is located 84 km north of San Salvador de Jujuy on National Route RN9. To access the pucará you have to enter the town of Tilcara.
Location on map

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