FIELD TRIPS, EXPEDITIONS
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
As part of our South American trip we spent a few days at iconic but touristy San Pedro de Atacama and its surrounding Moon-like deserts. San Pedro was packed with tourists but it did not deter us from enjoying the nature around us (Valle de la Muerte y la Luna, i.e. the Valley of the Dead and the Moon, Miscanti Lagoon and Chaxas Lagoon) as well as the local museum, which has about 4,000 skulls (only selected items being on display), mummies, weapons, utensils and gold masks. Actually, in 2007, the mummies were removed from the display as per the request of the Lickanantay people.
The museum is dedicated to the Atacama people and culture (atacameñan) with prehistoric findings dating back 4,000 B.C. and proudly reports keeping 450,000 archaeological objects and 100 ethnographic objects on stock, including items from the Tiwanaku culture (between 400 and 1200 A.D.). In their culture the feline and the condor appear on objects of social significance, the ceremonial containers of llama bones, and the tablets for hallucinating drugs. The use of ceremonial vases and gold adornments was also a symbol of status.
By the year 1450, the Atacama culture passed into the dominion of the Inca Empire, and the cult to the sun and the high summits was enforced upon the people of the area. In 1540, the Atacama people made contact with the Spanish conquistadores who, after defeating them in the military order, settled in the area.
Date: January 2012