Hidden Archaeology: Sechin Bajo – The Oldest Civilisation in Peru

Are The Authorities Hiding Evidence

The discovery of Sechin Bajo near the small village of Casma in 2008, changed the history books of Peru – or at least it should have done! The site is thought to have been inhabited around 5,500 years ago, and thus the oldest known culture in the Andes – providing the history books are correct in the first place.

Before the discovery of Sechin Bajo, Caral was thought to be the oldest civilisation in Peru. The site they built around 2600BCE was only discovered in 2002 and is still credited as the oldest culture in the Andes. Yet, Sechin Bajo puts civilisation in the Andes back a further 1000 years, older the Egypt!

Yet in Peru, there is little mention of their oldest civilisation.

Where did Sechin Bajo go?

tattoosIn the grounds of the better known Sechin Alto Temple – discovered in 1937 – there is a small museum displaying ceramics and textiles. The images depict fish and snakes which is typical of the region. Next to them is a mummified body of a woman with a tattoo on her arm providing evidence this ancient culture had knowledge of technology they could use to paint their bodies.

The strange thing is that all the artefacts on display were discovered in the ancient ruins of Sechin Alto which was occupied by pre-Inca cultures around 1,800 BCE and 1,900 BCE.

In the museum there is not one mention about the discovery at Sechin Bajo!

In February 2008, a report published in the Los Angeles Times newspaper described a complex of ruins had been unearthed that dated back to 3,500 BCE, making them the oldest urban settlement to be discovered in the Americas.

Wikipedia also confirms the site was excavated by German and Peruvian archaeologists in 2008. So where are the artefacts discovered at the site? Maybe there were known, but what is more strange is that Sechin Bajo barely gets a mention. This is what happened when I tried to visit!

No access

In the moto-taxi on the way to the site I saw ruins standing tall in the rolling sand dunes. They looked similar to the Inca storehouses I had seen elsewhere in other places, most notably ollantaytambo. I assumed these would be some of the ruins in the ancient settlement. I assumed wrong.

The Moto-taxi dropped me off at the Sechin Alto (Upper Sechin) Museum where the ruins discovered in 1937 were on display. I had a look around then asked the receptionist at the information desk how I could get to Sechin Bajo.

“There is no access to the public,” he told me in Spanish.

“Why?” I ask.

“It’s dangerous to go there,” he said. “It is still covered in sand.”

This was in 2011. The site had been excavated three years earlier. How could it still be covered in sand and dangerous?

I took this answer to be the official cock and bull line so set off on my own determined to find the ruins.

No Sechin Bajo?

I left the Sechin complex and started to make my way down the road towards the hills on which I had seen the storehouses. On the road I met a young man on his way to work, cutting down crops in the fields that separated the road from the sand dunes.

“Donde es Sechin Bajo? I ask him.

He pointed in the same direction I was going and indicated a wide area that was called Sechin Bajo. I asked if he knew how I could get to the ruins. He looked puzzled and pointed back towards the museum.

Given my Spanglish is not the best, I thought he might have misunderstood my intentions and continued on my quest. After the young man took off into a field I flagged a moto-taxi and asked him to take me to the ruins at Sechin Bajo. The man shook his head and drove off. I stopped another one.

The driver told me it was only reachable by foot and indicated it was in the opposite direction to what the museum staff had told me. Not wanting to walk back I climbed into the porcelain-wrapped cabin and off we went.

The driver dropped me off on a sandy football pitch on the edge of a tiny urban settlement. The goalposts were made from pieces of wood held together with pieces of rope. There were around a dozen houses made from Adobe mud-bricks and painted either entirely white or turquoise. The surrounding areas were farmland.

In the distance, the sand dunes altered the skyline and called for me – but I couldn´t find a path through. I asked a young man plucking potatoes from the field the way to Sechin Bajo ruins.

“Ruinas?” he said. With his hoe he indicated in the direction of the museum from where I had come.

“No, esta Sechin Alto Ruinas,” I said in my pigeon Spanish. “Estoy Buscando Ruinas Sechin Bajo,”. (I’m looking for the ruins of Sechin Bajo).

“Que?” (What?)

“Donde esta Bajo Sechin?” (Where is Sechin Bajo?)

He pointed to the ground, “Aqui,” (Here)

“Donde esta el ruinas?” (Where are the ruins?)

He pointed back towards the museum.

“No, esta Sechin Ruinas, Estoy Buscando Ruinas Sechin Bajo.” I was having de ja vu.

The young man shrugged. “Que Ruinas Bajo Sechin?” (What ruins?)

Why had the locals not heard of ruins discovered in Sechin Bajo? They are living in an area which is home to the oldest known settlement in the Americas (at least according to orthodox teachings) yet the local authorities had seemingly never mentioned it! How bizarre.

Prohibited

Thr Forbidden Zone
The signs forbidding public access

I tried for another hour to find a route to the sand dunes, but it was closed off with fields and closed fences. Dejected I returned to the road resigned to return to my hotel in Casma. When I got back to the road I found a path on the other side which was fenced off with a metal chain. Behind it was a signpost with a map of the area.

Next to it a signpost read: Prohibido ingreso de personas extranas. (Entry to outsiders is prohibited.) Another signpost indicated hygiene works were being carried out in the area. Looking down the path I saw a large khaki-canvas tent that looked military.

Why would the military set up camp to work with chemicals so close to a residential area? The land around Casma is mostly desert and has plenty of space away from the village. Was this the entrance to the ancient archaeological site? If so, what is it the authorities are hiding? Were they really using chemicals or was that just a ruse? I didn´t try to find out. Defeated I returned to Casma.

You can find out more about the ancient Andean culture and my journey of discovery through South and Central Americas in my book, Journey’s To Ancient Worlds: What Modern Man Can Learn From Ancient Civilisations

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