:: PUCARÁ DE TILCARA AND HIGH BOTANICAL GARDEN (1000 mts)
You can get to it after crossing a typical steal rail bridge and climbing up the heights. It is one of the four fortified towns built over promontories on the bottom of the Grande river by the early inhabitants of the Quebrada de Humahuaca. From north to south, these pucaras are called: Calete, Yacoraite, Campo Morado and Tilcara. There are also other indian towns with difficult access, but located on flat lands over transverse valleys. This Pucara is the result of the partially rebuilt ruins of an early town called Tilcaras, inhabited by shepherds and farmers.
It is over a hill of about 70 mts which appears in the Grande river bed , with a total surface of 15 hectares (1h=2.471 acres). It was really an ideal place to defend themselves from attacks. By one side, there were cliffs over the Grande River and by the other side there were rough slopes, with defensive walls in the accessible paths. On these slopes they built their houses at intervals, making thus a series of bastions very difficult to be reached by any raider. At the bottom there are several restored yards.
On the base you can see the High Botanical Garden, which occupies three hectares. It shows an ample and complete view of the autochthonous species of the Quebrada and Puna. There is also a section for llamas and vicunas, camel animals, which adapt perfectly well to the area.
This town, using simple tools and human strength worked the areas near the Grande River where the watering was easy, including the present town of Tilcara, and the big area of Alfarcito, where even today important slopes of crops can be seen. Water had to be carried from the river Huasamayo, the basin of which, nowadays provides drinkable water to Tilcara. The word “Pucara” means in quechua language, fortress generally located over difficult accessible hills. On the top of the hill, where the Monument is located, you can appreciate a complete view of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, which was declared Humanity Treasure in 2002. Besides, you can observe from the Angosto de Perchel in the north to Maimarà in the south, the Quebradas de Huichairas to the west and Huasamayo to the east.
In Perchel as well as in Huichairas, there were smaller pucaras. A few kilometers away, after climbing up to the Garganta del Diablo, you can see the crop fields in Alfarcito. This is a privileged location, which allows the control of a big production area and population settlement.
Population evidence has been found, dating from the year 10.000 B.C, belonging to hunter-harvester inhabitants, who gradually tamed the cattle and became farmers. However, the pucara massive settlement was done during the named late period, which stands from the year 1000 to 1480 A.C., and goes on during a little Inca time as far as the Hispanic settlement, that is consolidated in 1595, with the capture of Tilcara´s chief named Viltipoco, whose empire extended from Jujuy to calchaquies areas and north of Chile. This jujenian chief had gathered more than 20.000 men with whom he intended to destroy all the foundations in the argentinian north, and redeem the conquered indians, but he was surprised by Don Francisco de Argañaraz y de Murgia, who was in the service of the Spanish Crown, and shut off his campaign.
In the Pucara de Tilcara the buildings were made of stone, with fixed mud and straw roofs, over cardon ties. The houses, where inhumations were performed, occupied most of the Pucara surface, and were communicated by paths. The “llamas”, animals fit for this type of land, which gave wool and flesh, were kept in cattle pens (low part of the fortress assigned for animals). There was also a place for religious services, which was called the church by the archaeologists who restored the site, and finally, to the east, there was a necropolis (cemetery made by “cistas”, which are geometrical hollows over the ground, the inside part of which was covered with stones).
With the Spanish conquer these towns were submitted to the holding system. They were obliged to live in a certain place, and they had to work in the period for the holder. This caused a sudden decrease of the inhabitants, and when time passed they left the Pucaras. Tilcara people keep the memory of the Pucaraas their native town, called “antigal” or old people place.
Studies of the magnificent buildings started in 1908 and they are still on. First they were restored by the archaeologists Ambrosetti and Debenedetti, in whose honour the “Part of the Monument” was erected: an incomplete pyramid, on top of the hill, which is the highest point with the greater number of houses.
Aborigines believed in life after death, so they gave much importance to the tribute of their dead people and they buried them in foetal position, with clothes and food; babies were inhumated in decorated and covered boxes.
It is important to know that both, the Pucara and the High Botanical Garden open every day from 9 a.m. to 12,30 a.m and then from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.