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Natives, South American

Early Cultures

Archaeological studies have shed light on the early cultures of the rugged Andean region. Extensive remains have established the existence of developed cultures at Chavín de Huántar and the Paracas peninsula in Peru. The Mochica, the Chimu, and the Nazca were three other major early Peruvian cultures. In Bolivia the impressive ruins at Tiahuanaco bear witness to yet another early civilization. The Chibcha of the N Andes, the Aymara of the central Andes, and the Araucanians of Chile are considered to have produced some of the socially complex pre-Columbian cultures (see pre-Columbian art and architecture) of the Andes, but the most impressive civilization, both from the point of view of technical achievement and of political structure, was unquestionably the empire of the Inca. The modern descendants of these Native Americans form an integral part of the populations of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia and to a lesser extent of NW Argentina and Chile. Quechua, the Inca language, is the most widespread linguistic stock, but Aymara is also important (see Native American languages).

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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