Prehispanic history of Chile

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The prehispanic history of Chile refers to the period from the first human populations in the territory of Chile until the first European exploration of the region, by Spaniard Diego de Almagro in 1535-36.

There are numerous theories on the settlement of the Americas; the most accepted currently, that of Paul Rivet, states that there were numerous arrivals for different reasons: those leaving Asia via the Bering Straits, but also those traveling from island to island in Polynesia and Melanesia, via Central America. The first people to arrive in the territory of Chile would have been in one of these population movements.

The prehistoric site of Monte Verde in Chile, presently under consideration as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, allows us to date the oldest habitations in Chile to around 13,000 to 15,000 years for "Monte Verde II" and around 33,000 to 35,000 years for "Monte Verde I". Various research taken on the first populations to have arrived in the country arrived around 35,000 years BC, during the Pleistocene period for the prehistoric site at "Monte Verde I" and around 15,000 years BC for the site at "Monte Verde II" (the end of the Pleistocene and start of the Holocene (close to the end of the Upper Paleolithic). Prehispanic Chile was peopled by diverse Amerindian people who were located around the Andes and the coast. In the area to the north of the country, the Aymara and the Atacama began to cultivate land from the 11th century in the style of the Incas (growing plants on terraces on the sides of mountains with canal systems). By the 15th century, the Incas had taken possession of the territory of modern-day Chile up to the Maule River. At the south of the Aconcagua, the semi-nomadic communities such as the Mapuche were set up. In the austral zone of the country, various Amerindian people such as the Chomos, Tamanas, Alacalufes and Onas were living. In the Easter Islands a Polynesian culture developed, which continues today. On the Pacific coast, different cultures and peoples coexisted: the Aymara, Chango, Chinchorro, Atacama, Diaguita in the north: the Picunche, Mapuche, Huilliche, Chono in the Central and Southern region; and the Ona, Yagan and Alakaluf in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The Mapuche formed a numerous community.

The Chinchorro[edit]

In the arid desert of Atacama, the Chinchorro were experts in the art of preserving human bodies. Mummies which were much more ancient than those of the pyramids of Egypt have been found with extractable DNA.

Distribution of the pre-hispanic people of Chile