Atlantic History Lima
Jesús A. Cosamalón Aguilar
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0250


The current city of Lima, capital of the Republic of Peru, is located at latitude 12° 03′ S and longitude 77° 03′ W and is constituted by the Chillón, Rímac, and Lurín River Valleys. Its history dates back to pre-Hispanic times with different occupations since at least 8,000 BC, and it was founded as the governorate capital of Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, after the Cabildo of Jauja (Junín, Peru), founded in 1534, decided to transfer the governorate capital to a town near the sea. Later, with the creation of the Viceroyalty of Peru (1542), it became the capital and headquarters of the Viceregal Court, a condition that continued after Peru’s independence on July 28, 1821, until the present. Its long history is best known from colonial times, given that Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, has attracted far more academic interest, while the Spanish occupation of Lima occurred in a territory of a lower density and less pre-Hispanic political importance than the southern city. However, in recent decades, thanks to the interest in investigating the development process on the Peruvian coast—especially in the northern part of the country, so-called “Norte Chico” (part of Lima and Ancash regions)—there have been some important contributions to understanding the city’s pre-Hispanic past. Its colonial and republican history is rich in sources and subjects. The presence of religious, political, and economic powers produced a rich documentation preserved in the main files of the city: the National General Archive, Archbishop’s Archive of Lima, Lima’s City Hall Historic, and the Public Welfare Society Archive of Lima, among others. Thanks to this copious documentation from long ago, we can present this extensive bibliography that covers various topics. This bibliographic essay takes reference of the city as an issue, distinguishing it from the history of the Lima region itself, which is its capital. The history of the region covers much wider issues from an archaeological and a historical point of view. Furthermore, its contemporary jurisdiction does not coincide with the stage of the processes developed since pre-Hispanic times. The city, on the other hand, has been the subject of archeological studies due to the presence of remains from ancient occupations and historical studies for the importance that it has always had as head of the Viceroyalty and then as a Republican capital.

Pre-Hispanic Lima

Although there is no consensus on this matter, some researchers argue that the name of the city derives from the Ychma deity venerated in the south of the city, in the valley of Lurín. Before the arrival of the Incas in this valley, a señorío flourished between 10 and 15 AD whose most important center was the Temple of Pachacamac, renamed as such after the Inca occupation. It is believed that the archaeological site of Paraíso, located to the north of the city in the valley of the Chillón River, is the oldest place, with monumental architecture dated approximately 2,200 BC, continued by other centers such as Garagay, Florida, and others. Archaeologists consider that a new cultural formation emerged between the 3rd BC and 7th AD centuries called the Maranga culture, which integrated under its domain the Chillón, Rímac, and Lurín Valleys, building the centers of Cajamarquilla, the now-called Huaca Juliana, and several monuments existing today between the districts of Pueblo Libre, Magdalena, San Miguel, and El Cercado. At the end of this period, the Wari Empire, which came from the southern and central highlands of Peru, extended its domain to the central coast, represented by the ceramic style known as “Nievería,” with Pachacamac emerging as one of the great ceremonial centers in the Peruvian coast. After the collapse of the empire, between the 10th century and the end of 15th century, the cult of the Ichma God continued consolidating a culture that had the same name. While in the upper part of the Chillón River Valley, the Señorío of Collique developed around the current areas of Carabayllo and Santa Rosa de Quives. By 1470 AD, the Incas had conquered the territory formerly dominated by the Señorío of Ichma, in the central valleys, whose most important curaca (chieftain) was Taulichusco. In archaeological investigations, one of the most important issues to study is the role that the Peruvian coast played in Peru’s cultural development. Nowadays archeologists know that “Norte Chico” was one of the earliest cultural focuses in the region, and that is a reason why the social, economic, and political characteristics of its cultural formations have been discussed in depth. Haas and Creamer 2006, Kroeber 1954, and Pozorski and Pozorski 2008 develop the role of the Peruvian coast in the process of cultural development, incorporating the territory of the present-day city of Lima. The authors propose that the Peruvian coast played a very important role in the development of the Andean culture; it provided from very early times human settlements development, thanks to its peculiar geography and the availability of agricultural and marine resources. One of the most important discussions establishes the cultural elements that compose the Andean culture and the region from which it radiated into other spaces, including the coast, where the spread of new advances shaped the Andean civilization.

  • Haas, J., and W. Creamer. “Crucible of Andean Civilization: The Peruvian Coast from 3000 to 1800 BC.” Current Anthropology 47.5 (2006): 745–775.

    DOI: 10.1086/506281Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    NNNThe authors review the studies suggesting interpretative models of cultural development on the central coast, including a new interpretive suggestion. Several specialists are involved in the discussion, and it includes the authors’ responses to them.

  • Kroeber, Alfred. “Proto-Lima: A Middle Period Culture of Peru.” Anthropology 44.1 (1954): 1–57.

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    NNNThis is one of the first works dedicated to the coastal cultures, which aims to locate the cultures developed in Lima in a broader interpretation scheme.

  • Pozorski, S., and T. Pozorski. “Early Cultural Complexity on the Coast of Peru.” In The Handbook of South America Archaeology. Edited by Helaine Silverman and William H. Isbell, 607–631. New York: Springer, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-74907-5Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    NNNOne of the most recent works that reviews specialized literature devoted to the most important archaeological centers from the early periods of the central coast and Lima and includes an extensive bibliography.

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