A secret past
Important Archaeological study unearthed in Chile’s capital
In the process of extending Santiago’s metro, a rich site of colonial and pre-columbian remains have been discovered.
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Artifacts from both the colonial and pre-columbian periods were discovered at the site in Santiago. Photo by Henry Clayton Wickham / The Santiago Times
Hidden beneath the bustling streets of central Santiago is a rich site of archaeological interest giving insight into the city’s history.
While working on a new line for Santiago’s metro, construction workers discovered a large structure from either the colonial or early republican era on the grounds of the prestigious Universidad de Chile’s medical department. Following the discovery, archeologists working for the Santiago Metro continued excavations of the university’s leafy Blest Plaza, learning more about the construction and uncovering a wealth of historical artifacts.
Among their discoveries are hundreds of pieces of metal, glass, crockery, ceramics and even human remains. Initial estimations date the artifacts to either late 18th and early 19th century so, for the time being at least, experts are unable to say with certainty whether the find dates to before or after Chile gained independence in February 1818
Also found were tools for carving stone and wood dating back to the pre-Columbian period, providing further insight into life in the Andean nation before Spanish colonialists arrived in the 16th century. The multiple periods of history aside, what impressed many was the discovery of a complete, intact site.
Rodrigo Sepúlveda, an anthropologist at the Universidad de Chile told The Santiago Times that the unearthing of a complete archaeological site was rare in major cities.
"[The structure] is complete. It's marvelous," Sepulveda said. "In urban archeology ... you rarely find continuous spaces, just fragments, remains."
As a result of the discovery, work on the Metro has been delayed while a commision made up of local authorities and university faculty decide on the best way to ensure the preservation of the site as well as ensuring the continued construction of this important new infrastructure for the capital. One option being considered by the commission is creating an on-site museum near the discovery or perhaps incorporating a display of the remains into the design of the new metro station.
While remarkable for its location in a major city, Chile is no stranger to important archaeological discoveries. The Andean nation’s arid north in particular has seen a raft of important findings such as the Chinchorro mummies and the discovery of what experts believe to be the oldest example of a man-made mine dating back over 10,000 years.