City of the Ancients Under A Modern City?

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary There has been speculation for years that there may be an ancient Incan city under Chile’s capital Santiago. Two researchers, Ruben Stehberg from the National Museum of Natural History of Chile, and Gonzalo Sotomayor of University Andres Bello, believe that an Incan city did exist when the Spanish came. Going over old maps from the 16th Century, and researching old personal accounts from Spanish conquistadors and missionaries who were in the area, both men are convinced that the area was once a thriving Incan city and not just an empty site.

There are of course many unanswered questions. Why did the Spanish choose the site that became the modern day Santiago? What advantage did the site have for the Spanish to choose the area rather than somewhere else? According to old records, the Spanish founded Santiago because it was defensible, it had a mild climate, and abundant vegetation. Of course, one has to ask if the native peoples, especially the Incans, also founded a city on this site as well. Besides old maps and personal testimonies, some archeological evidence of homes, artificial canals and ditches as well as religious centers not far from Santiago have been found and suggests that there is a possibility that an ancient city might have existed where Santiago is now. Of course, this does not suggest that an Incan did exist where Santiago is now, but it lends strong credible evidence that there might have been an Incan metropolis, and the Spanish simply may have founded Santiago at or near it.

We have evidence of the Spanish establishing capital cities in places that were once the major cities or towns of native peoples’ center(s) for their civilizations. One classic example is Mexico City (Tenochtitlan). Another example is St. Augustine in Florida. St. Augustine was founded on what used to be a Native American village. For the Spanish, it made perfect sense to found a major settlement on or near a native people village or city. Many native American sites were themselves founded in places where there was fertile soil, good climate, abundant river streams, and were defensible. So it would make sense that the Spanish could have founded Santiago on a site of a former Incan urban center. We just cannot confirm or deny this possibility. Only further research and archeological work will verify this.

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