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Argentina: Quilmes Ruins

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Quilmes Ruins | Argentina | Americas

[Visited: June 2015]

After driving through the impressive landscapes of the Calchaquí valleys and reaching Cafayate, we continue further south. At the outskirts of town, we pick up a young French couple who have been waiting for three hours, and who happen to go to the ruins of Quilmes as well. For a long time, I only knew Quilmes as a beer brand in Argentina, until I researched the region and discovered that it is actually the name of a Diaguitan city in the north of Tucumán province. While driving south, I keep an eye on the mountains to our right, and I can see Quilmes even before the road sign directing us westward confirms that we are about to arrive. There are few people around, and after looking through the windows of the museum which unfortunately turns out to be closed, we start exploring the ruins.

Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): View from the ruins of Quilmes from above with candelabra cacti

From below, you can see stone walls with candelabra cacti, and you can walk through what once were the houses and pens for their animals of the Diaguitan people. The ruins have been restored, but you still need your imagination to try to imagine what the houses once looked like: there are only foundations and walls, but the wooden roofs are gone. There are fortifications higher up the hill, used for defensive purposes and perhaps also by priests who could be closer to their gods, and when we make our way up, the views of Quilmes only get better. The sun is going down too fast, and the very hill on which we are standing, is now casting a shadow over the ancient ruins. I push on the well-defined track, higher up, hoping it will continue all around the natural bowl in which the ruins have been carved out.

Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina):

To my joy, the path does continue, and is easy to follow, allowing me to look down almost all the time. Giant cacti are pointing towards the sky, and below them, I can now clearly see the layout of Quilmes, as well as the outline of all the houses, and spaces in which animals were kept. The Diaguitan people lived their lives here for many centuries, until the Incas colonized them in 15th century. When the Spanish arrived, they resisted conquest, but were finally defeated; the survivors were forced to walk all the way to Buenos Aires where their last descendant died in 1812. There still is a neighbourhood in the Argentine capital bearing their name, but of course, it is here, at the ruins, that their legacy lies. After descending to the ruins again, we walk through the ruined houses, past some men who are working on further restoring them, and reach a long wall with decorated stones - but was this wall originally constructed this way? There is a site where offerings were made to Mother Earth, Apacheta; there are circular buildings, mortal and pestle made out of rocks. When we turn around, we see the same walled buildings against the slopes of the hill behind, but now we know what they actually look like. There are some huge candelabra cacti, making me wonder if they were already here when the Diaguitans still lived at Quilmes.

Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): Ruins of stone houses higher up on the hill at Quilmes
Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): Late afternoon at the ruins of Quilmes with candelabra cacti
Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): Close-up of the foundations of houses of the ancient Diaguitan city of Quilmes
Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): The ruins of the Diaguitan city of Quilmes see many candelabra cacti
Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): The ruins of Quilmes seen from a hill
Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): Houses at Quilmes were constructed out of rocks and stones
Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): Offerings to Mother Earth were made at Apacheta, at the foot of the ruins of Quilmes
Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): The terraced ruins of Quilmes are built against the hillside
Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): Circular constructions at the ruins of the Diaguitan city of Quilmes
Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): The Diaguitan version of a mortar and pestle
Picture of Quilmes Ruins (Argentina): Holes carved out by the Diaguitan people many years ago

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