Huaricanga is an ideal laboratory to explore the relationship between religion cultural complexity. Huaricanga is a Late Archaic (3000-1800 B.C.) site located in the Fortaleza Valley of Peru’s north central coast. The site is situated 23 km inland from the Pacific Ocean. The main Late Archaic occupation is divided in half by the Pativilca-Huaraz highway. Huaricanga consists of one large platform mound and several much smaller auxiliary mounds. Measuring over two football fields in length, the main mound is the largest man-made construction in the Norte Chico. Directly in front of the main mound is a semi-subterranean circular plaza containing two large standing stones, or huancas, that likely had some ceremonial importance in the past.
During the Late Archaic Period, ceremonial complexes like Huaricanga served as religious centers similar to other pilgrimage cities such as the Vatican or Lourdes. Those who were privileged enough to live at these sites on a permanent basis attracted pastoralists from the highlands and fisherman from coast in order to participate in ritual activities that occurred seasonally. The mechanisms by which these elites persuaded the pilgrims to visit the site and to construct the public architecture is still debated and will hopefully be clarified by this research.
In the summer of 2007, preliminary excavations carried out by PANC at Huaricanga uncovered small-scale ceremonial architecture in the upper strata of a small mound alongside the highway. This structure possesses a two-level floor with a lower level square area, a surrounding bench, niched side walls, and a central fire pit. These architectural features resemble those that have been used to define the Mito Tradition–an architectural tradition generally assumed to have been found only in the Andean highlands. Seven radiocarbon dates were obtained from the uppermost structure that firmly place this later construction between 2330 and 2450 cal B.C . A modern canal cutting through this mound revealed that the excavated upper structure is the latest of possibly seven additional similar structures with two-level floors superimposed upon one another. The stratified complex of small-scale ceremonial structures at the Late Archaic site of Huaricanga allows for a comparative evaluation of variation over time in architectural form and activity areas.