Traveling on a tour bus from Cuzco to Puno it’s likely you will make a stop in Pukara. You may have already heard of Pukara as the source of the bull ceramics, good luck tokens for prosperity and/or fertility, that you find atop many roofs throughout Southern Peru. In Inca times it’s said these were likely not bulls, a sign of Spanish colonial culture, but indigenous llamas.
Actually though you go here more to learn about pre-Inca cultures, the Pukara culture as early as 1800 BC—and especially to ogle ceramics in its small “Museum of Stone” that speak to the migration from Asia to Latin America, and Lake Titicaca area specifically. These artifacts come from the Pre-Inca . Our tour guide told us to look at the Asiatic eyes in the sculptures, citing many other similarities, including: gold masks found in both ancient Chinese and pre-Incan cultures; purple coccyx marks, similarly curved facial bones, and more –now also confirmed by DNA testing that shows a more than 70% genetic overlap.
Though it’s clearly a town where tourism reigns supreme, with blanket after blanket of nearly identical crafts lining the town square, it is nonetheless charming. With 20-20 hindsight, Pukara—like Andahuaylillas and Raqchi—would merit an overnight stay to soak up some local charm above and beyond the archeological sites they feature. That could potentially mean stretching an all day bus ride into 3 or more days—probably prohibitive unless one can stretch a Peru tour to three months.
Click here to read more Picture this Post travel stories by Amy Munice with photography by Peter Kachergis.