#UsingYourNoggin to reveal Ancient Cities in Peru
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#UsingYourNoggin to reveal Ancient Cities in Peru


quipped with a NOGGIN® 500 SmartTow™ System, researchers from the University of Western Ontario’s Department of Anthropology are revealing the buried urbanscape of an ancient city on the North coast of Peru.

Situated in a narrow strip of desert between the Andes and the coast, the Gallinazo Group of mounds represent the last visible remains of an ancient civilization that once thrived over 1000 years before the start of the Inca Empire. Approximately 30 mounds are visible today, ranging from small low rises to impressive mounds of eroded adobe bricks and refuse, spread over 600 hectares of flatlands on the northern edge of the cultivated land of the lower Virú valley (Figure 1).

Dating to the Early Intermediate Period (100 B.C.–A.D. 700), the Gallinazo Group was occupied at a time that saw the emergence of the first states and urban life on the Northern coast of Peru. However, despite the imposing nature of the site and its apparent dominance in the valley, very little was known about the size, layout, and development of the city; all of which are key to our understanding of the origins and development of urbanism in the Andean region.

Since 2011 a team, lead by Dr. Jean-Francois Millaire, has been investigating the origins and development of the city through integrated geophysical survey and excavation. To date, he has demonstrated that the city was home to a population of between 10,000 and 14,400 people living in a network of agglutinated houses, plazas, and public buildings. However, while making significant inroads into our understanding of the site, most work has so far centred on the largest mound. It is still unknown if the other, smaller mounds exhibit a similar urban layout and pattern of development.

gpr archaeology ground scanning
Figure 1
Some of the numerous mounds of the Gallinazo Group amongst modern irrigated fields. The building in the middle of the image is a modern one.


In 2018 Millaire’s team started to investigate other mounds at the site to establish if the observations made for the largest mound are similar for the city as a whole (Figure 2). Using a combination of visual and thermal drone imagery and ground penetrating radar (GPR), initial results suggest that Millaire’s observations regarding the site’s layout and development hold true for many of the other mounds, though some variation may occur.

Noggin gpr system in gor survey
Figure 2
Graduate Student Kayla Golay Lausanne surveying one of the smaller mounds at the Gallinazo Group with the NOGGIN® 500 SmartTow™ System. The largest of the mounds is visible in the background.


The results of the GPR survey have been particularly impressive with the NOGGIN® 500 SmartTow™ system revealing the pattern of buried rooms, floors, corridors and streets in extraordinary detail (Figure 3).

Further work is planned in 2019 to establish how extensive the variation in urban layout observed for some of the mounds is and how significant it is for our understanding of this ancient city and one of Peru’s earliest civilizations.

undeground imaging
Figure 3
SliceView depth slice image from a small section of the NOGGIN® 500 survey at the Gallinazo Group shows numerous buried rooms and corridors surrounding a central plaza (top center).


Story courtesy of Edward Eastaugh and Jean-Francois Millaire from the Department of Anthropology, University of Western Ontario.

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