The “Gran Pajaten” is an archeological complex in the northern Amazonian region of Peru in the basin of the Abiseo River. This amazing historic place is located in the border between the region of San Martin and the region of La Libertad. The Gran Pajaten is at 2850 meters above sea level and it is part of the Abiseo River National Park, which was established in 1983. This archeological complex was constructed by the Chachapoyas civilization, which was the most important civilization of the Peruvian Amazonian Jungle. Because of its location, the Gran Pajaten has been associated several times with the famous legend of the “Dorado”, the mythical golden city that searched Spaniards in the Amazonian jungle, when they invaded Peru.
The archeological complex is located in an area very inaccessible. Usually the city of Trujillo, in the Peruvian coast, is taken as the starting point to reach the Gran Pajaten; since, this city is around 400 Kilometers from the Abiseo National Park; therefore, most expeditions depart from Trujillo to explore the region.
The Gran Pajaten occupies an area of around 20 000 square meters. The complex is composed by 26 circular stone structures atop numerous terraces and stairways. Some of the buildings are decorated with slate mosaics displaying reliefs, which show human, birds and geometric shapes. The Pajaten combines perfectly the beauty of the nature with the creativity of the man. The Gran Pajaten was described for first time by Duccio Bonavia; he described 18 circular buildings constructed on platforms of rock. It highlights the structure known as “Building 1”, which is 13 meters diameter and is divided into two sections by a cornice; the lower section is the platform that supports the upper structure. There is also a stairway that leads from a slate paved square to the upper entrance, which is flanked by flat panels that contain stone friezes and reliefs that show five human stylized figures whose arms are flexed and whose knees turned outwards. The Pajaten is a place full of beauty and enigmas, that worth seeing.
The radiocarbon studies in the ceramics found in this place indicate that the first human settlements in the zone were constructed around 200 BC. Nevertheless, the ruins that can be seen today were constructed in the Inca times (1200-1500 ADl.
The complex was discovered by Carlos Tomas Torrealva Juarez (the mayor of the district of Pataz). He discovered the complex accidentally in September 1964; while he guided a group of neighbors to cross the area, searching sites suitable for the agriculture development. One of the first scientific studies in this place was done in 1965 by the architect Victor Pimentel and the archeologist Duccio Bonavia, who published in 1968 the first description about the Pajaten. In 1966, the Peruvian Government created a helicopter pad and cut much of the protective vegetation that surrounded the place; this action was later harshly criticized, because this vegetation protected the ancient buildings of the Gran Pajaten.
In the 1980s the complex was studied by the archeologist Federico Kauffman Doig, who discovered near the Pajaten Complex a group of carved wood figurines of undoubtedly pre-Hispanic origin, which hung on the walls of a stone construction. Both Duccio Bonavia and Federico Kauffman believe that the Pajaten was a highland city established to colonize the jungle, after Chachapoyas people were conquered by Incas. The presence of Inca pottery and roads support this theory. Nevertheless, this thesis is not yet accepted for the entire scientific community.
In 1985 the Gran Pajaten was studied by an expedition of the University of Colorado that publicized its investigation and opened a discussion about the tourism in this place. Currently, there are several plans to construct roads and tourist infrastructure in the site; nevertheless, none has been executed, because of the delicate ecosystem that surrounds the Gran Pajaten. Anyway, the Gran Pajaten is one of the wonders of Peru and one of the greatest prides of the inhabitants of the regions of San Martin and La Libertad.