South American History

Stone steps descend as far as 500 feet into the Moray concentric agriculture terraces near Maras, Peru, crossing a temperature differential of some 60 degrees. Ancient innovators may have domesticated and hybridized plant species here, using temperature ranges to simulate conditions found across the far-flung Inca Empire.

What Endures From the Ancient Civilizations That Once Ruled the Central Andes?

To journey here is to roam through almost six thousand years of civilization, to one of the places where the human enterprise began

Hiram Bingham called Machu Picchu “the most important ruin discovered in South America since the Spanish conquest.”

What It's Like to Travel the Inca Road Today

A rocky rollicking journey to Machu Picchu along one of the greatest engineering feats in the Americas

Rumi Colca gateway, Cusco, Peru, 2014

How the Inca Empire Engineered a Road Across Some of the World's Most Extreme Terrain

For a new exhibition, a Smithsonian curator conducted oral histories with contemporary indigenous cultures to recover lost Inca traditions

Monky’s street posters have become synonymous with the syncopated, high energy beat of a music genre, called Chicha.

When the Poster Promoting the Concert Is as Exciting as the Music, You Know You're Listening to Chicha

The sounds, graphic art and the mestizo lifestyle that goes with the music is the latest revolt of the Peruvian masses

Found: A Secret Nazi Hideaway in the Heart of an Andean Jungle

Hints of a dark Nazi history found in Argentina

Don't try this at home.

Healers Once Prescribed Chocolate Like Aspirin

From ancient Mesoamerica to Renaissance Europe, the modern confectionary treat has medical roots

The abandoned city of Machu Picchu is one legacy of the Spanish conquest of the Incas. Traces of air pollution in a Peruvian ice cap are another.

Spanish Conquest of the Incas Caused Air Pollution to Spike

A sample of Peruvian ice has revealed a surge in pollution linked to mining that wasn't exceeded until the Industrial Revolution

Prelorán left Argentina and eventually settled in Los Angeles. He's shown here during the filming of Casabindo in 1977.

Rescuing Jorge Prelorán’s Films From Storage And Time

The Smithsonian’s Film Archives is reintroducing the world to the influential work of the Argentine-American filmmaker

A zoomorphic stone portal found at the re-discovered site of Lagunita

Two Maya Cities Found in Mexican Jungle

One of the sites was re-discovered after being lost for decades

The entrance to Actun Tunichil Muknal

You Can Visit A Cave Where the Ancient Maya Sacrificed Humans

In Belize, the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave is an eerie experience for visitors

You Can Now Riffle Through the Same Library Charles Darwin Used Aboard the Beagle

The digital library includes 195,000 pages of text and 5,000 illustrations

Samba school Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel performs at the sambodromo during the carnival of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 03 March 2014.

Samba and Sway to These Brazilian Songs Compiled By Smithsonian Folkways

Take a virtual tour through the country's diverse musical traditions

Hippos swim in an artificial lake in a farm in Puerto Triunfo, Colombia, December 21, 2006.

Blame Drug Lord Pablo Escobar for Colombia's Hippopotamus Problem

Pablo Escobar had hippos in his private zoo, since the 1990s those hippos have been roaming free

Exploring Brazil Beyond the Stadiums

The World Cup games are happening all across the South American nation, but what else is there to see besides futbol?

New Road To Machu Picchu Discovered

The nearly-mile-long road was built over 500 years ago by the Inca, and appears to be intact

The Extreme Dakar Rally Is Tearing Up the Inca Empire

500 drivers in an extreme off-road race, and plenty of damage to historic sites

Villagers construct a new bridge over the Apurimac River, in Huinchiri, Peru, in 2012.

The Earliest and Greatest Engineers Were the Incas

Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough treks to Peru to see how Machu Picchu was built

Inspired by recent archaeological research, the people in the Cuzco region of Peru are rebuilding terraces and irrigation systems and reclaiming traditional crops and methods of planting.

Farming Like the Incas

The Incas were masters of their harsh climate, archaeologists are finding—and the ancient civilization has a lot to teach us today

The site covers some 80,000 acres. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site in 1983.

Saving Machu Picchu

Will the opening of a bridge give new life to the surrounding community or further encroach upon the World Heritage Site?

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