We are above the village of Pamashto, a short ride from the historic town of Lamas near the city of Tarapoto, Peru, a high-jungle city that was an unmarked town until the completion of the Carretera Marginal de la Selva (Jungle Highway) in the late-1960s.
The small archaeological site know as Centro Ceremonioso de Pamashto (Ceremonial Center of Pamashto) sits on a grassy hilltop, and it likely dates back to around the time of the Inca Empire, if not before, but who exactly built it and, above all, why, remains a mystery.
Very few people comes in this area, apart from enthusiasts harvesters of Psilocybe cubensis, which are popular as magic mushrooms, that at the right time grow in abundance in the cowpat-strewn fields, illegal excavators looking for loot, and, when there is a blue moon, an archaeologist or group of local students.
Once a year, for the winter solstice on June 21, young locals gather at the site to celebrate the sunrise, delighting with locally brewed aguardiente (made of sugar cane firewater handily brewed at a rustic distillery in the woods below the site), smoking weed and, probably, eating a few magic mushrooms.
The winter solstice corresponds to the instant when the position of the Sun in the sky is at its greatest angular distance to the other end of the observer’s equatorial plane. Depending on the correspondence with the calendar, the winter solstice event takes place between December 20 and December 23 every year in the northern hemisphere, and between June 20 and June 23 in the southern hemisphere, during the shortest day or the longest night of the year.
Traditionally people come here to celebrate the solstice because of the site’s design. Pamashto has two openings within its circular stone wall, located opposite each other, which align with the sun on the winter solstice. This is the reason because the few archaeological theories that exist agree that its function was ceremonial.
According to some locals, there was once a stone altar at the center of the circle, supposedly used for sacrifices. Rudimentary tools were found at the site, but were taken away, and it seems there were also human remains, dug up and whisked away by grave robbers or disquieting visitors.
No one knows who built the ceremonial circle at Pamashto. One theory speak about the Chachapoyas culture, whose territory tentatively extended into this region. The Chachapoyas built many circular structures, but normally of a higher level of construction than found at Pamashto.
According another supposition, the site could have been a ceremonial center built by the Chancas, a group who fled to this part of the jungle after a major defeat in battle against the Inca Empire.
However the site has all the characteristics of a place of worship to the God sun, like others that exist in Peru.
It’s probably that with an excavation, Pamashto could reveal more about the history of this region. However it remains largely unexplored save for a few wild magic mushrooms….