The park was created in 1983 to protect the fauna and flora of the rainforests that are characteristic of this region of the Andes. There is a high level of endemism among the fauna and flora found in the park. The yellow-tailed woolly monkey, previously thought extinct, is found only in this area. Research undertaken since 1985 has already uncovered 36 previously unknown archaeological sites at altitudes of between 2,500 and 4,000 m, which give a good picture of pre-Inca society.
Rio Abiseo National Park is an outstanding example of significant ongoing geological processes, biological evolution and man's interaction with the natural environment. It contains exceptional combinations of natural and cultural elements and most important and significant natural habitants where threatened species still survive. The pre-Hispanic monuments in the Montecristo valley area within the Rio Abiseo National Park constitute an outstanding example of pre-Hispanic human occupation at high altitudes in the Andean region from as early as the 4th century BC. Evidence from the Manachaqui Cave suggests that the Rio Abiseo Natural Park area was settled by man from an even remoter period, as early as 6000 BC.
Situated in the Andes mountain chain (Cordillera Oriental de los Andes), to the east of Huicungo on the Amazon slope of the Peruviar Andes, the park is located at a crossroads between the Marañon and Huallaga rivers. Founded in 1983, it encompasses the entire Abiseo River basin.The topography is mountainous, with very acidic soils and slopes often greater than 50%. Almost all the Rio Abiseo soils are characterized by never having been disturbed by agriculture or timber extraction.
Rio Abiseo is renowned for its pristine primary cloud forest and highland grasslands (paramo ). The cloud forest is reputed to the last glaciation, leading to great species diversity and a high degree of endemism. High-altitude grassland inventories have resulted in identification of 1,000 species of plant. The cloud forest supports a wide diversity of fauna, including marvellous spatuletail, South American pochard and golden-plumed conure. The more threatened species include nine endemics and five species of restricted distribution, representing a new location for species such as yellow-browed toucanet. Altitude zonation has strongly influenced the avifauna: there are over 132 bird species at between 3,000 m and 4,100 m altitude. There are several notable mammal species, such as the endemic yellow-tailed woolly monkey, previously believed to be extinct in 1926; also present are three other species of monkey including long-haired spider monkey. Other notable larger mammals include North Andean huemul, spectacled bear, jaguar, jaguarundi, giant armadillo and possibly tapir. Studies of the invertebrates have shown a high level of endemism, a key example being the Ithomiidae; the park is a centre of evolution and a quaternary refuge. The rich herpetological fauna includes 15 unique species of anurans which are highly site-specific.
Among the most important pre-Columbian ruins are:
- La Playa : some 25 structures and stone circles have been recorded in an area on an elevated river terrace. Buliding 14 is constructed of dressed masonry and has a decorated cornice: it was probably used for ceremonial purposes.
- Las Papayas : at least 100 structures have been recorded at this site, located on 16 artificial terraces in the Valley of Montecristo. Most are well built from dressed stone.
- Los Pinchudos is a burial complex. A funerary enclosure contains small mounds and niches: four of the tombs are decorated with Greek fret and zigzag ornament, and much of the original paintwork survives. The roof beam of another is surmounted by five wooden figures of Chimu type.
- Gran Pajatén is a round structure for which on the outside there is an interesting decoration on two levels with, on the lower level, and ten anthropomorphic figures of a characteristic design.
- Cerro Central has 200 buildings. Human figures and stylized birds made from thin sheets of dry stone are inserted into a very irregular pattern.
- Manachaqui Cave , which lies on the western border of the National Park, away from the Montecristo group, has produced evidence of a long sequence of human occupation from the palaeo-Indian and pre-Ceramic periods until the mid-16th century AD.
Rio Abiseo National Park was founded in 1983, east of Trujillo in the Department of San Martin, in order to protect the fauna and flora of the damp forests that thrive at a high altitude. The objective of the Peruvian authorities was to make the park covering 274.520 hectares both a reserve and a laboratory, with research on its natural and cultural resources to be carried out in a spirit of international co-operation.
In 1985 a five-year agreement for research on the archaeological and ethnological heritage of the park was signed between the government of Peru and the universities of La Molina and La Catolica de Lima, the University of La Libertad de Trujillo, and the University of Colorado at Boulder. The programme provided for the exploration of a zone covering 64.690 hectares in the upper basin of the Rio Montecristo, north-west of the park. In that zone, a number of pre-Hispanic sites had been discovered accidentally, including Gran Pajaten (1963 and 1965). La Playa (1973) and Los Pinchudos (1975 and 1977).
Work since 1985 has identified and recorded a total of 36 previously unknown sites, all between 2.500 and 4.000 m above sea-level. Among the most important are the following:
La Playa Some 25 structures and stone circles have been recorded in an area of 10 ha on an elevated river terrace. Building 14, 7m in diameter, is constructed of dressed masonry and has a decorated cornice: it was probably used for ceremonial purposes.
Las Papayas At least 100 structures have been recorded at this site. located on 16 artificial terraces in the Valle de Montecristo. Most are well built in dressed stone.
Los Pinchudos This is a burial complex, situated between the Las Papayas and Gran Pajaten settlements. There is a rectangular funerary enclosure containing both small mounds and niches: four of the tombs are highly decorated with Greek fret and zigzag ornament, and much of the original paintwork survives. The roof beam of another structure (N°5) is surmounted by five wooden figures of Chimu type.
Gran Pajaten On this site, which covers 4 ha, 16 round structures and two rectangular buildings have been located and the undergrowth partially cleared. The round structure for which the most amount of information is available reveals, on the outside, an interesting decoration on two levels with, on the lower level, 10 anthropomorphic figures of a characteristic design. Two phases of occupation have been identified by radiocarbon dating -900-200 BC and 200 BC-AD 600.
Cerro Central At this settlement. which faces Gran Pajaten on the other side of the Rio Montecristo, it is estimated that there were at least 200 buildings, some of which in terms of decoration resemble the circumar building at Gran Pajaten. Human figures and stylized birds made of thin sheets of dry stone inserted into a very irregular pattern constitute, in the opinion of some, one of the characteristic features of the "Rio Abiseo culture".
Manachagui Cave This site, which lies on the western border of the National Park. away from the Montecristo group has produced evidence of a long sequence of human occupation from the Late Palaeo-lndian and Pre-Ceramic Periods (6.000- 1.800 BC) through to the mid-16th century AD.
Settlement in the upper part of Montecristo valley began before the 4th century BC, and especially in the Intermediate Horizon Period (200 BC-AD 600). There was dense occupation in the region when the Spanish colonizers arrived in the 16th century, but it declined rapidly from that period onwards. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation