The first men to settle down in the area of the Atacama Desert were hunters and collectors in search for water, just like the animals they chased. Between 1,500 BC and 400 AD, these peoples began to consolidate in the area by domesticating some animals and growing some plants, most of them for their own consumption.
Some time later, by 1000 AD, these peoples became part of the influence of the Tiwanaku state and culture (Bolivia), which established its religious and hierarchical values until these bonds began to become detached as a consequence of the apparition of a new actor in the dispute: the Incas.
The Inca Empire spread across all America and reached San Pedro de Atacama unfolding its political and religious beliefs in the period between 1450 and 1550 AD. During this century, the Inca Empire managed to control San Pedro de Atacama and the various communities dwelling in the area. But it was not until the arrival of white men, since 1492, that the power of the Incas was replaced by new protagonists.
The Viceroyalty of Upper Peru and then the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata would have a remarkable influence on San Pedro de Atacama, whose primitive people – the atacameños- had to become adapted to the new changes not to be totally exterminated.
Today, these communities are making an attempt to recover their identity through the preservation of their past. Their villages and pukaras let visitors travel across the ruins to understand what life was like a long time ago.