One of the most advanced civilizations in Latin America, the Quilmes people inhabited what is today known as the Santa Maria Valley in the northwestern sector of the Tucumán province, in the center of the Calchaquíes Valleys. Their city contains remnants of village life from centuries ago, giving a clear view of life in the village from generations past, including the economy, religious sites, public and private spaces, and interactions with other civilizations. At its height, the Quilmes' city had 450,000 inhabitants prior to the Spanish invasion.
These settlements, built in the Calchaquíes Valleys since approximately the 10th century, are considered to be Argentina's first pre-Hispanic cities. Even though little remains of these cities, their ruins highlight a complex history of a material and spiritual culture ripe with social and economic advancements.
The Quilmes built their homes, fortresses, terraced fields, dams, irrigation canals, cemeteries, and wooden corrals on the slopes of Alto Rey Hill at 1800 meters above sea level. Starting around 1480, influences from the neighboring Incan Empire began seeping into the Quilmes' civilization, shaping their language, culture, and construction practices. This is most obvious in the paths built to connect to rest of the Incan territory and which included woven rope bridges. Along each path, a temporary dwelling and storage for food and other supplies, including meat and dairy.