The history of the Andean Pan flute begins in the Central Andes (present day Peru) towards 4000 B.C. A group of six bird-bone pipes tied together was found at the archaeological site of Chilca. Dating from a thousand years later, the earliest clay antaras appeared at the site of Caral; these aerophones, consisting of a single row of pipes, would mark the starting point for a long and prolific tradition of wind instruments made of clay.
One of the oldest region's culture, the Paracas (700-200 B.C.), constructed clay antaras, but it would be the Nazca (100-600 A.D.) culture which would leave the largest legacy: its Pan flutes have been found at burial sites, settlements and ceremonial sites. Several iconographic representations suggest that the Nazca used them in pairs, bundled together. Moche or Mochica (200-800 A.D.) flutes were similar to those employed by the Nazca according to the archaeological evidence found at the tombs of Sipán. Belonging to the Lima culture (100-650 A.D.), four antaras were found at the site of Huaca Pucllana and half a hundred at Tablada de Lurín.
Archaeological evidence indicates that the Wari or Huari culture (600-900 A.D.) constructed cane antaras with a complementary row of resonators, which, allegedly, would have displaced the prior clay ones. Archaeological remains of Wari antaras appeared at the Pachacámac sanctuary. Later cultures such as the Chincha (1000 A.D.), Chimú (1100-1470 A.D), Chancay and Collao, continued the Wari musical tradition.
Many chronicles have documented the presence of Pan flutes among the Inca (1450-1532 A.D.). Bernabé Cobo tells us that the Inca called them "ayarichic", and both Guaman Poma de Ayala and the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega explain that they belonged to the Antisuyo and Collasuyo (inhabitants of the east and south of the Tawantinsuyu or "Inca Empire"). Archaeological sites support the chroniclers' account and prove the existence of Inca stone panpipes.
These aerophones were also part of the cultural heritage of the pre-Hispanic societies in the northern Andes (comprising today's northern Peru, Ecuador and Colombia). Between 400 and 1600 B.C., the Andean highlands and valleys of southern Colombia were inhabited by the predecessor cultures of the present-day Pasto and Quillacinga peoples; those civilizations constructed antaras out of tumbaga (an alloy of gold and copper). The neighbouring Nariño, Cuasmal and Carchi cultures (south of Colombia and north of Ecuador) included panpipes designs on their ceramics.
In present-day Ecuador, archaeological evidence associates antaras made of clay, stone and vegetal materials with the cultures Los Tayos and Chorrera (1200 B.C.). They also appear in the cultures Guangala, Bahía and Jama Coaque (500 B.C.-500 A.D.). Finally, the Cañari-Tacalshapa-Cashaloma culture (1000 A.D.) created rondadores (panpipes) as those found at the burial site located in the village of Sigsig.
In the southern Andes they were found lithic panpipes in Bolivia (cultures Wijsisa, Calamuchita, Mojo Kollas, Chicha and Tiwanaku). Apparently, towards the 10th century A.D., the clay or stone antara (which, coming from the central Andes, had come to dominate the Andean musical landscape of the age) begun to be displaced by the double row siku, and its use spread throughout the region from the Bolivian Altiplano to the Norte Grande (Big/Far North) of Chile and the surrounding areas of Argentina.
Curiously enough, from the Loa River (northern Chile) southwards, the Nazcan antara prevailed, either carved out of stone or wood. This model survived in the cultures Atacama (400-100 A.D.) and Aconcagua (1400 A.D.) as well as in the Diaguita culture in the Norte Chico (Small/Near North) of Chile and north-western Argentina. Further to the south, it slowly turned into the Mapuche piloilo/pifilka.
The Pre-Hispanic Andean cultures' legacy not only comprises musical instruments made of metal, bone, wood, stone, clay or cane, but also their iconographic representations and those of their players and the ceremonies at which they were performed.