The archaeological site of Samaipata consists of two elements: the hill with its many carvings, believed to have been the ceremonial Centre of the ancient town (14th – 16th centuries), and the area to the south of the hill, which formed the administrative and residential quarter. The enormous sculptured rock, dominating the town below, is a unique testimony to prehispanic traditions and beliefs, without parallel anywhere in the Americas.
The valley was originally populated by people of the Chane culture dedicated to agriculture, hunting and gathering. The Chanes are famous for their densely populated villages, their ceramics and graphic designs, and most importantly the construction of the temple at El Fuerte de Samaipata. They cultivated mainly corn and peanuts, and were rather peaceful. There are several Chane burial sites all through the valleys and pampas of Santa Cruz between the Siberia mountain ridge and the Guapay River.
The region was later conquered by Incas as they expanded to the southeast from their native Peru. The Incas reached a pact with the Chanes and built a city at El Fuerte de Samaipata.
In the 16th century, Guarani warrior tribes, called Chiriguanos by the Incas and Spanish, coming from the south invaded the valley and defeated both Incas and Chanes. The Guaranis continued raiding the valley and the region until the 19th century.
In 1618, Pedro de Escalante y Mendoza founded Samaipata, as point of contact between Santa Cruz and Vallegrande. The town moved from its original location in a place known as Castilla to its current location a few kilometers west.