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This article is about the archaeological site. For the civilization it belonged to, see Norte Chico civilization

Caral is a large settlement in the Supe Valley, near Supe, Barranca province, Peru, some 200 km north of Lima. Caral is the most ancient city of the Americas, and is a well-studied site of the Caral civilization or Norte Chico civilization.


Caral was inhabited between roughly 2600 BCE and 2000 BCE, enclosing an area of 66 hectares. Caral was described by its excavators as the oldest urban center in the Americas, a claim that was later challenged as other ancient sites were found nearby. Accommodating more than 3,000 inhabitants, it is the best studied and one of the largest Norte Chico sites known.

Archaeological findings

Paul Kosok discovered Caral (Chupacigarro Grande) in 1948, but it received little attention until recently because it appeared to lack many typical artifacts that were sought at archeological sites throughout the Andes at the time. Archaeologist Ruth Shady further explored the 5,000 year-old city of pyramids in the Peruvian desert, with its elaborate complex of temples, an amphitheater and ordinary housesShady, R. Haas, J. Creamer, W. (2001). Dating Caral, a Preceramic Site in the Supe Valley on the Central Coast of Peru. Science. 292:723-726. PMID 11326098 [*]. The urban complex is spread out over 150 acres and contains plazas and residential buildings. Caral was a thriving metropolis at roughly the same time that Egypt's great pyramids were being built.

The main pyramid covers an area nearly the size of four football fields and is 60 feet (18 m) tall. Caral is the largest recorded site in the Andean region with dates older than 2000 BCE and appears to be the model for the urban design adopted by Andean civilizations that rose and fell over the span of four

millennia. It is believed that Caral may answer questions about the origins of Andean civilizations and the development of the first cities.

Among the artifacts found at Caral are a knotted textile piece that the excavators have labeled a quipu. They argue that the artifact is evidence that the quipu record keeping system, a method involving knots tied in rope that was brought to perfection by the Inca, was older than any archaeologist had previously guessed. However, the artifact is orders of magnitude simpler than later Inca quipu, and it is thus doubtful that it was produced as part of a robust accounting system. Indeed, many archaeologists have actually questioned whether or not it is a recording device at all.

No trace of warfare has been found at Caral; no battlements, no weapons, no mutilated bodies. Shady's findings suggest it was a gentle society, built on commerce and pleasure. In one of the pyramids, they uncovered 32 flutes made of condor and pelican bones and 37 cornets of deer and llama bones. They also found evidence of drug use and possibly aphrodisiacs. One find revealed the remains of a baby, wrapped and buried with a necklace made of stone beads.

Caral spawns 19 other pyramid complexes scattered across the 35 square mile area of the Supe Valley. The find of the quipu indicates that the later Inca civilization preserved some cultural continuity from the Caral civilization.

The date of 2627 BCE is based on carbon dating reed and woven carrying bags that were found in situ. These bags were used to carry the stones that were used for the construction of the pyramids. The material is an excellent candidate for dating, thus allowing for a high precision. The site may date even earlier as samples from the oldest parts of the excavation have yet to be dated.

The town had a population of approximately 3000 people. But there are 19 other sites in the area (posted at Caral), allowing for a possible total population of 20,000 people for the Supe valley.

All of these sites in the Supe valley share similarities with Caral. They had small platforms or stone circles. Shady (2001) believes that Caral was the focus of this civilization, which itself was part of an even vaster complex, trading with the coastal communities and the regions further inland as far as the Amazon, if the depiction of monkeys is any indication.

See also

Iperu, tourist information and assistance

Tourism in Peru

The Lambayeque pyramids at Tucume and Batan Grande also in Peru.

Cultural periods of Peru and the Andean Region.

External links

Official website features 3-D renderings of major monument.

Caral quipu

Transcript of BBC Horizon program about Caral

Moseley, Michael. "The Maritime Foundations of Andean Civilization: An Evolving Hypothesis", Hall of Maat

"Caral", The New York Times, 27 Apr 2001, Evergreen University

"The mother of all civilisations", The Times of India, 16 Dec 2007, retrieved 2007-12-19.


Caral. Searching the origin of civilisations. 49.03 minutes. BBC Learning

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Caral

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