Caral, Peru

6000 years ago, the human race started to create civilization. Only six cultures in the history have been identified as those that were able to change their way of life to generate conditions necessary for the civilization development (build cities, farming, art, medicine, etc). These cultures constructed their settlements in Mesopotamia, India, Egypt, China, Central America and Peru. The ancient “Sacred City of Caral” is one of these settlements. It is considered one of the oldest towns in the world. It is located 23Km (14 miles) inland from Supe town, 100 Km north Lima city. Caral is located in the central Peruvian coast, in the Barranca province in the Lima region. The discovery of Caral was one of the most important finds of the modern archeology; since, Caral has proved the existence of urban life and complex agriculture in America around a millennium earlier than previously believed.

The radiocarbon analysis dates the ancient Caral city as early as 3000 BC. and it believes that the city was inhabited until 1500 BC. The society that constructed Caral, built eighteen settlements along the Supe Valley; some of these settlements can still be seen today. Caral is a planned city with a well defined central zone and peripheral areas. It occupies 66 hectares. There are several monumental architectural structures, such as two distinctive residential groups, a residential zone for the elite of Caral, two sunken circular plazas and several open meeting areas for the people. In the peripheral area, it can find many housing units and many cultivation areas.

The buildings of the central area of the city are divided into two zones. The higher zone has six large pyramids, which surround a large open space. In this zone, it highlights the Great temple. There are also several housing units (probably for the civil servants) and a large residential complex. The lower part of the city’s nucleus is composed by several small structures, which are aligned along an axis that runs from east to west. The lower zone includes also an Amphitheater Pyramid and a smaller residential section.

The houses that apparently were used by the civil servants were built with stone blocks, whose walls were plastered with clay and painted red, yellow or white. The rest of buildings were built on stone terraces. The walls of these buildings were made of vegetal material, which was covered with clay and was painted.

History

The Caral City is one of the first cities constructed in the world. It the first evidence of the birth of the civilization and the creation of state-level social organization in the New World, which was achieved in isolation without any contact with civilized societies in other regions of the planet.
Caral is about 100 years older than the pyramids of Giza. Nevertheless, Caral was not discovered until the XX century; since, in 1905 the city was found, but, because of the absence of gold and pottery, Caral was forgotten during long time. The first archeological work made in the zone around Caral, was made in 1941 in an area known as Aspero; there, Gordon R. Willey and John M Cobert (two scientists of Harvard) found a big trash heap and an old building with several rooms in a salt marsh at the Supe Valley. The scientists found also some remains of maize and 6 sand mounds. Both scientists believed, these mounds were natural hills of sand. However, only thirty years after its first excavation, Willey realized that these natural mounds were in fact “ancient temples”.

The radiocarbon tests made by the scientists on the remains found in Aspero, showed that Aspero could go back to 3000 BC. The same tests done in nearby zones revealed a date of 4900 BC. Nevertheless, these samples were not accepted, because, the date seems too old. Fortunately some years later in 1994 Ruth Shady Solis, a Peruvian archeologist of the Archeological Museum of the San Marcos University, found a 150-acres array of earthworks that included 6 large platform mounds. These mounds were the pyramids of Caral.

The research made in Caral was published in April 2001 and the radiocarbon dating of the site revealed that Caral has been founded around 2600 BC; since then, this city (older than Egyptian pyramid) is considered the oldest city in America. It believes that the first small settlements in the Caral’s region were created around 2700 BC and were based on the success of early agricultural cultivation and fishing techniques. Apparently, the invention of the cotton fishing net in the Supe Valley and the advent of irrigation agriculture facilitated the fishing industry and the production of food.

The excess of food caused by this invention allowed the creation of a trade and religious center in Caral. Nevertheless, the unequal distribution of the production generated, created also social strata at different hierarchies. Archeologists think that Caral was managed by a theocratic government, which was composed by priests and intellectuals who were in charge of rituals and astronomical predictions that allowed to prepare the calendars and people’s activities (mainly for agriculture).

Caral was the main center of the civilization that inhabited the Supe Valley. It believes, this city had a population of approximately 3000 people. Its strategic location allowed to trade with other close valleys in the coast and the Andes. The trade caused a dynamic economic process and turned this city more powerful. A peculiar detail about Caral is the absence of evidences of war. Archeologists did not find weapons or mutilated bodies. The ancient inhabitants of Caral expanded their influence along the coast, developing the agriculture in the nearby zones too. They cultivated plants such as beans, sweet potatoes, chili, cotton, pacay and guayaba, in order to support the growing population of the urban center.

There are other sites near Caral that could be even more ancient than Caral; nevertheless, Caral apparently was the main cultural center of this ancient culture. The reasons of the Caral’s declination are unknown; but, the city was quickly abandoned and by the 2100 BC approximately, the civilization that built Caral did not exist any more. The most accepted theory proposes that a drought forced people to migrate.

Caral was opened to tourism in 2006 and is currently one of the most popular destinations near Lima; since, Caral is only two hours by car from the metropolis. Despite efforts made to conserve Caral, this archeological wonder is one of the 100 important sites under extreme danger; therefore, it must do more efforts to protect this world heritage that could be the “Mother city” of the human civilization.