In the Peruvian desert, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find the most ancient city in the Americas. The site, Caral-Supe, was built by the Norte Chico civilization around 4,600 years ago and was a flourishing metropolis at around the same time that the pyramids of Egypt were being constructed. What’s left comprises an urban complex with plazas and residences and a complex with temples and an amphitheater.
Since Paul Kosok discovered the site about three hours north of modern-day Lima in 1948, the site has continued surprising the scientific community, as it proves that the Norte Chico civilization was quite advanced in medicine, engineering, climatology, and agronomy.
As archeologist Ruth Shady shared, Caral was laid out to take advantage of the wind, channeling it through underground ducts to achieve high temperatures through bonfires in what is known as the Venturi Effect. This effect was discovered in 1740, but the Norte Chico knew of it more almost 5,000 years ago. The site also includes laboratories where climactic events were forecasted and agricultural schedules were drawn up.
Caral seems to have been used as a model for the urban design of Andean civilizations in the four millennia following its construction, and holds the key to understanding the development of the continent’s first cities.
Among the artifacts found at Caral is a quipu, a record-keeping instrument involving knots tied in ropes. Although it was known that the Incas used quipus, researchers were unaware that the system was so ancient until the find at Caral. Other relics unearthed at the site include plenty of flutes fashioned from condor and pelican bones and cornets made of deer and llama bones. Bags made from woven reeds and used to carry the stones used for constructing the temples provided scientists with the perfect material for accurate carbon dating, allowing them to realize how old the site actually is.
If you're planning to travel to Lima, you can visit the Caral archeological site to learn about the Norte Chico, the civilization they built on the Peruvian coast, and the elements of their culture preserved through to the Inca civilization which arose long after.
You can reach the site by taking a bus from Lima to Huacho, Supe, or Baranca (approx. US$5) and then taking a taxi to the ruins (approx. US$10). Admission is US$4 for adults, and you can join a group tour of the site for US$7. If you take a taxi from Lima, it will cost US$100-150. The easiest option by far is to book a group tour of Caral that begins and ends in Lima, assuring comfortable transport, meals, and an English-speaking guide, while avoiding the need to take buses or to arrange private transport for just one or two people. Make sure to visit our tours in Lima section to learn about other exciting excursions one can do in Peru's capital city.
Publication Date: 13 Jan 2016
Author: Carla Colon, Inca World Team