Caral: oldest city of the Americas, 2,600 B.C.
Caral is a large settlement in the arid Supe Valley, in the Barranca province of Peru, some 200 km north of the capital Lima and 20 km away from the Pacific coast. It is one of the most ancient cities of the Americas and possibly of the entire world. The ancient pyramids of Caral predate the Inca civilisation by 4000 years, but were flourishing a century before the pyramids of Gizeh! They are the most important archaeological discovery in Peru since Machu Picchu in 1911!
Archaeologist Ruth Shady explored the 5,000 year-old city of pyramids in the Peruvian desert, with its elaborate complex of temples, amphitheater and ordinary houses. The urban complex is spread out over 150 acres (607,000 m²) and contains plazas and residential buildings. Caral was a thriving metropolis at the time when Egypt's great pyramids were being built.
No trace of warfare has been found in Caral. Shady's findings suggest it was a gentle society, built on the basis of commerce and pleasure. Amongst the artefacts discovered are 32 flutes made from pelican and animal bones, engraved with the figures of birds and monkeys, which shows that although situated on the Pacific coast, its inhabitants knew about the animals of the Amazon.
The heart of the site covers 150 acres and contains six stone platform mounds – pyramids. The largest mound measures 154 by 138 metres, although it is only twenty metres high.
Caral’s dating of 2627 BC is beyond dispute, as it is based on carbondating reed and woven carrying bags that were found on the site. These bags were used to carry the stones used for the construction of the pyramids. The town itself had a population of approximately 3000 people. But there are 17 other sites in the area, which allows for a possible total population of 20,000 people in the valley.
In July 2006, Caral was opened for tourism. With the support of PromPeru, and being just two hours north of Lima along the easily accessible Pan-American Highway, the number of tourists is expected to rise in the near future.
- Caral: the earliest civilization in the New World
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