The lost city of Caral boasts pyramids just as old as those in Egypt and is the oldest city in the New World.
Relatively speaking, the Incas are recent history. One unfortunate consequence of the fame of the Incas is that they tend to crowd out the long and rich history of the region with its many kingdoms and civilizations that went before. Some pre-Inca cultures were incorporated into the Inca Empire, while others were ancient history by the time the Incas appeared on the scene.
The oldest city now known in the Americas is that of Caral. It flourished at around the same time as the Egyptian pyramids were being built. The ruins of ‘Sacred City of Caral-Supe’ or simply ‘Caral,’ is a reminder of just how old the history of what is today Peru really is. Another ancient pre-Inca city in the Peruvian desert to explore is Chan Chan. Peru is a country with a very rich history.
Caral – The America’s Oldest City
Caral is considered both the oldest (known) city in the Americas and one of the oldest in the whole world. It history stretches back around 5000 years rivaling the age of Ancient Egypt and its pyramids. No other site in the Americas has been found with Caral’s diversity of monumental buildings and ceremonial and administrative functions.
- Location: Peru In The Supe Valley By The Coast
- Oldest: Believed To Be The Oldest City In The Americas’ (and One Of The Oldest In The World)
The city of Caral was part of the ancient Caral culture. It is believed to have developed between 3000 and 1800 BC and is considered the oldest of the pre-Hispanic civilizations.
Caral Culture: Developed Between 3000 and 1800 BC
To put that into context, that is much older than the civilizations of Mesoamerica. The Olmec civilization is considered a progenitor to the complex civilizations of Mesoamerica (the Olmecs were responsible for the “colossal heads” and the first use of chocolate). But the Caral Culture is believed to have developed around 1,500 years earlier than the Olmec culture.
As is understood now, Caral could be thought of as the cradle of Andean civilization – and eventually the Incas. It appears that Caral was the model urban design that was subsequently adopted by Andean civilizations over the following four millennia.
Pyramids As Old As Egypt And More
Exceptionally well-preserved, the site is impressive in terms of its design and the complexity of its architectural, especially its monumental stone and earthen platform mounts and sunken circular courts. UNESCO
As one visits Caral today, one will see a windswept desert with what appears to be six dunelike mounds. But these are not works of nature, they are human-made pyramids. They are what remains of a city that once flourished there almost 5,000 years ago.
- Size: The Site Covers 626 hectares
- Contains: Pyramids, Plazas, and Residential Buildings
- Pyramids: The Site Has The Remains of Six Main Pyramids
- Listed: As A World Heritage Site
Closely associated with the city of Caral was the early fishing city of Áspero or El Áspero situated on on the west coast of Peru, near the mouth of the Supe River. Here excavations have found the remains of human sacrifices (two children and a newborn). It also has large platform mounds.
The Supe Valley has fertile lands and is close to the sea. The ancient inhabitants were fishermen, farmers, and seafarers.
The city is believed to have been the home of over 3,000 inhabitants and is now the best studied and one of the largest Norte Chico sites known.
Caral is today an important archeological site with the remains of what was the main city of the Caral civilization. It is located in present-day Peru in the Supe Valley near the town of Caral – around 180 km or 110 miles north of Lima.
Caral was inhabited between approximately 26th century BC and 20th century BC, and the site includes an area of more than 60 hectares (150 acres). Caral has been 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, such as Bandurria, Peru. Accommodating more than 3,000 inhabitants, it is the best studied and one of the largest Norte Chico sites known.
The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. In early 2021, tensions arose between squatters claiming land rights and archaeologists researching the site as housing construction encroached on the site.
Shady’s findings suggest it was a gentle society, built on commerce and pleasure. No indications of warfare, such as battlements, weapons, or mutilated bodies, have been found at Caral. This contrasts with the older civilisation of Sechin Bajo where depictions of weapons are found. In one of the temples, they uncovered 32 flutes made of condor and pelican bones and 37 cornetts of deer and llama bones. One find revealed the remains of a baby, wrapped and buried with a necklace made of stone beads.