Caral – The Americas Oldest City

This was an amazing day trip. A long day trip, but well worth it. A group of 7 of us hired a van and went to Caral, which is about 3 1/2 hours north of Lima. Before reaching Caral, we traveled through the town of Huacho. Huacho claim to fame is the balcony where Jose San Martin Matorras declared Peru’s independence on November 27, 1820. However, he did not arrive in Lima to declare independence until July of 1821. We stopped long enough to take pictures of the balcony and stretch our legs before continuing on.

Caral is about 5,000 years old and was built before the pyramids of Egypt. So far, they have carbon dated items, found during the dig, to the years 2627-2020 BC. However, there is speculation that this may change as they continue to dig and find possibly older items.

It was located on approximately 163 acres. There were two levels to Caral – the Lower Half and the Top Half. This division suggested a social class – the farmers lived in the Lower Half, while families of distinction lived in the Top Half closer to the Huanca Pyramid.

The largest of the social class were the farmers. They developed an irrigation system from the Supe River and grew crops of pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, corn chili peppers and cotton.

The population of Caral (approximately 3,000) appeared to be non-violent as there was no trace of warfare. Plus, they were very musical. Over 32 flutes were found made from condor and pelican bones. Also, 37 cornets made from deer and llama bones were found as well.

Pieces of a quipu or khipu were found. A khipu is a group of strings and knots used to count items bought and sold or used to take a census. Originally, it was believed that the Incas developed this system, but this discovery has proven that to be wrong. Also, found among the ruins, were shicras. These are fiber bags that were used to fill with rocks. Then, the shicras were carried to the construction site of a pyramid and deposited there as fill. Then, the pyramids were built around these bags of rocks.

There are two plazas in Caral. One in each of the two levels. This suggested that the society needed a place for ceremonial gatherings. In the Lower Half, the plaza is at the Temple of the Amphitheater Pyramid. This plaza is larger than the Central Plaza found in front of the Great Pyramid in the Top Half. The Great Pyramid (Piramide Mayor) covers an area nearly the size of four football fields and is about 60 ft tall.

The Huanca Pyramid is also located in the Top Half. It was built in front of the Huanca monolith. This monolith was over 6 ft tall and was used in astronomical and ceremonial activities.

In my research, I learned that civilizations were successful when they controlled something important. For example, the civilization of Mesopotamia developed irrigation of fields. For Caral, it is believed that it was the development of cotton. They made fishing nets with the cotton and were able to catch fish to use for trade with communities up to twelve miles away. It is also believe that the residence of Caral traded with jungle and mountain communities because of items found at Caral from those areas.
Returning home, we stopped in Huacho at the “Casa Blanca” or White House restaurant. It was a resort-type area similar to the place we ate in Cieneguilla. Jose Luis, Mary and I enjoyed play sapo….getting the “coin” in the toad’s mouth….nearly impossible, but lots of fun trying.

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