Despite being the oldest city in the Americas, the ruins of Caral, located 3 hours north of Lima, get very few visitors. If you want to get off of the beaten track to visit a gigantic complex of important ruins, getting to this site is not as hard as you might think.
Why is Caral such an important site?[caption id="attachment_158577" align="aligncenter" width="624"] Photo: Wikimedia[/caption] As a place of convergence for people living on the coast, the highlands and jungle, many thousands of years ago it became the center of a large network of exchange and reciprocity, both commercial and cultural. That was why it was the most important society in the Supe Valley.
What we know about the civilizationThe Caral people were experts in agriculture, public administration, making calendars, musical instruments. Their main crop was cotton, and their diets were based on fish and other seafood. Despite the fact that it was a very stratified society, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that men and women enjoyed a greater level of equality than most other civilizations. We also know that the people of Caral held great importance to the skies and the stars. On the main site, there is a large geoglyph, called Chupacigaro, which they devoted to the stars. It was a highly stratified society, divided between what kind of labor you did. The complex consists of six stone pyramids, amphitheaters, ceremonial rooms, altars, plazas. The city represented a conglomeration of 18 city-states that spread across three different valleys: Supe, Pativilca, and Fortaleza.
Only recently have archaeologists begun learning about the site[caption id="attachment_158578" align="aligncenter" width="624"] Photo: Wikimedia[/caption] It wasn't until 2001 when the ruins hit world headlines when archaeologists discovered that what they'd found was the oldest city in the Americas. Having been built in 2,627 BC, researchers discovered that it's actually as old as the ruins of Egypt. On discovering its age, archaeologists now recognize it as being a mother city for other civilizations that have dominated the Americas during the times since the Caral civilization's rise and fall. Around the world, these so-called mother cities have been important for all types of researchers who have wondered what influences motivated ancient people to make the transition from living in isolated bands of small families, and into city large city-states. The discovery of Caral helped archaeologists get a glimpse into the nature of human societies. To learn more about the fascinating discovery of Caral and the implications that its discoveries had on our understanding of humanity, check out this BBC documentary about Caral: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymW9yIyNNAo&t=2239s
Quick tips for going to Caral
- There is an informative museum that's located at the entrance of the ruins. Don't miss it if you want to delve more into the history and context of the site.
- If you go to the ruins on weekends, you'll find that there's a small handcrafts markets and local food available. Otherwise, expect the ruins to be quiet and empty.
- Don't miss out on the chance to climb the staircases leading to the pyramids in order to enjoy a breathtaking view in locations where ceremonies, offerings, and sacrifices are believed to have been carried out.
- Don't speak English? No problem. Explanatory plaques at the site are written in both Spanish and English.