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Caral, the oldest city in America

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Entrance Ticket



Location



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Daily
From 09:00 to 15:00 (last entrance 15:00)

Adults: S/.11.00
Students and Teachers: S/. 4.00
Children: S/. 1.00

Supe Valley
Km 184 Pan-American Highway, north of Lima
Right deviation 25 Km.

Guides, basic restaurant, bathrooms

CARAL: The New Cultural World Heritage Site
(UNESCO June 2009)

Seville, Spain, 28 June


13 new sites have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List which lost one site while three were placed on the Danger List.


The World Heritage Committee holding its 33rd session chaired by María Jesús San Segundo, the Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Spain to UNESCO, has inscribed two new natural sites and 11 cultural sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Since it also withdrew one site - from the List, Dresden Elbe Valley (Germany), the List now numbers a total of 890 properties.


The Committee also inscribed three sites on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger to help raise international support for their preservation. One site was removed from the Danger List. More sites may be inscribed on the Danger List as the Committee continues examining state of conservation reports on Tuesday.


During the session, which is scheduled to end on 30 June, three countries had their first World Heritage sites inscribed on UNESCO’s List of properties recognized as having outstanding universal value. They are, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Kyrgyzstan.


CARAL: The Sacred City of Caral - Supe (Peru). The 5000-year-old 626-hectare archaeological site of The Sacred City of Caral - Supe is situated on a dry desert terrace overlooking the green valley of the Supe river. It dates back to the Late Archaic Period of the Central Andes and is the oldest centre of civilization in the Americas. 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. One of 18 urban settlements situated in the same area, Caral features complex and monumental architecture, including six large pyramidal structures. A quipu (the knot system used in Andean civilizations to record information) found on the site testifies to the development and complexity of Caral society. The city’s plan and some of its components, including pyramidal structures and residence of the elite, show clear evidence of ceremonial functions, signifying a powerful religious ideology.


Source: UNESCO

 


Much earlier than the Incas and while civilizations like the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Indian, and Chinese (3000 and 2000 B.C.) flourished, the city of Caral, located north of the city of Lima, was built; this was the first American expression of a Pre-Ceramic urban settlement with monumental architecture in an area greater than 10 hectares. Later, in the northern highlands, the Chavin achieved significant advances in architecture, engineering, and agriculture.



Era: Late Archaic Period (3000-1500 B.C.)

Caral is one of 18 settlements identified in the valley. Covering an area of around 65 hectares, the city features a series of complexes such as the Great Pyramid, the Amphitheater Pyramid and the Residential Quarters of the Elite.


The wind gusts powerfully over the sands Caral, the oldest city in the Americas. A living force that the ancient inhabitants allegedly tried to reproduce in their flutes. Crafted from condor and pelican bones, the first 32 flutes found at the archaeological site represented one of the biggest surprises produced at Caral. In 2001, researchers held the Archaeo-Musicological Research Workshop for the Flutes of Caral, in a bid to reproduce the sound of each one of them, just as the ancient dwellers might have heard them in 3000 BC.


Today, Dr. Ruth Shady, the head archaeologist in charge of the project, travels each weekend to Caral to continue with excavation work. Dr. Shady leaves the city and her office at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology at the Cultural Center in Lima's San Marcos University to continue with her investigation into the past.



Chronology

  • 1905. Max Uhle announces the first archaeological discoveries at Supe.

  • 1941. Willey and Corbett carry out the first excavations in the area.

  • 1970. Willey and Mosley note that the hillocks originally identified as natural formations are actually stepped pyramids. The same year, Feldman's excavations indicate the site was a pre-ceramic settlement.

  • 1994. Archaeological reconnaissance is carried out with backing from the National Culture Institute and the National Geographic Society, led by Dr. Ruth Shady. Research identifies 18 settlements, but work continues without knowing exactly what period they belong to.

  • 1996. An excavation program gets underway at Caral, once again with backing from the National Geographic Society (report). The project chooses Caral as it is one of the largest and best-preserved settlements in the area. For the first time, researchers confirm Caral dates back to the pre-ceramic era.

  • 1997. Excavation work continues, this time with backing from San Marcos University.

  • 2000. Carbon 14 dating confirms the age of Caral.

  • 2001. World Monuments Fund includes Caral on the world list of 100 monuments on the verge of disappearing.

Source: PromPeru and Instituto Nacional de Cultura




 

The Greater pyramid (Spanish: Pirámide Mayor) covers an area nearly the size of four football fields and is 60 feet (18 m) tall. Caral is the largest recorded site in the Andean region with dates older than 3,000 BC and appears to be the model for the urban design adopted by Andean civilizations that rose and fell over the span of four millennia. It is believed that Caral may answer questions about the origins of Andean civilizations and the development of the first cities.


The Caral pyramids in the arid Supe Valley, some 30 km from the Pacific coast. Among the artifacts found at Caral are a knotted textile piece that the excavators have labeled a quipu. They argue that the artifact is evidence that the quipu record keeping system, a method involving knots tied in rope that was brought to perfection by the Inca, was older than any archaeologist had previously guessed. However, the artifact is orders of magnitude more simple than later Inca quipu, and it is thus doubtful that it was produced as part of a robust accounting system. Indeed, many archaeologists have actually questioned whether or not it is a recording device at all.


No trace of warfare has been found at Caral; no battlements, no weapons, no mutilated bodies. Shady's findings suggest it was a gentle society, built on commerce and pleasure. In one of the pyramids, they uncovered 32 flutes made of condor and pelican bones and 37 cornets of deer and llama bones. They also found evidence of drug use and possibly aphrodisiacs. One find revealed the remains of a baby, wrapped and buried with a necklace made of stone beads.


Caral spawns 19 other pyramid complexes scattered across the 35 square mile (80 km²) area of the Supe Valley. The find of the quipu indicates that the later Inca civilization preserved some cultural continuity from the Caral civilization. The date of 3,000 BC is based on carbon dating reed and woven carrying bags that were found in situ. These bags were used to carry the stones that were used for the construction of the pyramids. The material is an excellent candidate for dating, thus allowing for a high precision. The site may date even earlier as samples from the oldest parts of the excavation have yet to be to be dated. The town had a population of approximately 3,000 people. But there are 19 other sites in the area (posted at Caral), allowing for a possible total population of 20,000 people for the Supe valley. All of these sites in the Supe valley share similarities with Caral. They had small platforms or stone circles. Shady (2001) believes that Caral was the focus of this civilization, which itself was part of an even vaster complex, trading with the coastal communities and the regions further inland – as far as the Amazon, if the depiction of monkeys is any indication.


Caral Diagram

 

Map route to Caral

(Image © caralperu.gob.pe )

 

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