Caral is the oldest city in Perú (more than 5000 years from the present) and seat of the first Andean civilization that forged the foundations of its own unique social organization, which together with Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China and Mesoamerica are the original foci of culture in the world.
Being builders of colossal pyramid-shaped buildings distinguishes the people of Caral from the other towns of their time in the Andes. The pyramid in the Andes is a building of great proportions used by the curacas (rulers) as the center of their activities, whether religious, political or economic. It was the symbol and center of power. There the ceremonies that would guarantee the established order were carried out on dates indicated by a ceremonial calendar that emulated the rhythm of nature.
The pyramids of Caral are the oldest found to date in the Andes: they date from 5000 years ago (approximately 3000 BC). Building structures of this type required a high degree of technology and social organization to face the problems of their construction and the high cost of materials and energy.
Caral city in Perú was built on the left bank of the Supe River on a large terrace that is 350 meters above sea level. This site occupies an area of ??about 65 hectares. The Supe valley is a narrow fertile ravine that in this place has a maximum width of 1.5 kilometers and houses along its route a large number of other sites with pyramids contemporary with Caral such as: Era de Pando, Lurinhuasi, Miraya, Allpacoto, Aspero, Chupacigarro, among others.
Agriculture, fisheries, trade
The Caral Civilization based his economy on agriculture and fishing on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, in the so-called Supe port. In the region, small settlements began to develop very early between 3000 and 2700 BC, which interacted with each other and exchanged products, even with other more remote populations. More complex societies were formed and between 2700 and 2550 BC. The great city of Caral was built, a place with monumental architecture. It was at this time that new urban centers began to appear in the Supe Valley and the neighboring Pativilca Valley, between 2550 and 2400 BC. The influence of the Caral culture was such that it reached the north of Peru, as can be seen in the Ventarrón site, in Lambayeque, or in other southern sites, such as the Chillón, Rímac, Asia valleys…
As Ruth Shady explains to us exclusively, the Caral Civilization was an advanced society that developed great scientific and technological knowledge that they transmitted to other neighboring cultures. They did not live in walled cities or manufacture weapons, but they did exchange resources, goods, and knowledge with populations in the mountains and jungle. They also had access to the Spondylus mollusk, very characteristic of the tropical waters of Ecuador and which had an important role in Andean societies; They also obtained sodalite, a mineral that comes from Bolivia, and even replicated, in the burial of a child, the treatment that was given to the dead in the Chinchorro culture of Chile, which shows that the Caral were related to other cultures far away geographically.
A monumental architecture
As an archaeologist, Dr. Shady insists that the importance of Caral Civilization is reflected in the elements of its architecture, of symbolic significance – assumed in turn by other cultures -: sunken circular squares, niches, double jamb doors, earthquake resistant technology, stepped platforms… Caral was an urban complex made up of different constructions. It lacks a walled enclosure and is located on a terrace that protected it from possible natural disasters.
The buildings were built with stone and wood from fallen trees. Six pyramids are preserved, each one with a central staircase that faces certain stars. All these buildings had an altar with a central fire (circular or quadrangular) and underground conduits that channeled the energy of the wind. In these complexes they had to carry out religious ceremonies that included the cremation of offerings to the divinities. But some of the constructions that are most striking are its two enigmatic circular squares, located in front of two pyramidal buildings. Very possibly related to religious ceremonies as well.
The Pyramids of Caral
In Caral there are 7 large pyramids surrounded by several other small ones, totaling 32 mounds. Its builders organized this city into 2 sectors: a high one (to the north) and a low one (to the south). An old dry cause divides both parties. In the upper sector there are 6 main pyramids surrounding an empty space. In the lower sector, the Pyramid of the Amphitheater and several smaller buildings aligned with it stand out. The residential area is a group of houses where the inhabitants of Caral lived. These sets of houses are made up of many interconnected rooms. Its walls are very narrow and are made with interlaced canes covered with mud (a technique called quincha). Evidence has been found in some of these rooms that they were used as workshops for artisan production (Shady 2004).
In each of the many pyramids of Caral, different activities were carried out, each fulfilling a different role in the social and religious order of its inhabitants. The Greater Pyramid is located in the Upper Sector of Caral. It consists of a stepped pyramidal volume (pyramid) and a circular square attached to its facade. A long 9-meter-wide staircase ascends to 28 meters in height, at the top of the pyramid, joining the two previous elements (pyramid + circular plaza), the main components of this building.
These are the measurements of the Pyramids of Caral:
- Length: 153.52 m
- Width: 109.42 m
- Height: 28.00 m
Pyramid of the Quarry:
- Length: 78.00 m
- Width: 56.00 m
- Height: 13.40 m
- Length: 45.80 m
- Width: 37.00 m
- Height: 7.50 m
- Length: 110.00 m
- Width: 80.00 m
- Height: 17.00 m
Pyramid of the Huanca:
- Length: 55.00 m
- Width: 55.00 m
- Height: 12.00 m
Pyramid of the Amphitheater:
- Length: 155.00 m
- Width: 81.00 m
- Height: 11.00 m
Pyramid of the Circular Altar:
- Length: 42.60 m
- Width: 28.00 m
- Height: 4.00 m
Dr. Shady and her archaeological team work in 12 settlements of this culture with the aim of «knowing the social system of the Caral Civilization and the changes that took place over the thousand years, of great prestige and development reached, until that entered into crisis and collapsed due to intense climate change, which transformed the productive valley of Supe into sandy lands with dunes, affected by a prolonged drought. Conditions that made the populations abandon the urban centers». In fact, and despite its harmonious relationship with nature, the Caral Civilization succumbed to harsh climate change, catastrophic in its effects. Archaeologists have identified a number of extreme weather events, such as earthquakes and torrential rains, that flooded the bay of the fishing town.
An extreme drought that lasted for several decades has also been documented: the Supe River dried up and crop fields filled with sand. In the end, after various and devastating famines that ended this brilliant civilization, Caral and the surrounding towns were abandoned around 1900 BC, without knowing what became of its inhabitants…
How to visit Caral in Perú?
Upon arriving in Caral in Perú, it is recommended that people prepare for a long journey around it. The place is made up of various pyramids with sunken circular squares, which visitors can meet throughout its 40 kilometers.
- Sportswear and lenses against UV radiation.
- Bring sunscreen to be used throughout the trip.
- Light sneakers.
- Photo camera.
If you travel to Perú, we also recommend you to visit another impressive destinations in the city of Cusco like the tour to rainbow mountain peru or the humantay lake tour from cusco, which only takes one day. But if you are gonna to stay more days in Cusco, other archaeological places you can know will be the choquequirao trek peru, the salkantay trek to machu picchu, and the classic inca trail 4 days 3 nights.