THE SACRED CITY OF CARAL
Experts claim that human beings started their development 5 million years ago, but only started building urban centers and forming networks of communications and trade over great distances some 6,000 years ago.
Only six cultures have been identified as having changed their way of life to generate the conditions necessary for social development by creating cities, farming and stock breeding systems, art, medicine and all the necessary groundwork to establish a complex and developed civilization at this time in human history; these are the cities of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Peru, China and Central America.
In the case of the cities of the Middle East, these maintained links and communications, trade and interchange systems; however, the society of Caral developed completely isolated from all other focal points, and in fact, predated the Central American civilizations, the other continental focus of development, by at least 1,500 years.
The first civilization of Peru and the Americas was created somewhere between 3,000 and 2,500 BC in the Supe valley, on the basis of a group of communities located in urban conglomerates: This organizational model influenced the development of later civilizations; among the main communities we can mention those of Huaca La Florida, Garagay on the Rimac, Cerro Sechin and Pampa de Llamas-Moxeque in the valley of Casma. Subsequently this model was copied in different areas of Andean territory: Chavin, Moche, Lima, Nasca, Tiahuanaco, Wari, Chincha, Ichma, Chimu, and finally Inca society, the last civilization of pre-Hispanic Peru, some 4,400 years after the first, in Caral.
The sacred city of Caral is located in the Supe valley, in the province of Barranca , Lima Region, some 182 km north of Peru's capital city and 23 km east of the Pan-American Highway. It was built on an alluvial desert terrace, at the starting point of the middle valley of Supe, at 350 meters above sea level; this being the most important urban conglomerate, due to its extension and architectural complexity, of all those that have been identified on the "New Continent" of America, in the 3,000 to 2,000 BC period.
Caral occupies 66 hectares, and consists of two zones, one central and the other marginal. The first exhibits monumental architectural structures, four different kinds of residential clusters, elite residential units, two circular plazas at the lower level, as well as mass public gathering areas. The second or marginal zone contains a number of family home groupings similar to an "archipelago" of home "islands".
In the construction of the main public buildings, cemented stone walls were used; in some of the secondary units, walls were of organic adobe, glazed with fine clay and painted red, white or yellow. In the construction, shicras (Vegetable fiber bags) were widely used.
Other areas were built with worked stone blocks (granular diorite), joined with clay cement and painted red, white or yellow according to the corresponding period. Some of the walls are supported by wooden rods interwoven with canes and plastered with earth and clay cement.
At the later periods of occupation, terraces with worked stone walls were built, these being cemented, glazed and painted white. The buildings at Caral show signs of prolonged occupation.
The technology advances in the areas of agriculture and fishing were the most important ones. This is evident in the production and workmanship of cotton fabrics, enabling the weaving of clothing and the knitting of nets for mass fishing, which led in turn to specialization in each one of these crafts, and stimulated the development of an interchange or barter economy between the settlements and the farming communities, the fishermen and net manufacturers, and the craftsmen; this enabled the accumulation of production and also the division of work, the bases for the development of a complex society.
The benefits deriving from social production were distributed unequally, generating the establishing of social strata at different hierarchies.
The above conditions enabled the development of parallel activities that contribute towards the development of a complex society, such as the arts, technology, astronomy, weather forecasting, medicine, administration and accounting, as well as a complex system of beliefs, ceremonies and rituals, thus creating a complex mythological and symbolic universe that replaced military hegemony, leaving religion as a controlling force for social cohesiveness.
The forms of social and political organization of the settlements of Caral-Supe transcended its space and time, and became the basis for the political states in the central Andes.
The early development of the Caral-Supe society made it the earliest American civilization, with the special virtue of having taken an unprecedented leap forward, in complete isolation, unlike the interconnected focuses of civilization in Mesopotamia, Egypt and India that were able to interchange knowledge and experiences.
In the Gallery Pyramid (one of the many public buildings), eight chairs manufactured from polished and worked whalebone vertebrae had originally been placed - a clear sign that this building was used as a meeting place.
Currently, the Peruvian government has created, through the "Instituto Nacional de Cultura" (INC), the so-called "Special Caral-Supe Archaeological Project", in charge of supervising, planning and controlling all work in the area, as well as documenting all discoveries.