All about the sacred city of Caral
The oldest civilization in America
Caral is the oldest city and civilization in America. It existed in the so-called 'Initial Formative' period of ancient Peru, between 3,000 BC and 1,900 BC That is, it coexisted with other of the oldest cultures in the world such as Egypt, Sumeria, China and India.
However, it is interesting that, unlike other civilizations in the world, it seems that Caral existed in isolation, without trade or cultural exchanges with great cultures. And despite this they reached an important development in fishing, agriculture, architecture, astronomy and even music. This civilization influenced the cultural development of the later civilizations of ancient Peru.
Caral developed on the central coast of the country. Its urban center covered about 50 square kilometers in the Supe valley. There, up to 23 urban settlements have been registered with buildings, circular squares, smaller enclosures, stairs, passages and more.
The most important urban center was made up of the so-called 'Sacred City of Caral', located in an area of 66 hectares. This immense city was divided into a high and a low sector. In the first one, the public spaces, squares, major pyramids and residential complex for the ruling class meet. In the second are the smaller and larger constructions where the 'Pyramid of the amphitheater' and the 'Temple of the circular altar' stand out.
On the periphery of the 'Sacred City of Caral' there are smaller and less quality enclosures distributed in isolation that served the common population.
Caral is currently a symbol of Peru. Its influence reached later cultures, including the Incas themselves. Research work continues to reveal new finds such as ceramic pieces, textile pieces and even the oldest quipu found in the country.
Caral has an on-site museum that can also be visited by everyone virtually. Also with a handicraft and souvenir shop. It is one of the most important tourist attractions in Peru. In 2009 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Along with Pachacamac and the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu are the most important archaeological sites in Peru.
The archaeological site of Caral is located in the valley of the Supe river, about 174 kilometers by road from the city of Lima (trip of approximately 4 hours).
It belongs to the province of Barranca, department of Lima on the central coast of Peru.
How to get there from Lima?
Most tourists decide to get to Caral through a tour that already includes the round trip transportation service.
To go on your own you must follow the following steps:
- In the city of Lima you must take public transport to the city of Supe (at kilometer 184 of the Pan-American North). The bus stop is at the 'Plaza Norte' terminal or on 'Abancay' avenue.
- Once in Supe they must go to the city market. There is the whereabouts of 'collective taxis' that go to the town of Supe. The trip takes 30 minutes and costs approximately 4 Peruvian soles.
- The 'collective taxi' will leave you at the door of the pedestrian entrance of the archaeological site of Caral. From there you must walk for approximately 20 minutes until you arrive at the 'Sacred City'.
To talk about the history of Caral we have to go back to 5,000 years before the Christian era. In those years the inhabitants of the Supe valley were grouped into ayllus that were mainly dedicated to fishing and agriculture. United under the same language, the same religion and, later, political and social structure, the Caral civilization was formed around an immense city.
To better adapt to the geographical environment, they built water channels. Its main activity was fishing and agriculture. They also bartered with various ayllus from the coast and mountains of present-day Peru.
From 3 thousand before our era, immense buildings are built, of which the 'Sacred City' of Caral stands out. According to various studies, the language of this civilization was a 'primitive Quechua', which was inherited by the Incas and continues to be spoken by millions of people mainly in the towns of the Andes Mountains in South America.
It is difficult to place Caral chronologically since they did not use ceramics, which prevents unveiling its evolution over time. Even so, other discoveries such as musical instruments account for its successful development.
From 2 thousand before our era other civilizations were born mainly on the north coast of present-day Peru. It is at this time that the city of Caral was gradually abandoned and its buildings were buried under the sand.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the existence of a very old archaeological site in the Supe valley was already known. However, it was not until 1994 that Professor Ruth Shady, together with a group of students from the San Marcos University of Lima, studied the place discovering the clues of a very ancient civilization not yet discovered.
Finally in 1997, after hard work, the archaeologist announced the discovery of Caral, the oldest civilization in America. The news shook the foundations of Peruvian archeology.
On June 28, 2009 Caral was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Until today, research continues to reveal findings of great importance. Caral is currently one of the most visited archaeological sites in Peru.
The sacred city of Caral
The 'Sacred City' of Caral is the most important building of the group of 23 urban complexes identified in the Supe valley. These were built in the so-called 'Initial Formative' period (from 3,000 BC to 1,900 BC). The common feature of these buildings are their sunken circular squares as well as their multi-level pyramids made of clay.
The 'Holy City' covers an area of up to 66 hectares. It is divided into a nuclear sector (destined for the ruling class) and a peripheral zone (destined for the common class).
The first sector, in turn, is subdivided into a 'High Sector' and a 'Low Sector'. The top is made up of better quality buildings for the housing of rulers as well as a point for public meetings. Constructions such as: The major pyramid, the minor Pyramid, the Quarry Pyramid, the Residential Complex, the Huanca Pyramid, the Gallery Pyramid and more stand out. The lower sector has smaller buildings that were probably destined for minor public events. Highlights there: the Pyramid of the amphitheater, the Temple of the circular altar and more.
The Caral museum
Caral has a very well implemented site museum with ten rooms that explain the importance of this civilization in the history of Peru.
- Room 1. Presentation.
- Room 2. Caral, one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
- Room 3. Life in harmony between human beings and with nature.
- Room 4. Management of the Andean territory with a basin vision and the importance of interaction and exchange.
- Room 5. Organization of the social collective for the execution of works of shared benefit, conducted by social and political authorities.
- Room 6. Gender complementarity and the role of women.
- Room 7. Identification of problems and search for solutions through the production of knowledge (science and technology).
- Room 8. Integral development of the human being: knowledge in harmony with art and music in social life.
- Room 9. Register of the social memory of the causes of collective crises to generate reflections and face difficulties.
- Room 10. Social interaction with respect to cultural and ideological diversity.
- Room 11. Playful space for children.
It is worth mentioning that the Caral authorities have implemented a virtual tour of the museum completely free of charge. You can visit it at www.zonacaral.gob.pe/museo/1/.
How much does it cost to visit Caral?
The 1-day tours to Caral that begin in the city of Lima have an approximate cost of 50 dollars.
If you visit Caral on your own, these are the prices of the entrance ticket:
- Adults in general: 11 Peruvian soles.
- University and high school students: 4 Peruvian soles.
- Children and schoolchildren: 1 Peruvian sol.
- Adults over 60 years: 5 soles 50 cents.
- People with disabilities: 5 soles 50 cents.
Visiting hoursThe archaeological site of Caral remains open from Monday to Sunday from 10 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.
What to bring?
During your visit to Caral do not forget to take with you:
- Comfortable clothes for the tour.
- A hat.
- Snacks, drinks or fruits.
- Identity documents.
Caral photo gallery
At the entrance door there are tourist guides who offer to accompany visitors on an educational tour of Caral. The group is made up of a maximum of 9 visitors. The cost of the service is 20 Peruvian soles per person.
In addition to the 'Sacred City' of Caral there are other nearby urban sectors that belonged to this civilization. Vichama and el Áspero stand out. Many tourist circuits around the city include these three places.
Caral includes a dining area with availability for up to 120 people seated. The entrance with meals is allowed so it is an excellent option to bring food, especially for Peruvian families. On Saturdays and Sundays there is food for sale in the same place.
If you like history, do not miss the opportunity to visit the historic Sanctuary of Pachacamac, also located on the outskirts of the city of Lima.
Of course it is not allowed to touch the archaeological constructions in Caral. It is also not allowed to make professional recordings without authorization. Photos are allowed. Protect the place as it is a historical monument of humanity!