Ancient Civilizations - The Peruvian Pyramids of Caral

#spirituality #education #history #pyramids #peru The Sacred City of Caral-Supe, in central coastal Peru, boasts an impressive complex of ancient monumental architecture constructed around 2600 B.C., roughly the same time as the earliest Egyptian pyramid. Archaeologists consider Caral one of the largest and most complex urban centers built by the oldest known civilization in the Western Hemisphere. The 1,500-acre site, situated 125 miles north of Lima and 14 miles from the Pacific coast, features six ancient pyramids, sunken circular plazas and giant staircases, all sitting on a windswept desert terrace overlooking the green floodplains of the winding Supe River. Its largest pyramid, also known as Pirámide Mayor, stands nearly 100 feet tall, with a base that covers an area spanning roughly four football fields. Radiocarbon dating on organic matter throughout the site has revealed it to be roughly between 4,000 to 5,000 years old, making its architecture as old—if not older—than the Step Pyramid of Saqqara, the oldest known pyramid in ancient Egypt. That remarkable discovery places Caral as one of the oldest known cities in the Western Hemisphere. Coastal Peru has long been considered one of the six recognized cradles of world civilization, and new archaeological discoveries continue to push back the dates of when the region’s “mother culture” was established. Caral was the first extensively excavated site among some two dozen in a zone along Peru’s central coast known as the Norte Chico area. Archaeologists believe the sites collectively represent the oldest center of civilization in the Americas, one which lasted from roughly 3000 to 1800 B.C., completely uninfluenced by outside forces. It flourished nearly 4,000 years before the start of the powerful Incan Empire. Despite Caral’s significance, decades passed between when the first scholars stumbled upon the area, and when they recognized its importance. German archaeologist Max Uhle explored the Supe Valley, but not Caral itself, as part of a wide-ranging study of ancient Peruvian cities in the early 1900s. But it was American historian Paul Kosok, who is largely recognized as the first scholar to recognize and visit what is now known as the site of Caral in 1948. In his 1965 book, Life, Land and Water in Ancient Peru, he referred to the site as Chupa Cigarro Grande, after a nearby hacienda. The sheer size and complexity of the site, however, led many to believe Caral’s structures were made only more recently, largely leaving it to go ignored. It was only in 1994, when Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady of National University of San Marcos started studying the site, that she realized, in the absence of finding any ceramics, that Caral might date before the advent of pot-firing technology. But Shady needed to substantiate her claims. While excavating the largest pyramid, she and her team found the remains of reed-woven bags, known as shicras, filled with large stones to support the pyramid’s retaining walls. In 1999, she sent the reed samples for radiocarbon dating to veteran archaeologists Jonathan Haas, at Chicago’s Field Museum, and Winifred Creamer, at Northern Illinois University. The results, published in the journal Science in April 2001, were monumental. Caral, along with other ancient Norte Chico sites in the Supe Valley were “the locus of some of the earliest population concentrations and corporate architecture in South America,” they wrote. At that time, Caral was hailed as the oldest known city in the hemisphere; since then, other Norte Chico sites, dating several hundred years earlier, have been unearthed—and discoveries continue.

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