Tuesday March 11th – Caral in Peru Continued
So to begin where I left off, heading up the trail to the ruins of Caral in Peru, my cousin Maycol and I came across a pair of mean dogs, we threw some rocks at them and that settled things pretty quickly. Yes I know that some of you may take offense to our actions but some advice for anyone traveling in the country is that a rock is your best friend against dogs who are far from tamed and are territorial. The “smell my hand” trick just does not cut it when it comes to such circumstances. If you travel in large groups then it’s a non issue but if your going at it alone, take my advice.
After slaying the beasts (c´mon lighten up!) we continued on the trail that eventually led us to a small river with a very dainty bridge. Looking downstream I couldn’t help but scratch my head as I could see more sturdy looking bridge in the distance. We took the dainty bridge over, because you know…. that’s just a heck of a lot more fun.
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It took us another fifteen minutes from the bridge to reach the archaeological site of Caral. As a student of history and archeology it was a sight to behold. There in front of me lay 6 ancient pyramids dating back to 3000 BC. These megaliths have yet to be completely unearthed, and according to one of the archaeologists it will take another 15 years before the site is fully excavated. After we had a look around the place we hiked up the side of a mountain for a better look.
The Oldest City in the Americas
Caral, also known as the Sacred City of Caral-Supe, is not just any archaeological site; it holds the distinction of being the oldest city in the Americas. Located in the Supe valley of Peru, near the present-day town of Caral, it is approximately 182 kilometers north of Lima. The city boasts an impressive age of 5,000 years, making it one of the oldest in the world. No other site in the Americas from that era has displayed such a diverse range of monumental buildings or various ceremonial and administrative functions as Caral. This ancient city has been recognized by UNESCO as a Humanity Cultural Heritage site.
The Caral Civilization and Its Significance
The Caral civilization thrived between 3000 and 1800 B.C, predating the Olmec civilization of Mesoamerica by 1,500 years. This makes the Caral culture the oldest of the pre-Hispanic civilizations in America. In close proximity to Caral was another significant city, Áspero, an early fishing city located near the mouth of the Supe River. Discoveries at Áspero have revealed evidence of human sacrifices, including the remains of children. In 2016, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a woman who is believed to have been part of the local elite 4,500 years ago.
A Glimpse into the Life in Ancient Caral
The city of Caral was meticulously planned and divided into two sections: the “Upper Half” and the “Lower Half”, separated naturally by the Supe River Valley. The Upper Half consisted of six monumental complexes, each centered around a pyramid. These complexes were surrounded by residential structures that showed signs of elite living, such as remnants of exclusive food like sea lion bones. In contrast, the Lower Half had smaller residential buildings and a more modest diet, indicating a less affluent population. This division suggests that Caral had a structured society with clear distinctions between the elites and the commoners.
When backpacking to place to place there is never really any reliable transportation. There are no schedules, no worries and unfortunately very little to do while waiting for that elusive collectivo.
We eventually flagged down a super crowded collectivo with about 10 people inside. Being that I was hitchhiking I didn’t have a problem with it. Getting to know Caral was great I will definitely make it a stop for future programs. With Karikuy Tours however you won’t have to wait on the side of the road, all transportation is planned out of course.
The night was spent in Supe, a nearby town and although it was a pleasant place, it was very quiet. The town was dead by 11 and there was no nightlife, it didn’t help that it was Tuesday either. What do you do in such circumstances? Well you break out the radio, drink some beer and talk about life and all of it´s surprises. Including the nasty surprise that I was very badly sunburnt.
Founder of Karikuy, an organization in Peru that brings travelers to visit and explore the country. Julio also runs the Karikuy Volunteer program and is the editor of this blog. Julio likes to write about his adventures in Peru as well as Peruvian folklore, mysteries and secluded locations.