The 'Sacred City of Caral-Supe' or simply 'Caral' , is an archaeological site where the remains of the main city of the Caral civilization are found. It is located in the Supe valley, near the current town of Caral, 182 kilometers north of Lima (Peru), 23 km from the coast and 350 metres above sea level.[1] It is attributed an antiquity of 5000 years and it is considered the oldest city in America and one of the oldest in the world, since no other older site with such a diversity of monumental buildings, with different ceremonial and administrative functions has been found so far on that continent.[2] It has been declared Humanity Cultural Heritage by Unesco.[3]

Remains of Caral
Map showing location in Peru
Map showing location in Peru
Shown within Peru
Map showing location in Peru
Map showing location in Peru
Caral (South America)
Alternative nameCaral-Supe
LocationLima Region, Peru
Coordinates10°53′37″S 77°31′13″W / 10.89361°S 77.52028°W / -10.89361; -77.52028Coordinates: 10°53′37″S 77°31′13″W / 10.89361°S 77.52028°W / -10.89361; -77.52028
Foundedc. 2600 BC
Abandonedc. 2000 BC
CulturesNorte Chico
Site notes
ConditionIn ruins
Official nameSacred City of Caral-Supe
LocationSupe District, Barranca Province, Peru
CriteriaCultural: (ii), (iii), (iv)
Inscription2009 (33rd Session)
Area626.36 ha (2.4184 sq mi)
Buffer zone14,620.31 ha (56.4493 sq mi)

The caral culture developed between 3000 and 1800 B.C (Late Archaic and Lower Formative) that is, it was contemporary with other primordial civilizations such as Egypt, India, Sumeria, China, but unlike them (who exchanged their achievements), it developed in complete isolation. In America, it is the oldest of the pre-Hispanic civilizations, surpassing the Olmec civilization by 1500 years, another important civilizational focus located in Mesoamerica.[4]

Closely related to the city of Caral was Áspero or El Áspero, located on the coast near the mouth of the Supe River, and which, according to all indications, was its fishing city. This is where remains of human sacrifices (two children and a newborn) have been found, and more recently (2016), of a woman, who presumably belonged to the local elite of 4,500 years ago.[5]


Caral was inhabited between approximately 26th century BC and 20th century BC,[6] and the site includes an area of more than 60 hectares (150 acres).[7] Caral has been described by its excavators as the oldest urban centre in the Americas, a claim that was later challenged as other ancient sites were found nearby, such as Bandurria, Peru. Accommodating more than 3,000 inhabitants, it is the best studied and one of the largest Norte Chico sites known.

The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.[8] In early 2021, tensions arose between squatters claiming land rights and archaeologists researching the site as housing construction encroached on the site.[9][10]

Archaeological findingsEdit

Paul Kosok discovered Caral in 1948. The site received little attention at the time because it appeared to lack many of the typical artifacts that were sought at archaeological sites throughout the Andes.

In 1975, the Peruvian architect Carlos Williams made a detailed record of most of the archaeological sites of the valley of Supe, among which he recorded Caral. Based on what he observed in the region, he made some observations about the development of architecture in the Andes.

Ruth Shady further explored this 4,000- to 4,600-year-old city in the Peruvian desert, with its elaborate complex of temples, an amphitheatre, and ordinary houses.[11] The urban complex is spread out over 150 hectares (370 acres) and contains plazas and residential buildings. Caral was a thriving metropolis at roughly the same time as the great pyramids were being built in Egypt.

Caral is the largest recorded site in the Andean region with dates older than 2000 BC and it appears to be the model for the urban design adopted by Andean civilisations that rose and fell over the span of four millennia. It is believed that research conducted in Caral may answer questions about the origins of the Andean civilisations and the development of its first cities.

First constructions
2800 BC
2600 BC
2400 BC
2200 BC
2000 BC
1800 BC
1600 BC

Among the artifacts found at Caral is a knotted textile piece that the excavators have labelled a quipu. They write that the artifact is evidence that the quipu record keeping system, a method involving knots tied in textiles that was brought to its highest development by the Inca Empire, was older than any archaeologist previously had determined. Evidence has emerged that the quipu also may have recorded logographic information in the same way writing does. Gary Urton has suggested that the quipus used a binary code that could record phonological or logographic data.

Main templeEdit

The main temple complex (Spanish: Templo Mayor) is 150 meters (490 ft) long, 110 meters (360 ft) wide and 28 meters (92 ft) high. The date of its construction is unknown.

Peaceful societyEdit

Shady's findings suggest it was a gentle society, built on commerce and pleasure. No indications of warfare have been found at Caral: no battlements, no weapons, no mutilated bodies. This contrasts with the older civilisation of Sechin Bajo where depictions of weapons are found. In one of the temples, they uncovered 32 flutes made of condor and pelican bones and 37 cornetts of deer and llama bones. One find revealed the remains of a baby, wrapped and buried with a necklace made of stone beads.[11]

Scope of siteEdit

Caral spawned 19 other temple complexes scattered across the 90 square kilometres (35 sq mi) area of the Supe Valley.

The date of 2627 BC for Caral is based on the carbon dating of reed and woven carrying bags that were found in situ. These bags were used to carry the stones that were used for the construction of the temples. The material is an excellent candidate for high precision dating. The site may date even earlier, however, as samples from the oldest parts of the excavation have yet to be dated.[12]

Caral had a population of approximately 3,000 people. However, 19 other sites in the area (posted at Caral), allow for a possible total population of 20,000 people sharing the same culture in the Supe Valley. All of these sites share similarities with Caral, including small platforms or stone circles. Shady believes that Caral was the focus of this civilisation, which was part of an even vaster cultural complex, trading with the coastal communities and the regions farther inland – perhaps, if the depiction of monkeys is an indication, as far as the Amazon.[11]

Panorama of Caral site
360° Panorama of Caral


In 2000, Marco Machacuay (the chief of excavations at the time) and his colleague, Rocío Aramburú, discovered a large shape etched on the ground among circular stone lines near Caral. This image, known as a geoglyph, is located on the desert floor just west of the main site at Caral. When traced out, the lines form the design of a human face with long, streaming hair and a gaping mouth.

This geoglyph is similar to bleeding figures with a similar gaping mouths found etched onto the stone walls at a site called Cerro Sechín, in the Casma Valley 240 kilometres (150 mi) to the north. What this figure represents is unclear, but it is believed to have been constructed around the same time as Caral and to have been associated with a nearby ceremonial site known as Chupacigarro.[13]

Musical instrumentsEdit

Another significant find at the site was a collection of musical instruments, including 37 cornetts made of deer and llama bones and 33 flutes of unusual construction.[14] The flutes were radiocarbon dated to 2170±90 BC.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ubicación". 6 November 2008.
  2. ^ EMSE EDAPP, S.L. (2017). América precolombina. Cuna de grandes civilizaciones. Barcelona: Bonalletra Alcompas, S.L. ISBN 978-84-16330-40-9.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Descubren personaje femenino de élite enterrado hace 4,500 años en Áspero".
  6. ^, "Oldest evidence of city life in the Americas reported in Science, early urban planners emerge as power players" Public release date: 26-Apr-2001 American Association for the Advancement of Science
  7. ^, "Archaeological Site in Peru Is Called Oldest City in Americas" Public release date: 27-Apr-2001 The New York Times
  8. ^ UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
  9. ^ Collyns, Dan (3 January 2021). "Squatters issue death threats to archaeologist who discovered oldest city in the Americas". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 3 January 2021. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  10. ^ Mandujano, Carlos (January 20, 2021). "The Oldest City in The Americas Is an Archeological Wonder, And It's Under Invasion". ScienceAlert (in British English). Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  11. ^ a b c d Shady, R. Haas, J. Creamer, W. (2001). Dating Caral, a Pre-ceramic Site in the Supe Valley on the Central Coast of Peru. Science. 292:723-726. doi:10.1126/science.1059519 PMID 11326098
  12. ^ Belsie, Laurent (3 January 2002). "Civilization lost?". Christian Science Monitor.
  13. ^ Atwood, Roger. "A Monumental Feud." Archaeology. Jul/Aug 2005, Vol. 58 Issue 4, pp. 18-25.
  14. ^ Ross, John (August 2002). "First City in the New World?". Smithsonian Museum. Archived from the original on 2 March 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2012.

External linksEdit