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Caral-Supe

The Sacred City of Caral-Supe is considered to be the cradle of civilization in the Americas.

This archeological site of an urban settlement belonged to the complex and fully developed Supé-state. It was constructed between 3000-1800 BC, in the same timeframe as the the works of the Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians.

Caral is one of 18 settlements in the fertile Supe river valley. On a dry desert terrace, the Supé built a monumental settlement measuring 66 ha. The structures were mostly made of stone, with some woodwork. The site consists of the upper half and lower half of the city (including 6 pyramids), the outlying sector with residential units and the archeological site of Chupacigarro. There a geoglyph and astronomical observation points have been found.

The complexity of the Supé civilization is shown by the discovery here of the first quipu, a system of knots to record information. The site is seen as the “Mother Culture” of the Peruvian civilizations, that ended with the Inca.

Caral-Supé was excavated relatively late, in 1994, although it had been discovered already in 1905.

Map

Visit May 2011

This is a WHS to love. I had not visited a site so inaccessible and obscure since Romania’s Dacian Fortresses last year. Only one WHS “collector” had been here before me. I had some trouble fitting it into my Peru itinerary myself. At first I wanted to go there on a day trip from Lima, but these tours are very expensive and it takes over 3 hours one way to get at Caral. After some reshuffling I decided to visit it from the nearest city, Barranca, and spent a night there. This also breaks the long trip from Huaraz to Lima or the south of Peru in two.

My hotel in Barranca easily connected me to a driver for a half day trip out there for 25 EUR. The road is now almost fully paved, so it takes only half an hour by car from Barranca to get at Caral. During the months from December to May it is impossible to cross the river to access the archeological site. My driver did not want to take any chances, although the water level seemed pretty low to me. So we drove to the other access point somewhat to the east. From there you have to cross a bridge on foot, and walk 2km to the site. It is signposted well, and there also is a guard posted at the start of the foot path. This way you end up at the other side of the complex from the visitor center, so you’ll have to walk a little more to get your ticket.

I did not know what to expect, but this is an enormous complex of pyramids, temples and other structures almost hidden in a valley in the desert. It is pretty well preserved (and sometimes restored), much better than Pachacamac for example. The natural setting is almost surreal, like a moon landscape. It was and is a fertile area however, due to the Supé-river that crosses the valley. The river banks are still used for agriculture.

I hired a guide to show me around. This tour of about an hour only gave me a glimpse into the world of the Supé. Much is still unknown too. The walls of the buildings were painted yellow, some of the paint is still there. They used a kind of nets to carry the stones that were used in construction - the remains can be seen. No cemeteries have been found, only the remains of a sacrificed young man have been discovered and those of several children that died of natural causes.

There is much more to tell about this fascinating site. After my visit I read the full nomination file, which is very much recommended. Despite its remote location, the complex is well geared to receive visitors. There’s also an info center on site where some of the objects that have been found at Caral are shown.

Community Reviews


Thibault Magnien - November 2016

Caral Supe in one of the oldest cities in the world. Situated in the desert, north of Lima, the ruins are easily accessible on a day trip from the Peruvian capital. I took my tour bus from parque Kennedy in Miraflores, Lima.

The site if very interesting and archeological discoveries have allowed to better understand how people were living 5000 years ago.


Billi Hope - March 2011

It was wonderful! I loved Every minute of it. So historical and beautiful. We watched some Peruvians dances around the site and dig.


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Site Info

Full name: Sacred City of Caral-Supe

Site History

Locations

The site has 1 locations.

  • Caral-Supe

Connections

The site has 18 connections.

Constructions

Geography

History

  • Oldest Buildings 2627 BC. "The date of 2627 BCE is based on carbon dating reed and woven carrying bags that were found in situ" (Wiki) "has a core area with 32 public architectural structures, two residential groups, two public plazas, three sunken circular plazas, streets, craftsmen's workshops, housing units for government officials, and an outlying area with several sub-groups of houses for the workers, located on the edge of the city, belonging to the farming population. In the central area, the buildings are distributed in two halves: one high-lying area or 'upper half', where we find the most outstanding pyramidal volumes, surrounded by officials' houses and a large residential group with interior divisions" (Nom file)
  • Pre-Inca cultures Norte Chico

Human Activity

  • Astronomy and Astrology Especially at Chupacigarro
  • Geoglyphs A geoglyph associated with the archaeological site of Chupacigarro is found in a small gully to the west, 1 km from the Sacred City of Caral. The geoglyph depicts a head drawn in profile. (nomination file)
  • Human Sacrifice The body of a ca. 23 year old male was found under the ceremonial room, possibly a case of human sacrifice
  • Writing systems oldest Quipu

Individual People

  • Max Uhle There is some debate as to whether Uhle discovered this site in 1905. He certainly investigated a site in the Supe valley at Aspero 25kms away, but credit for discovering Caral is normally assigned to Paul Kosok in 1948, with Ruth Shady being creditted with the excavations which proved the existence of the earliest known Peruvian civilisation (published 2001) . However, this New Scientist article from 2001, describing Shady's newly published conclusions, gives the credit for discovering the site to Uhle

Timeline

  • Built in the 3rd Millennium BC Radiocarbon analysis carried out ... at the Caral site confirms that the development of the site can be located in time between the years 3000 to 1800 B.C. (AB ev)

Trivia

WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process