Caral: The oldest civilization in the Americas

by Peru travel on April 24, 2012

Era: Late Archaic Period (3000-1500 BC)
Location: Supe Valley, 158 km north of the city of Lima

Caral is one of 18 settlements identified in the valley. Covering an area of around 65 hectares, the city features a series of complexes such as the Great Pyramid, the Amphitheater Pyramid and the Residential Quarters of the Elite.

Caral, the oldest city in America

Caral, the oldest city in America

The wind gusts powerfully over the sands Caral, the oldest city in the Americas. A living force that the ancient inhabitants allegedly tried to reproduce in their flutes. Crafted from condor and pelican bones, the first 32 flutes found at the archaeological site represented one of the biggest surprises produced at Caral. In 2001, researchers held the Archaeo-Musicological Research Workshop for the Flutes of Caral, in a bid to reproduce the sound of each one of them, just as the ancient dwellers might have heard them in 3000 BC.

Today, Dr. Ruth Shady, the head archaeologist in charge of the project, travels each weekend to Caral to continue with excavation work. Dr. Shady leaves the city and her office at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology at the Cultural Center in Lima’s San Marcos University to continue with her investigation into the past.

For more information on the latest research, please contact e-mail: or telephone (51-1) 427-8155.


1905. Max Uhle announces the first archaeological discoveries at Supe.

1941. Willey and Corbett carry out the first excavations in the area.

1970. Willey and Mosley note that the hillocks originally identified as natural formations are actually stepped pyramids. The same year, Feldman’s excavations indicate the site was a pre-ceramic settlement.

1994. Archaeological reconnaissance is carried out with backing from the National Culture Institute and the National Geographic Society, led by Dr. Ruth Shady. Research identifies 18 settlements, but work continues without knowing exactly what period they belong to.

1996. An excavation program gets underway at Caral, once again with backing from the National Geographic Society. The project chooses Caral as it is one of the largest and best-preserved settlements in the area. For the first time, researchers confirm Caral dates back to the pre-ceramic era.

1997. Excavation work continues, this time with backing from San Marcos University.

2000. Carbon 14 dating confirms the age of Caral.

2001. World Monuments Fund includes Caral on the world list of 100 monuments on the verge of disappearing.

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