Pre-Ceramic and Initial Periods-Norte Chico and Kotosh Cultures
Long before the Incas existed people thrived in this territory. About 16,000 years ago groups of people are believed to have crossed the Bering Strait from Asia and survived as nomads, hunting, gathering fruits and vegetables and fishing in the sea, rivers and lakes.
Pre-Ceramic Period – 8000-1850 BCE
Evidence of cultures from this period have been found in the Peruvian Andes. Hunting tools dating back 11,000 years have been found in the in caves in Pachacamac, Telarmachay, Junin, Lauricocha and Toquepala. During this period the inhabitants of the Andes learned how to domesticate South American camelids. They tried to domesticate vicunas and guanacos but they were not successful, up to date they still live in the wild. But their offspring llamas and alpacas did adapt and became an important source of food, transportation and clothing.
Those who lived in the coast and along rivers or lakes learned how to build tools to gather fish and seashells. At about the same time they experimented with seeds and plants, they learned about the soil, water needed for different plants and weather conditions in which each crop succeeded. They built terraces and learned how to channel water to irrigate their fields. One of the first domesticated seeds was the brown bean and the lima bean. Among the most important domesticated crops are potatoes (about 150 varieties exist in the Andean region), olluco, quinoa, yucca, tomatoes, peanuts, pumpkin, chili, beans, corn, lucuma. They also domesticated the cotton plant that became the foundation of the local textile industry, it was also used in the building of nets used for fishing.
Initial Period – 1800-800 BCE
The surplus of farming allowed inhabitants to become sedentary, farming allowed them to built settlements and new societies emerged along the coast and in the Andean mountains. A craftsman class dedicated to pottery production, metalworking and weaving appeared for the first time.
The first known city was the city of Caral located in the Supe Valley 200 km north of Lima, it is also known as the Norte Chico Civilization. Caral is the oldest city in America and was built 4,500 years ago, approximately 2500 BCE. What is left from this civilization are about 30 pyramidical structures built up in receding terraces ending in a flat roof, some of them measured up to 20 meters in height.
This ancient city dates back to 2300-1200 BC and is located in the sierra of Huanuco. It is known for their multistory ceremonial buildings. Within the temples they built an enclosed room with a ventilation hole in the center of the floor that fed the ceremonial flame. The Crossed Hands or Manos Cruzadas is the first known sculpture of the era and was found on the wall of one of the temples know as the Temple of the Crossed Hands. This temple is one of the oldest architectural ruins in the Andes.
These pre-Inca cultures belong to the Early Horizon Period dating back 3000 years.
Cultures thriving in the Early Intermediate Period date from approximately 200BCE to 600CE
The Middle Horizon period extends from approximately 600 to 1000. New cultures emerged and creating the first Andean Empire.
This period is characterized for the rapid artistic and technological development of its metallurgic and crafts production.
The Inca Civilization was the largest pre-Columbian Civilization in the Americas.