Sacred City of Caral-Supe
The Sacred City of Caral or Caral-Supe is the capital of the Norte Chico Civilization of Supe located in the Supe Valley, 200 km (124 miles) north of Lima. The Sacred City of Caral is the earliest known civilization in the Americas, it dates to the Late Archaic period. Radiocarbon analysis performed by the Caral-Supe Special Archaeological Project (PEACS) dates its development between 3000 to 1800 B.C.
The sunken plaza is located at the central axis of the pyramid providing access to it.
It is believed that this civilization started by the merging of small villages based on trade of agricultural and fishing products. Its importance rests on the success of techniques of domestication of cotton, beans, potatoes, chilli, squash among other products. Success in agriculture was due to the development of water canals, reservoirs and terraces. They used guano, bird excrement, and anchovies as fertilizer.
Aerial view of the City of Caral. Source: UNESCO/Christopher Kleihege
There are 19 settlements along a 40 km zone in the middle and lower Supe Valley. Each one of them has pyramidal shaped public buildings with sunken circular plazas and dwellings. Of that group of settlements it is Caral that stands out. Caral is larger and its buildings are architecturally more complex.
The design of the Sacred City reflects the values of the Caral residents and their world view, specifically their religion, political and social systems.
The Sacred City of Caral was built on 66 hectares with two distinct zones. The main zone or nucleus on the north of the complex has the largest public and residential buildings of the city, including seven monumental buildings, two circular sunken plazas, two open spaces and residential dwelling for officials. The largest temple is the Templo Mayor which is 150 meters long and 110 meters wide and 28 meters high.
The southern part of the city or marginal zone includes smaller buildings such as the amphitheatre, a circular altar and a smaller residential area.
Caral was abandoned by its residents for unknown reasons. War was ruled out as there are no signs of destruction. Historians believe it was abandoned because of drought; its population migrated to more productive lands.