Thursday, 12 February 2009

Commerce triggered first city of the Americas Caral

Lima - 20 January 2009 – With an estimated age of 5,000 years Caral is the oldest city of the Americas. Caral is located 200 kilometer north of Lima in the valley of the river Supe. In this valley more archeological sites from the same period have been discovered. Caral dates more or less from the same period as the pyramids of Gizeh in Egypt. Caral has eight pyramids, of which three have a circular area in front. The city had several residential areas as well.

Caral was discovered in 1948, but got little attention, because no spectacular things were found in the soil. Archeologist Ruth Shady did since 1994 more fundamental research and discovered that the hills in the area were hiding real pyramids. Pyramids almost as old as those in Egypt.

Caral dates from the Late Archaic period, in which there were no ceramics. No shard has thus been found in Caral. No weapons either. Archeologists are having a discussion whether urbanization was triggered by conflict or commerce. In Caral many remains of fish (especially anchovy and sardines) and shells were found, as were remains of textiles made of cotton and cottonseeds. Caral is not close to the coast. In this fertile river valley cotton was produced. Cotton of which fishing nets were made. They were probably traded for fish. The discovery of Caral is an important argument pro urbanization caused by commerce.

The antiquity of Caral could be estimated because of stones held together by nets of rope that were used as filling material in the construction of the pyramids. Another clue was the body of a man of approx. 23-24 years old that was found in a wall of the Great Pyramid. He was probably sacrificed, as his scull had received three blows and his hands were tied behind his back. With this scull a reconstruction was made of the face of an inhabitant of Caral. A person who lived 5,000 years ago now has a face. His skeleton showed severe signs of wear. Probably he belonged to the lower working class that built the pyramids. In its hey days Caral had 3,000 inhabitants. Part of the city contained the big houses of the elite, other parts the small houses of the working class.

So far in total only five skeletons have been found in Caral. No cemeteries have been discovered. However 32 flutes made of bones of condors and pelicans and 35 horns of cameloids have been found. They were probably used to make music during religious festivities. Statuettes have been found as well. Unbaked as no one had thought of making ceramics yet. No iron or other metal instruments were used. The stones with which the pyramids and houses were built were natural. Only forms of animals and geometrical shapes have been carved in some stones.

Caral was inhabited from 2,600 till 2,000 before Christ. After that the city was abandoned. Maybe this was caused by draughts. No one ever lived again in this place, although the nearby river valley was later inhabited by the Chavin culture, the Chancay and the Incas. It seems they respected this first civilization in the Americas and left Caral untouched.

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