Caral-Supe: the oldest city in Mesoamerica, Peru

The sacred city of Caral-Supe in Peru.


Found in the late 40’s the ancient city of Caral (Caral), which began excavating in 1994, and in 2001 was declared the oldest city in the Americas, is still under study by scientists. No special hypotheses about it are not put forward. Just his existence has pushed the development of urban culture to 2600 BC This makes Caral a contemporary of the Egyptian pyramids. Isn’t that a reason to go and see it?

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Caral is a well-preserved ruin of the oldest city in the Americas, located in the valley of the Supe River in the province of Barranca, Peru, 150 km north of the capital Lima. Historians attribute this city to the Norte Chico culture (thought to be the oldest of the pre-Columbian states, in north-central Peru today, but archaeologists have found more ancient ones in the same region). In 2009, the Sacred City of Caral-Supe was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as an example of urban planning and architecture of the Late Archaic civilization of South America.

Caral on a map

How to get to Caral

Caral is located north of the city of Lima in Peru. And usually tourists drive about three to four hours from the capital to admire the recent discovery and then return to Lima. However, we settled in the lovely town of Barranca on the Pacific Ocean. From there you can take a collectivo, which will bring you almost to the entrance of the archaeological complex. Collectivo must catch in the garage, which is located near the famous market of Barranqua, at the intersection of Arequipa Street and Berenico Davilo (Arequipa & Berenico Davilo). From the market you have to turn left and walk fifty meters along Berenico Davilo.

We went to Caral in 2014 during our round-the-world trip. The cost is 8 soles to the entrance of the ancient Karal and 5 soles to the modern city of the same name. The difference is 1.5 km. However, from the entrance you have to walk about the same distance to the first pyramid. Back you can go by the same scheme. Go to the stop in the city and wait for hitchhikers.

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The traveling companionship in Peru is a unique phenomenon and greatly expands the horizons of the inner area of the car. You never know how many people can fit inside! If you’ve been to South America, you should definitely take a ride in a collectivo to get a closer look at people’s lives. It will be an invaluable experience, a true immersion in a foreign culture.

Tickets to Caral

Caral, Barranca, Peru

The road to Karal. Hurry to enjoy the shade. The city itself is under the scorching rays of the sun!

But here you are. Now you have to find someone who wants to take you on a tour and show you the town. You cannot go to Caral by yourself, you can only join a group. We pretended for a while to be silly tourists, but soon our guide caught us and asked to go to the ticket office. We persuaded him that we would buy tickets after seeing the city, because we were too lazy to walk in the heat and then go back to the pyramids. But he did hook us up with a guided group and our plan fell through! We had to forget about seeing America’s first city on our own.

The guides here speak only Spanish, but we were a little lucky: an inquisitive Australian girl brought her own guide and his friend, who translated for her and us the words of the guide from Caral. The number of guides per nice lady was going off the scale! And we diluted this merry company. And since the Australian lady had already paid for the guide, it so happened that we were exempted from this obligation. The price – 25 soles per group. And the entrance fee is 11. Hours of operation – from 9:00 to 17:00, the last visitors are allowed at 16:00.

We were a little cheeky and broke away from the group, sometimes obediently listening to the guide’s speeches, asking questions. It turned out that scientists do not have a completely clear opinion about the name of the city. Their assumption was that Karal became Karal because of the mispronunciation of the word Coral by the incoming Japanese settlers.

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And after being left alone, we decided to still see what we hadn’t seen and went back from another entrance, located one kilometer from the main one on the road to Barranca, which is used to bring in private cars, not a collective. This entrance is not guarded by anyone. So for a while we even managed to walk alone. Only one person was concerned about this, an employee of the administration, keeping an eye on the crew of workers who were clearing the ancient city of sand. But when he saw the tickets, he relaxed and did not demand to run to the guide. So we walked through the entire complex, walked around the pyramids, climbed the mirador and went back to the cab rank. After all, self-tourism – the most enjoyable of the possible!

The ancient holy city

Diagram of Caral. Top view

Diagram of the city of Karal. View from above

Caral, Barranca, Peru

Caral, Barranca, Peru

Caral, Barranca, Peru

Caral, Barranca, Peru

Caral, Barranca, Peru

A sundial, compass, calendar and more amidst the pyramids

A sundial, compass, calendar, and more, surrounded by pyramids

Caral, Barranca, Peru

The city of Caral grew up among desert mountains that were once the ocean floor. And all the pyramids echo the shape of the mountain they face. If you look around from the central megalith menhir, which is a sundial and compass, behind each pyramid there is a twin mountain. The city is built that way – in a circle. The pyramids surround it. This diverges from the conventional square layout, but like many architectural monuments in Peru, Caral visually blends perfectly with its surroundings.

The Pyramid with the Twin Mountain

The pyramid with the twin mountain

Caral, Barranca, Peru

Caral, Barranca, Peru

Caral, Barranca, Peru

The circle in the pyramid structure. Unfortunately the view from the ground is only possible

The circle in the pyramid’s structure. Unfortunately, from the ground the photo can only be this

View from above

Megaliths were also used in the construction of Caral. But, as you can see, this is a very careless treatment of the stone.

Megaliths were also used in the construction of Karal. But, as you can see, this is a very careless treatment of the stone.

Another layer of the Karal. Tourists are not allowed to come here.

Another layer of Karal. They do not take tourists here.

Excavations are going on.

Video from Karal

My opinion of Karal.

Despite the unfinished excavations, you can see that the city is not that simple, although the supposed outlines and restored walls do not suggest overkill in construction. The question does not arise here: how was it built? The few monoliths included in the common walls don’t raise much of a question either. They only come to life if they are removed from the general context. But scholars have decided that this is what the city looked like.

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We walked around the backs of the excavations and saw that among the pyramids are structures unlike them. The style here is very different. Though the material is soft, the stones are larger. It seems as if Karal is surrounded by structures from other eras. Which of the cities dates back to the 3rd millennium BC? And how were they dated? By mummies that have been found or by the bodies of those who were sacrificed (somehow here it is only men and children, not women, as usual)? And if the sacrifices were made by those who no longer understood the original purpose of the built structures?

Unfortunately, the rule in science so far is that any finding must fit into the linear development of mankind and Darwin’s evolution, otherwise it will simply not be considered and taken into account. Whereas not only in my opinion, most of the sacrifices are feral and do not understand the surrounding reality and reality.

Notice, all of this usually took place against a backdrop of pyramids that technically underdeveloped people could not build. So some block of our knowledge is incomplete. For example, before what is presented to us as history, there was another period when more advanced people lived. There is the possibility that the Incas, Mayans, ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Sumerians, Khmer, and many others were themselves with mustaches and could still build like that, although no tools have been found. Or, in order to build all the gigantic structures all over the planet, no machinery is needed, but only energy, which our predecessors could use. And the mythology and tales say so.

The journey through Peru and Bolivia shows this once again: energy was the protagonist of human life. It is what created all the beauty we admire, and it is what destroyed many of the abandoned cities all over the planet.

Even the guides don’t say anything. They only list the facts: three months ago, three mummies were found during excavations on this pyramid. The round shape includes four megaliths. There are no burials here. Except for murdered and mutilated men. Even on the example of one pyramid it is possible to see different stages of construction of ladders. Obviously, they were completed. Only facts. No assumptions. It is not yet known which cell to place Karal in.

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But the surprising thing is that here is discovered a way to support a perpetual fire in the hearth without a gas cylinder. The circle found in the decoration of this city shows how, with the help of directed air, it is possible to maintain the fire.

And strangely enough, near the shore of the city of Barranca on the google map we saw the same circle as the main pyramid of Caral. But it is buried under the ocean. Not everything has been excavated yet. Apparently, the local civilization occupied a huge area. But we don’t know anything about it yet.

If you are interested in continuing to explore the area, there is another excavated archaeological site near Barranca, the Fortaleza de Paramonga Star Fortress.

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