ADVANCED civilisation was thriving on the coast of modern-day
Peru at the same time as the pyramids were built in Egypt
more than 1,000 years earlier than was previously thought, American
researchers have discovered.
radio-carbon dating of plant fibres found at Caral, 120 miles
north of Lima, has revealed that the ancient city was built
as early as 2600BC, making it by far the oldest urban settlement
yet identified in the Americas.
findings, published today in the journal Science, suggest that
the significance of the Caral civilisation has been badly underestimated
by archaeologists and anthropologists.
inhabitants of the city had developed technology on a par with
much of that found in ancient Egypt at about the same time they
had the know-how to irrigate fields and to build monumental
pyramids, though they never learnt to make ceramic pottery,
a fact that continues to puzzle anthropologists. Jonathan Haas,
curator of anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago, who
led the study, said Caral had previously been dated to about
1600BC. Our findings show that a very large, complex society
had risen on the coast of Peru centuries earlier than anyone
thought, Dr Haas said.
is a project that comes along once in a generation and offers
opportunities rarely glimpsed in the field of archaeology.
is dominated by a central zone containing six large platform
mounds arranged around a huge public plaza. The largest of these
mounds, known as Piramide Mayor, stands 60ft high and measures
450ft by 500ft at its base.
six central mounds were built in only one or two phases, providing
strong evidence of complex planning, centralised decision-making
and mobilisation of a large labour force- all of which suggest
an advanced civilisation.
rooms, courtyards and other structures were constructed on top
of the pyramids as well as on the side terraces.
are now planned to determine whether there were rooms or tombs
inside the mounds. Other architecture at the site also indicates
a high level of cultural complexity. In particular, three sunken
circular plazas testify to the emergence of a well-organised
religion with open, public ceremonies. Other villages in Peru
are known to have been occupied before 2600BC and some even
had small-scale public platforms or stone rings. All, however,
are much smaller in scale.
Mark Henderson, The Times