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Sacred City of Caral-Supe
Site number:
Type of site: Cultural
Date: Archaic Period
Date of Inscription: 2009
Location: South America, Peru, Supe Valley
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Description: "The 5000-year-old 626-hectare archaeological site of The Sacred City of Caral-Supe is situated on a dry desert terrace overlooking the green valley of the Supe river. It dates back to the Late Archaic Period of the Central Andes and is the oldest centre of civilization in the Americas. Exceptionally well-preserved, the site is impressive in terms of its design and the complexity of its architectural, especially its monumental stone and earthen platform mounts and sunken circular courts. One of 18 urban settlements situated in the same area, Caral features complex and monumental architecture, including six large pyramidal structures. A quipu (the knot system used in Andean civilizations to record information) found on the site testifies to the development and complexity of Caral society. The city’s plan and some of its components, including pyramidal structures and residence of the elite, show clear evidence of ceremonial functions, signifying a powerful religious ideology." --WHMNet paraphrase from the description at WHC Site, where additional information is available.
  Caral is a large settlement in the Supe Valley, near Supe, Barranca province, Peru, some 200 km north of Lima. Caral is one of the most ancient cities of the Americas and possibly of the entire world, and is a well-studied site of the Norte Chico civilization. Caral was inhabited between roughly 2600 BCE and 2000 BCE, enclosing an area of 66 hectares. Caral was described by its excavators as the oldest urban center in the Americas, a claim that was later challenged as other ancient sites were found nearby. Accommodating more than 3,000 inhabitants, it is the best studied and one of the largest Norte Chico sites known. Paul Kosok discovered Caral (Chupacigarro Grande) in 1948, but it received little attention until recently because it appeared to lack many typical artifacts that were sought at archeological sites throughout the Andes at the time. Archaeologist Ruth Shady further explored the 5,000 year-old city of pyramids in the Peruvian desert, with its elaborate complex of temples, an amphitheater and ordinary houses. The urban complex is spread out over 150 acres (607,000 m²) and contains plazas and residential buildings. Caral was a thriving metropolis at roughly the same time that Egypt's great pyramids were being built. The main pyramid (Spanish: Pirámide Mayor) covers an area nearly the size of four football fields and is 60 feet (18 m) tall. Caral is the largest recorded site in the Andean region with dates older than 2000 BCE and appears to be the model for the urban design adopted by Andean civilizations that rose and fell over the span of four millennia. It is believed that Caral may answer questions about the origins of Andean civilizations and the development of the first cities. Among the artifacts found at Caral are a knotted textile piece that the excavators have labeled a quipu. They argue that the artifact is evidence that the quipu record keeping system, a method involving knots tied in rope that was brought to perfection by the Inca, was older than any archaeologist had previously guessed. However, the artifact is orders of magnitude simpler than later Inca quipu, and it is thus doubtful that it was produced as part of a robust accounting system. Indeed, many archaeologists have actually questioned whether or not it is a recording device at all. --Wikipedia. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Reference: 1. UNESCO World Heritage Center, Site Page.
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