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Caral

For millennia, the oldest city in the Americas was cloaked and hidden by the dunes of the Supe Valley. No longer. Discovered less than two decades ago, the monumental site of Caral is quickly being excavated and reconstructed, and visitors can now clearly imagine how the city must have looked 5,000 years ago, when it was a lively center for trade and religious worship.

Four thousand five hundred years before Machu Picchu was a glint in the eyes of the Inca, Caral was hosting elaborate ceremonies and convoluted business deals. The fields around the Supe River were planted with cotton then, and the residents spun the cotton into nets, which were traded to coastal fishermen 25 kilometers (15.5 mi) away. Products from the Sierra and the Amazon basin also found their way to Caral. There is also evidence of religious ceremonies, musical performances, drug use and human sacrifice at the site, but the residents of Caral apparently left no ceramic or metallic crafts behind.

Today, several pyramids have been excavated and are in various states of reconstruction. There are also reconstructed amphitheaters, which were imagined to be the site of religious ceremonies. Several mysterious stones were left on the site, as well, possibly as clocks.

Guided tours (generally in Spanish) are required, and last roughly one hour. The knowledgeable guides explain not only the history of the site, but also the history of the site's excavation, which is ongoing and can sometimes be observed close-up.

To visit the site independently from Lima, your best bet is to get one of the frequently-departing buses to Barranca ($4-5, 3.5-4 hr, most companies leaving from the Abancay neighborhood). From there, you can get a collective taxi (about $1.50, 1 hr) to the village of Caral, from which it is a 25-minute walk. If you'd like to spend the night, there are a few hotels in nearby Supe, but you'll have a lot more choice in Barranca. Many tour agencies also offer organized trips to Caral. Either way, bring sunscreen and lots of water for your desert exploration.

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Other places nearby Caral: Catacaos, Chiclayo, Huancabamba, Tumbes, Trujillo, Los Órganos, Piura, Paita , Cabo Blanco and Máncora.







By Nick Rosen
A staff-writer here at V!VA's offices in Ecuador, I came to Quito after having worked on public health and development projects in Africa. Naturally,...
23 Apr 2012

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