Skip to comments.For Archaeology Buffs, Caral Is A Chance To Begin At The Beginning
Posted on 10/23/2006 12:14:18 PM PDT by blam
For archeology buffs, Caral is a chance to begin at the beginning
By Leslie Josephs
A sudden wind gust blows eerily down from rocky Andean foothills, kicking up a cinnamon-colored cloud over the moonscape of ruins that is the oldest city in the Americas.
The sky is a crisp blue. All around in the Supe River Valley are lush fields of onion and corn.
We are in Caral, three hours and nearly 5,000 years from contemporary Lima, Peru's bustling capital, and we've spent the last half-hour or so on a bumpy drive from the coast, along a dirt road blocked periodically by bleating herds of goats and sheep.
Caral made headlines in 2001 when researchers carbon-dated material from the city back to 2627 B.C. It is a must-see for archaelogy enthusiasts.
Even though the ruins in the dusty, wind-swept Supe River Valley don't approximate in majesty the mountains that surround the famed Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, they are an unforgettable sight under the glow of a fiery sunset.
Dotted with pyramid temples, sunken plazas, housing complexes and an amphitheater, Caral is one of 20 sites attributed to the ancient Caral-Supe culture that run almost linearly from Peru's central coast inland up the Andes.
The ruins changed history when researchers proved that a complex urban center in the Americas thrived as a contemporary to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt - 1,500 years earlier than previously believed.
But much remains to be discovered about Caral and the Caral-Supe culture that flourished here for more than a thousand years.
Ruth Shady, a Peruvian archaeologist from San Marcos University, discovered Caral in 1994, and was stunned by its size and complexity.
"Caral combined size with construction volume, but also it was a planned city," she says.
Shady and her team continue working at Caral but she also dedicates her time to promoting the project with Peru's National Culture Institute as a tourist and educational destination.
Caral received some 21,000 visitors in 2005, up from about 7,000 in 2003, the Commission for the Promotion of Peru says.
The ruins offer a front-row seat to archaeology in action, as scientists dust off piles of rock or supervise the reconstruction of a crumbling pyramid wall that thousands of years ago gleamed red, yellow or white.
The ancient society comes to life with the help of these archeologists, who make up about half of the site's tour guides along with locals whom they have trained.
The 163-acre city was the administrative center for a complex civilization.
While only crudely reconstructed, the society's clear class distinctions are evident in the wide variety of home sizes and neighborhoods.
One complex thought to have housed farmers was partly excavated on the outskirts of Caral, on a dry and inhospitable patch of land, while a spacious home for wealthy families was built beside the important and impressive Huanca Pyramid, with its steep staircases that narrow as they reach the structure's flat top.
Caral's largest social class was dedicated to agricultural production, Shady says. Farmers, using irrigation canals, nourished their crops of pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, corn, chili peppers and cotton with the waters from the Supe River.
Musicians played flutes crafted from pelican and condor skeletons and horns made from llama or alpaca bones in the city's amphitheater.
Shady has also uncovered evidence of extensive trading. Shrimp and mollusks from Peru's coast have been found at Caral.
Caral-Supe residents capitalized on the various climate zones they inhabited by growing a wide variety of foods. The region's agriculture and fishing industries complemented each other.
"They managed an economy that articulated the productivity" of the various regions, Shady says.
Painstaking detective work and reconstruction is necessary, as these archeologists, little by little, uncover a lost world.
The Caral-Supe ruins are far from intact, unlike many of Peru's famed Inca ruins that date back half a millennium and are scattered throughout Peru's Sacred Valley in the Andean state of Cuzco.
Machu Picchu in nearby Cuzco is, of course, the country's top tourist destination.
Aspero, another major Caral-Supe site on Peru's central coast, 16 miles from Caral, was discovered in 1905 but its pyramids were thought to be naturally formed hills. A garbage dump was built on top of it, and as Shady's team excavates, trash needs to be cleared away.
They have discovered that fishermen from Aspero provided sardines, anchovies, and other fish for the sprawling culture.
"We're going to be able to learn about the social system, the economic and political organization, the ideology," Shady said of the excavations throughout the Supe Valley.
"It's very important because it's the oldest civilization in America. And for that reason, native peoples see it as a symbol that in America there had been the same capacity to create civilizations as ancient as in the Old World."
"The great pyramids of Egypt provide a wonderful glimpse of the artistry, skill and imagination of the ancient world.
But pyramids can be found in India, China, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and Ireland.
In this provocative book, geologist Schoch (noted for his work in redating the Sphinx, which was recounted in his Voices of the Rocks) wonders how so many diverse cultures built such similar structures with similar purposes.
Using geological, linguistic and geographical evidence, he contends that a protocivilization of pyramid-building peoples was driven out of its homeland, the Sundaland, which geologists believe connected Southeast Asia with Indonesia, by a rise in sea level caused by comet activity between 6000 and 4000 B.C.
Fleeing their homeland, these peoples took their knowledge of pyramid building with them into Sumeria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and Peru. Schoch hypothesizes that the pyramids were built to reach into the skies and to penetrate the mystery of the heavens, source of catastrophe.
Schoch also asserts that the pyramids point to unity and symbolize the deep concerns shared by all humans. Schoch builds his engrossing case on geological details of the pyramid sites he has examined around the world.
In the end, however, even he admits his evidence of a Sundaland protocivilization is speculative.
As controversial as this book is bound to be, Schoch's evocation of the pyramids forcefully reminds us of their enduring power as monuments to the spirit of human creativity.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
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"The cradle of human civilization may well have been the prehistoric lowlands of the Southeast Asian peninsula, rather than the Middle East. Since those lowlands sank beneath the seas thousands of years ago (actually drowned by rising sea levels), humanity has remained unaware of their possible significance up through the early 21st century."
"Unaware except, that is, for a so-called myth perpetuated by a respected Greek philosopher named Plato, before 347 BC. Plato spoke of an advanced civilization named Atlantis, which sank below the seas perhaps around 9,000 BC. It may well be he wasnt so far off after all."
"The Asian legend of Mu is very similar to the western tales of Atlantis, involving a great landmass that sunk beneath the seas long ago."
The fact is that building a pyramid is fairly easy, aside from the lifting. You just pile up stones in receding layers, placing one layer carefully upon another, and pretty soon you have a pyramid. You can't help it. In other words, it is not in the nature of a pyramid to fall down--The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody
Will Cuppy even has an asteroid named after him: 15017 Cuppy.
Some people lose all respect for the lion unless he devours them instantly. There is no pleasing some people.
That would make more sense if there wasn't such a dense clusterin in time.
Graphic by Don Foley
Overshadowed by the dispute over how Caral started is the mystery of why it ended. Archaeologists have found no evidence of an invasion or a rebellion. Instead, city residents systematically covered over plazas, pyramids, and other buildings with gravel and pebbles 3,800 years ago and then left. Their efforts, plus the regions dry climate, helped preserve such buildings as the 36-foot-high Amphitheater Pyramid, which was apparently used for religious functions. A set of 32 flutes was found on the flat area surrounding the circular amphitheater. Other musical instruments, including 37 horns, were found elsewhere in the 130,000-square-foot stone-and-mortar structure.
"...city residents systematically covered over plazas, pyramids, and other buildings with gravel and pebbles 3,800 years ago and then left."
I agree that we don't know who did the covering, but wouldn't city residents be more likely than invaders?
Asteroids, earthquakes and tsunamis?
thanks for that...I always thought of 'codswallop' as a slap across the face with a dead fish!
Don't think so. There are distinct differences between pebbles and meteorites.
Mayan serpent sun god, Quetzalcoatl, coming out of the mouth of the dragon. Island of Cozumel
Thanks. Does the guy in the water have blonde hair?
Water water everywhere...gravel is water-borne. The site I linked is information from the translated legends of the local tribes from both North and South America...taken down by priests, who for some reason I cannot fathom, never made the connection between the native's tales and the events described in the Old Testament.
"O mighty Lord, under whose wing we find defense and shelter, thou art invisible and impalpable, even as night and the air. How can I, that am so mean and worthless, dare to appear before thy majesty? Stuttering
[1. Brinton's "Myths of the New World," p. 232.]
and with rude lips I speak, ungainly is the manner of my speech as one leaping among furrows, as one advancing unevenly; for all this I fear to raise thine anger, and to provoke instead of appeasing thee; nevertheless, thou wilt do unto me as may please thee. O Lord, thou hast held it good to forsake us in these days, according to the counsel that thou hast as well in heaven as in hades,--alas for us, in that thine anger and indignation has descended upon us in these days; alas in that the many and grievous afflictions of thy wrath have overgone, and swallowed us up, coming down even as stones, spears, and arrows upon the wretches that inhabit the earth!--this is the sore pestilence with which we are afflicted and almost destroyed. O valiant and all-powerful Lord, the common people are almost made an end of and destroyed; a great destruction the ruin and pestilence already make in this nation; and, what is most pitiful of all, the little children, that are innocent and understand nothing, only to play with pebbles and to heap up little mounds of earth, they too die, broken and dashed to pieces as against stones and a wall--a thing very pitiful and grievous to be seen, for there remain of them not even those in the cradles, nor those that could not walk or speak. Ah, Lord, how all things become confounded! of young and old and of men and women there remains neither branch nor root; thy nation, and thy people, and thy wealth, are leveled down and destroyed.
"O our Lord, protector of all, most valiant and most kind, what is this?
"Thine anger and thine indignation, does it glory or delight in hurling the stone, and arrow, and spear? The FIRE of the pestilence, made exceeding hot, is upon thy nation, as a fire in a hut, burning and smoking, leaving nothing upright or sound. The grinders of thy teeth," (the falling stones), "are employed, and thy bitter whips upon the miserable of thy people, who have become lean, and of little substance, even as a hollow green cane.
Yea, what doest thou now, O Lord, most strong, compassionate, invisible, and impalpable, whose will all things obey, upon whose disposal depends the rule of the world, to whom all are subject,--what in thy divine breast
hast thou decreed? Peradventure, hast thou altogether forsaken thy nation and thy people? Hast thou verily determined that it utterly perish, and that there be no more memory of it in the world, that the peopled place become a wooded hill, and A WILDERNESS OF STONES? Peradventure, wilt thou permit that the temples, and the places of prayer, and the altars, built for thy service, be razed and destroyed, and no memory of them left?
"Is it, indeed, possible that thy wrath and punishment and vexed indignation are altogether implacable, and will go on to the end to our destruction? Is it already fixed in thy divine counsel that there is to be no mercy nor pity for us, until the arrows of thy fury are spent to our utter perdition and destruction? Is it possible that this lash and chastisement is not given for our correction and amendment, but only for our total destruction and obliteration; that THE SUN SHALL NEVER MORE SHINE UPON US, but that we must remain in PERPETUAL DARKNESS and silence; that never more wilt thou look upon us with eyes of mercy, neither little nor much?
"Wilt thou after this fashion destroy the wretched sick that can not find rest, nor turn from side to side, whose mouth and teeth are filled with earth and scurf? It is a sore thing to tell how we are all in darkness, having none understanding nor sense to watch for or aid one another. We are all as drunken, and without understanding: without hope of any aid, already the little children perish of hunger, for there is none to give them food, nor drink, nor consolation, nor caress; none to give the breast to them that suck, for their fathers and mothers have died and left them orphans, suffering for the sins of their fathers."
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