For many people, what comes to mind when thinking about the history of Peru, is simply, the Incas. Thinking of the Incas is not necessarily wrong, as it is one of the pre-Columbian cultures of South America. But preceding the Incas, was the civilization in the Andes. In this essay, I’ll discuss how people lived in the Preceramic period and the Cotton Preceramic period. Including important archaeological sites, as well as the Caral-Supe civilization and its ultimate demise.
At 4000 B. C, sea levels began to stabilize (Smiley 2018: Unit 11). This allowed for more marine resources and more sustenance for the coastal peoples of Peru. As a result of this, villages began to form along the coast. One such village is the Paloma sedentary village in Peru. It was one of the earliest sedentary villages. And was a small village, located 2.5 miles from the ocean. It was inhabited from about 6800 B.C. to 3700 B.C (Smiley 2018: Unit 11). And it consisted of circular structures built into flat bottomed pits.
At the early stages of occupation, the Paloma people were mobile hunter gatherers. And overtime, became sedentary. The Paloman diet consisted of sea lions, squash, beans, anchovies and wild grasses. They sometimes supplemented with deer meat and other animals they had hunted (Smiley 2018: Unit 11). Archeologists discovered Paloman men and women were muscular, suggesting they dragged heavy fishnets back to their village. Archaeologists, also discovered gourds and cottons. Which were evidence of people making fishnets (Ross, 2002). There was also evidence suggesting the Paloman people were involved in long distance trading (Smiley 2018: Unit 11).
Another archaeological village site, was the Chilca. Chilca village was inhabited from 3500 to 2500 B.C (Smiley 2018: Unit 11). It was inhabited after the Paloman site was abandoned. Although it was a fishing village, people cultivated crops. They cultivated lima beans, squash, cotton, and tomatoes. Cotton, in particular, was important. It was important because it was used in making fishing nets. Fishing nets, in turn, were needed to catch anchovies, sardines and other aquatic animals (Smiley 2018: Unit 11).
After the Preceramic era, was the Cotton Preceramic era. This period lasted from about 3000 B.C. to 2000 B.C, and it brought about a change in the climate (Smiley 2018: Unit 11). And forced people to depend more heavily on fish from the Pacific Ocean. However, this dependence, created an imbalance in the people’s diet. People lacked starches and carbohydrates that were needed to do work. Plants could not grow well along the pacific coast, as the soil was contaminated with saline. This forced people to move inland to cultivate crops (Smiley, 2018: Unit 11). While there, they began to build irrigation canals to their crops (Ross, 2002). These helped the crops, on the immensely dry inland. The inland farmers provided cotton for creating fish nets and much needed carbohydrates for those in close proximity to the ocean.
During this era, temples and flat-topped mounds construction increased significantly. An example is the archeological site of Caral. The Caral was a Cotton Preceramic center. And it was located in the Supe Valley (Ross, 2002). It was occupied from 3100 B.C to 1800 B.C (Smiley 2018: Unit 11). Archeologists found evidence of storage facilities that stored fish and small anchovies. Also, there was evidence of avocado, fruit, and irrigation farming, for cotton, beans, squash, and peanuts (Smiley 2018: Unit 11). Caral also traded their cotton (Ross, 2002). They traded their cotton in exchange for shellfish (Ross, 2002). And this was one of their secrets to success, cultivating cotton to trade, in exchange of other goods (Ross, 2002). This continued on for thousands of years. Until the ultimate demise of the Caral-Supe civilization. Caral was on a trade route leading to the Amazon Basin (Ross, 2002). And was a part of the Caral-Supe or Norte Chico civilization, as is mentioned above. Caral, along with other archaeological sites in the Supe Valley of Peru, made up some of the earliest urban settlement systems in South America. This civilization was pre-ceramic. Meaning it was before ceramics, and much artworks were developed. The Caral-Supe civilization, however, achieved monumental architecture (Ross, 2002). Along with high populations of people and a complex, social structure and governing.
But at 1800 B.C, the Caral-Supe civilization collapsed (Smiley 2018: Unit 11). No evidence of warfare was ever found. But instead, evidence of structural damage. Caral and other sites with platform mounds, such as Aspero, exhibited signs of earthquake damage. And El Nino further disintegrated things. It brought massive rain fall. These series of environmental disasters brought about the collapse of the Caral-Supe civilization. And ended the Cotton Preceramic era (Smiley 2018: Unit 11). Finally, the Andes civilization preceded the Inca civilizations. But not many people realize this, as the Andes is not well known. The Andes civilization brought about the Preceramic and Cotton Preceramic ages. Which brought about the domestication of wide varieties of crops. And big monumental architecture. Also, Caral of the Cotton Preceramic era, might also hold the keys to discovering the mysterious origins of the Inca civilization. The question now is, how big of an impact did the Caral-Supe civilization have on the development of the Inca civilization?
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