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>1200: Pre-Inca Times

Mayor Pyramid and circular enclosure. Caral, Peru

Some of the first evidence of human habitation in Peru was discovered by the late American archaeologist Richard MacNeish in the 1960s.

In the Pikimachay cave in Ayacucho, MacNeish found what he called “the Pacaicasa man” which lived there 20,000 - 13,000 BCE. However, this is certainly long before the first civilizations left complete cities for us to study.

The oldest city that has been found in Peru is Caral-Supe, which was first inhabited around 3000 BCE.

Other important pre-Inca cultures were the Moche, who left us the Lord of Sipan, the Chimú who left us Chan Chan, the Chachapoyas culture who left us Kuélap and the Chavín who left Chavín de Huántar.

Huaca Rajada tombs

Further reading

There are more books about Inca history than pre-Inca history, but here are a few good ones.

Focusing on the north coast of Peru, Ritual Violence in the Ancient Andes explores the pre-Inca cultures Moche and Chimú, albeit through the lens of violence and human sacrifices.

A book that includes both pre-Inca and Inca history is Peruvian Prehistory: An Overview of Pre-Inca and Inca Society, focusing on the Chavín, Tiwanaku, Huari, Moche, and Nazca cultures.

Ayacucho

Since 20,000 BCE

Caral-Supe

The oldest city in the Americas

Chachapoyas

City & airport

Chan Chan

The largest adobe city

Chavín de Huántar

Archeological site

Huaca Pucllana

An adobe pyramid downtown

Huaca Rajada

The Lord of Sipan

Kuélap

Archeological site

Museo Arqueológico de Áncash

On the Plaza de Armas

Nazca

The famous lines

Revash

Archeological site

Yalape

Archeological site

Text © Heather Jasper

Images by Carsten ten Brink, Jon Gudorf Photography