The mother of all civilisations?
2007-12-23 0:00

By Shobhan Saxena |

The ruins were so magnificent and sprawling that some people believed that the aliens from a faraway galaxy had built the huge pyramids that stood in the desert across the Andes.

Some historians believed that the complex society, which existed at that time, was born out of fear and war. They looked for the telltale signs of violence that they believed led to the creation of this civilisation. But, they could not find even a hint of any warfare. It was baffling. Even years after Ruth Shady Solis found the ancient city of pyramids at Caral in Peru, it continues to surprise historians around the world. It took Ruth Shady many years and many rounds of carbon dating to prove that the earliest known civilisation in South Americas—at 2,627 BC–was much older than the Harappa Valley towns and the pyramids of Egypt.

Solis, an archaeologist at the National University of San Marcos, Lima, was looking for the fabled missing link of archaeology— a ‘mother city’—when she stumbled upon the ancient city of Caral in the Supe Valley of Peru a few years ago. Her findings were stunning.

It showed that a full-fledged urban civilisation existed at the place around 2700 BC. The archaeologist and her team found a huge compound at Caral: 65 hectares in the central zone, encompassing six large pyramids, many smaller pyramids, two circular plazas, temples, amphitheatres and other architectural features including residential districts spread in the desert, 23 km from the coast.

The discovery of Caral has pushed back the history of the Americas: Caral is more than 1,000 years older than Machu Picchu of the Incas. They built huge structures in Caral hundreds of years before the famous drainage system of Harappa and the pyramids of Egypt were even designed.

But, it was not easy for Ruth Shady to prove this. It was only in 2001 that the journal Science reported the Peruvian archaeologist’s discovery. And, despite the hard evidence backing her, she is still trying to convince people that Caral was indeed the oldest urban civilisation in the world.

"There were many problems, many of them in my own country," says Ruth Shady, on a visit to India to discuss her discovery with other historians. "The discovery of Caral challenged the accepted beliefs. Some historians were not ready to believe that an urban civilisation existed in Peru even before the pyramids were built in Egypt," she says.

Basically, there were two problems. First, for decades archaeologist have been looking for a ‘mother city’ to find an answer to the question: why did humans become civilised?

The historians had been searching for this answer in Egypt, Mesopotamia (Iraq), India and China. They didn’t expect to find the first signs of city life in a Peruvian desert. Secondly, most historians believed that only the fear of war could motivate people to form complex societies. And, since Caral did not show any trace of warfare; no battlements, no weapons, and no mutilated bodies, they found it hard to accept it as the mother city.

That’s when Ruth Shady stepped in with her discovery. "This place is somewhere between the seat of the gods and the home of man," she says, adding that Caral was a gentle society, built on trade and pleasure. "This great civilisation was based on trade in cotton. Caral made the cotton for the nets, which were sold to the fishermen living near the coast. Caral became a booming trading centre and the trade spread," she says.

Caral was born in trade and not bloodshed. Warfare came much later. This is what this mother city shows: great civilisations are born in peace. Ruth Shady continues to battle for this great truth.

Read more:

Related Articles
Explore Peru's oldest city
Ancient Solar Observatory Discovered in Peru
Celestial Find at Ancient Andes Site
Discovery could bring Peru's 'cloud warriors' to earth
600 Year Old Amazon Mummies of the Chachapoyas Caught In Terror
New archaeological findings on political power in Peru
Mummified Inca maiden wows crowds
Red Ice Creations - David Hatcher Childress - The Mystery of the Olmecs & Ancient Civilizations

Latest News from our Front Page

Is the countryside racist? Villages 'that want to remain white and middle class'
2015-11-24 20:31
Country dwellers believe rural communities should be the preserve of white middle-class families with conservative values, a survey claims. Many residents of countryside towns and villages consider them the 'last bastion' of old-fashioned English traditions. And they often equate this 'exclusively and unthinkingly' with white Englishness, a study has found. White gate: Are countryside villages, such as The Lee, in Buckinghamshire, racist for ...
More than 30 "White Student Union" pages created on Facebook in last week
2015-11-24 2:37
More than 30 “White Student Union” pages have recently sprung up over the last several days on Facebook, pages that affiliate themselves with various universities around the nation The creation of an “Illini White Student Union” Facebook page that surfaced Nov. 18 in response to a “Black Student Solidarity Rally” at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign gained national attention, but ...
Pew: White Christians no longer a majority
2015-11-24 1:56
A woman prays at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles during "A Night of Hope," an event hosted by Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen. | AP Photo White Christians now make up less than half of the U.S. population, largely receding from the majorities of most demographic groups, with one notable exception: the Republican Party. According to the latest results from Pew Research ...
Cinemas refuse to show Church of England advert featuring Lord's Prayer
2015-11-23 23:52
The UK’s three leading cinema chains have refused to show an advert by the Church of England that features the Lord’s Prayer, citing fears that it could offend people. Vociferous critic of religion says anyone thin-skinned enough to be offended by church advert deserves to be offended The 60-second advert was due to be shown before Star Wars: the Force Awakens, released ...
Free Ottawa yoga class scrapped over "cultural issues"
2015-11-23 23:24
Jennifer Scharf is a yoga instructor who had delivered a free class to students at the University of Ottawa for the past seven years that was cancelled this year due to a complaint that yoga constitutes "cultural appropriation." Errol McGihon/Ottawa SunStudent leaders have pulled the mat out from 60 University of Ottawa students, ending a free on-campus yoga class over ...
More News »