After my short detour to cold, mountainous Chavin it was back down to the hot sunny coast for the next archaeological site. This one is located a 45 minute drive inland from the nearest town, Barranca, where I’d checked into a nice hotel and arranged with one of the security/doormen for him to summon me a taxi, there being no regular public transport where I was going. I ended up in rather tatty car driven by a young man (presumably a friend or relative of the aforementioned doorman) with a penchant for ’70s Anglo-American rock, which was just fine by me. I sang along as we bounced down the unmade roads.
The car park for Caral-Supe, also just called Caral, is some distance in the hot sun from the actual entrance. First there is a walk along the Supe river (which you can cut out by taking an incredibly bumpy but cheap horse and trap ride) followed by a hike up through sand dunes. I reached the entrance only to find that a group guided tour is compulsory and that there were no other visitors at all other than two people who are already on their tour. I was escorted to the top of a dune and pointed in the right direction to catch them up, otherwise who knows how long it might have been before another tour set off.
Caral is 5000 years old and, along with related settlement sites in the surrounding area, the earliest centre of civilization in the Americas. The site contains remains of stone and earth platforms and pyramids, temples, houses and sunken circular plazas. There was once an expansive residential area thought to house around 3000 people, although that is not particularly visible. The site was only rediscovered in the mid 20th century having been covered by windblown sand and the ongoing excavations began much more recently.
Much of the structure of the platforms and pyramids is made up of rubble in the form of small rocks that were transported and put into the construction in net bags, which can still be seen in the excavations and are of course great for carbon dating. Another important organic find from the site is a quipu, one of those groups of knotted cords that were used for recording information.
The actual structural remains are not vastly impressive in themselves but the informative and bi-lingual interpretative panels include helpful artists’ impressions of each structure and the entrance sign has a great aerial photo of one of them.
I don’t have the right parts to do justice to the circular plazas, so the Lego model is of a pyramid such as this one:
and looks rather underwhelmingly like this: