BBC Horizon series: Caral the first "civilisation"?[edit | edit source]

This section uses material from the BBC [1] website and BBC videos [2] which we believe the BBC has placed on internet for education use.

Dating Caral[edit | edit source]

Please replace this video with [3] which has sub-titles in Spanish.

This clip deals with the challenges in the dating of the site - the search for items which could be dated by style of ceramic or by carbon-dating (ceramic pottery, vegetable-matter etc.) They find no ceramics! They do find reeds. The film highlights an initial puzzle: if the Caral site -- with its multiple truncated pyramids and (apparently) residential street plans -- is evidence of Peru's early complex societies why are there no ceramic remains (The Casma site has ceramics). Can you have towns / cities / urban settlements without ceramics? How do you store water? How do you cook? No metal tools were found: only of stone – “civilisation at an extraordinary early stage”. Caral was much older than expected. Still needed something that could be dated. The army clear away surface bucket by bucket so as not to destroy evidence. It was clear that the structures required the “trappings of civilisation” to design and build them. They utilised plastered walls, steps, paint . . . . reeds The reeds are dated at 5,000 years old. And the reeds are woven(?) into a form of an open-netted basket (shicra?) which was used to contain stone masonry. The reeds could not be dated without foreign help (*foreign expertise/technology is an area of controversy ) Jonathan Haas and get 12 samples of the reeds dated at laboratory in University of Illinois 2,600 BC Casma not ‘mother city’. Caral of major international significance.for the study of the ‘great transition’ (from simple to complex societies) Why at Caral ? and why at that moment of history? Was Caral a fortification? “No hay instrumentos de Guerra”

How and why at Caral[edit | edit source]

The first part of the second clip deals with the “warfare / fortification-thesis”. “They should be here (at Caral) and they are not and you have to change your whole mindset about the role of warfare in these societies” (JH). The video (over?)dramaticises JH's vision that "warfare had (always?) been one of the main 'triggers' for early civilisation. The “warfare / fortification-thesis” "simply does not work". "The message of Caral was clear: warfare had nothing to do with the creation of civilisation, here at least."(BBC narrator - BN) Finding out why civilisation was formed would have to start again. Near the main temple Ruth and her team found beautifully carved flutes made from the bones of condors. “The flutes were the first things we found that showed people working as specialised craftsmen in Caral.” (The video veers towards sensationalism at this point: the achiote plant, body paint, enhanced sexual performance.) "They also found the shells of a creature called the megabolinus snail"(BN) . . . "they used drugs because we have found little containers in which there was some lime".(RS) "All these goods had been brought to Caral from far away, but why?" . . . "Ruth's team found that Caral didn't just import its pleasures. It also brought in the most basic commodity of all: food. It seemed the staple diet of Caral was completely bizarre for a city deep in the desert. It was fish. There were endless fish bones, mainly of sardines and anchovies."(BN) (Why were all these goods traded into Caral 4,600 years ago? Anawer: all-the-year-round rivers and then irrigation.) "Even today Caral is fed by rivers flowing down from the Andes to the sea. These rivers would be the key in unlocking the mystery of why civilisation first formed here at Caral because with rivers had come a huge technological advance: irrigation."(RS) "Caral was once a huge Garden of Eden. Here in the middle of the desert it would have been a vast oasis of fruit and vegetable fields. It would have made Caral one of the wonders of the Ancient World."(JH)

If English is not your first language you may find it helpful to read the complete script at - if you have this visible in a second window at the same time as listening to the video, it's almost as good as having subtitles, sometimes better!

The cotton revolution - networking[edit | edit source]

"Caral was engaged in trade. It made cotton nets for the fishermen who sent fish as payment."(BN) This clip looks at the evidence. "Caral made the cotton for the nets. With the nets the fishermen could catch more food. More food meant more people could live at Caral to grow more cotton and so Caral became a booming trading centre and the trade spread." (So concentration on and intensification of trade supported this urban centre - it was not built for defense.) Then "Ruth's team made a chance discovery that threatened to undermine everything." The possibility of human sacrifice - seemingly disproved. The video then wraps up the conclusion "Caral was the first city with the first central government ever to be created. Caral changes all our current thinking about the origins of civilisation."(RS)and the BN concludes: "Perhaps that is Caral's real legacy. Human civilisation was not born in bloodshed and battle. Warfare was a later part of the human story. Great things can come from peace."

At the time the BBC film was made, would this have been a reasonable conclusion? Add paragraphs (===Paragraph heading===)to discuss the material above or to add new topics.

The mysterious-ness thesis[edit | edit source]

Mystery sells media. Caral comes in handy here: it's very old and it breaks the rules. Make peace not war seems to be its motto. Try this next video which also tells us something about a "lost civilisation" and a Moche archaeological site much further north from Lima than Caral. This is also a BBC Learning video. You have to view this in a separate window (we cannot embed it in our page). The video makes the case that - at least in the mystery stakes - Caral can be compared with other famous sites worldwide

Other views of Caral[edit | edit source]

(tourism / american (1)v=dHMHcFXcBIw&feature=related (2)v=JphUkhML1w4) This video appears to have been made by Peruvian tourist organisation(s) with the cooperation of the Caral archaeological site. It has been used for promotion by several tourism entitites e.g. (end). It contains good narative notably by Ruth Shady.

Programme - Que Tal Raza[edit | edit source]

Around the world in 80 treasures:London to Peru (Machu Picchu - MP)[edit | edit source]

MP is listed here not because the site is from an archaic period (it isn't, MP is from the fifteenth century) but a useful - and the most popular - "way into" Peru. We travel from London to MP . . . (Perhaps we should relocate this paragraph and video into the "conquest" period.)

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Link: (Unsure about the status of this video.)

Sechin Bajo older than Caral[edit | edit source]

Report from Peruvian Times February, 25 at 3:42 pm, 2008

Archaeologists uncover 5,500-year-old Peruvian ruins

A team of Peruvian and German archeologists have dated ruins in northern Peru to 5,500-years-old, making it one of the oldest structures in the Americas, El Comercio reported. The archaeologists confirmed the antiquity of the stone and adobe structures in the Sechín Bajo archaeological complex, located close to the coastal city of Casma, in Ancash Department, with 25 carbon-dating tests.

According to daily El Comercio, the tests dated a sunken, circular plaza with a 10- to 12-meter diameter to about 3,500 B.C. The head of the Sechín Bajo project, Peter Fuchs, said the plaza was likely used by earlier residents as an open space to socialize. Fuchs added that a second construction phase included adjacent buildings. A third construction phase included larger structures measuring 180 meters-by-120 meters that were reportedly built some 2,000 years after the original plaza to accommodate population growth.

Fuchs said the site challenges theories that Peru’s earliest civilizations developed on the coast before moving and settling inland. The dating of the circular plaza makes it 500 years older than the ruins at Caral, a settlement located about 124-miles north of Lima on Peru’s coast and believed to be the oldest urban center in the Americas. . . . . (For more detail and up-to-date reports click to go to Peruvian Times coverage. Archaeology - Posted on February, 25 at 3:42 pm )

Original of El Comercio article


Tiwanaku comparison[edit | edit source]

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