Pre-Inca Civilizations in Perú

Peru is not just the Incas. What was the most famous civilization in South America, it only developed for three centuries and the “Inca Empire” lasted less than a century.

Pre-Inca Cultures are Ancient Civilizations in Perú that developed in Ancient Peru before the Inca civilization in various regions of the coastal and Andean area of ??Peru.

The first settlers of the Andes went through a long process of adaptation and knowledge of the space they inhabited. One of the most important was the domestication of plants and animals. At the beginning, they gathered all the fruits they found, but, with over time, they practiced selective collection.

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Chronology of the main pre-inca civilization in Perú:

  • Caral / Supe
  • Tiahuanaco
  • Chavin
  • Paracas
  • Moche / Mochica
  • Pucara
  • Nasca
  • Lime
  • Wari
  • Lambayeque / Sicán
  • Chachapoyas
  • Chimu

Beginning of Ancient Civilizations in Perú:

Around the year 11,000 BC. C., there was an increase in temperature on the planet.

This was beneficial for the sierra, since it was less cold and there were more intense and regular rains along the mountain range. This favored the reproduction and domestication of plants. In addition, the rains allowed the rivers to descend with more water to the coast.

The water increased the flow of the rivers on the Pacific slope and the circulation of surface waters. On the coast, swamps and lagoons were formed, the flow of groundwater and springs increased, so oases were formed, which facilitated horticulture.

While the men went hunting, the children and women gathered fruits. So they realized that plants grew from seeds and began to experiment with them by sowing them in small spaces; thus the horticulture developed. Eventually, improved agricultural knowledge and increased production gave rise to agriculture.

The domestication of animals followed a process similar to that of plants. At first, the hunters would catch all the animals they found.

Then, they realized that it was better to leave the females and their young alive so that they would reproduce and the herd to grow. Thus began the selective hunting. Some time later, they kept some animals in pens, where they fed them. In this way, some hunters became shepherds and cattle ranching emerged.

In relation to fishing, at the beginning the fish were caught with the hands; then, they were captured with spears (as the inhabitants of Paiján did); later, hooks were made with cactus spines; and finally, after a few years, networks were created.

Some pre-inca civilization in Perú were part of the cultural process from which the Inca state was born, within the Peruvian tradition; others, on the other hand, had only sporadic contacts or brief influence from or on the cultures of Ancient Peru.

Pre-Columbian archaeological research on America designates Mesoamerica and the central Andes as the nuclei that generated the most complex cultural processes. Here the city and the state are the most successful cultural and political expressions of its evolution.

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Pre-inca civilization in Perú:

Caral – Supe

Between 3,000 and 1,600 BC

It is located on the coast 200 km north of Lima. Caral is the first civilization of the Americas, which consisted of a structured and organized society. Little is known about this culture, currently under study by archaeologists, only that it was a peaceful, religious and agricultural civilization. The city of Caral has been open to the public since 2006.

Tiahuanaco or Tiwanaku

Between 1,500 BC and 1,200 A.D.

It is the great pre-Inca civilization of the altiplano in southern Peru, Bolivia and northern Chile. The most important archaeological remains are found in the urban center and at the same time the religious capital, located on the Bolivian side 20 km south of Lake Titicaca. The Tiwanakus specialized in high altitude agriculture (4,000 meters above sea level) such as potato, quinoa, oca, etc. To fight against the harsh climate at this altitude, the “waru waru” were developed, ingenious raised terraces surrounded by canals that had two functions:

prevent flooding and create a micro climate by filling them with water that is heated by the sun during the day to return this heat at night and thus prevent freezing. The Tiwanakus were also great builders and their stone temples inspired the Incas who would later improve and hone their techniques significantly.


Between 1,000 and 200 BC

Located on the coast and in the Andes, the Chavín civilization extended its territory over 1,000 km, from the current city of Chiclayo (780 km north of Lima) to Ica (300 km south of Lima). Its capital was Chavín de Huántar (3,180 m.s.n.m.), located 100 km east of the city of Huaraz and 410 km north of Lima and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.


Between 700 BC and 100 A.D.

This civilization on the Peruvian coast south of Lima is famous for its textiles with the finest and most beautiful fabrics in America. The Paracas were also known for practicing cranial trepanation for medical purposes and cranial deformation for aesthetic purposes and to distinguish social class.

Moche or Mochica

Between 300 B.C. and 800 AD

On the north coast of the country, the Moches were considered the best potters of ancient Peru. His ceramics with extraordinary realism represented divinities, men, animals, plants and scenes of life, in particular the erotic huacos, the Peruvian kamasutra. The Mochicas were also excellent farmers, developing ingenious irrigation canals in the desert. Its greatest constructions were the impressive Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna temples (near the city of Trujillo). The Mochicas are also considered the precursors of surfing more than 3,000 years ago (before the inhabitants of the islands of the South Pacific and Hawaii), and fishermen can still be seen gliding on the waves with their reed horses. The Tomb of the Lord of Sipán, the most important archaeological discovery of the last 30 years (1987), dates from the Moche period.


Between 100 BC and 300 A.D.

Established north of Lake Titicaca, the Pucará civilization began the domestication of the llama and alpaca as well as high altitude agriculture, followed by the Tiahuanacos.

Nasca or Nazca

Between 100 and 650 AD

The three main characteristics of this coastal civilization 450 km south of Lima, is the quality and fineness of its pottery, its ingenious irrigation channels in the desert and of course the famous and mysterious drawings that can only be seen from an airplane. The cause of the disappearance of this civilization is not known, probably due to a very strong “El Niño” event, which would have totally affected the climate of the region causing devastating floods.


Between 100 and 700 AD

At the same time as the Nazca civilization, the Lima culture is characterized by the construction of huge pyramids that can still be seen in the capital, the feathered mantles worn by dignitaries and the ability of its inhabitants to catch deep-sea fish.

Wari or Huari

Between 600 and 1,200 A.D.

This culture develops during the pinnacle of the Tiahuanaco civilization. Religious and warrior people, it is considered the first empire in South America, expanding its territory from the Cusco region to the north of the country (1,500 km in length), both in the Andes and on the coast. The capital is located near the current city of Ayacucho (560 km southeast of Lima). This civilization left us many important sites like Pikillacta (the city of fleas) near Cusco.

Lambayeque or Sicán

Between 700 and 1,400 AD

North Coast of Peru (current city of Chiclayo) – With the disappearance of the Moche culture, probably due to a devastating “El Niño” phenomenon, the legendary King / God Naylamp emerges from the ocean to bring peace and prosperity to the region , carrying a stone representation of an idol, Yampayec (which gave the name to this civilization). The Lambayeque or Sicán civilization is characterized by its mastery in goldsmithing, highlighting the famous “Tumi”, a ceremonial knife with the representation of the God Naylamp, which can be found in all artisan markets and jewelry stores in the country. Later, the Incas will also use the Tumi in their religious ceremonies. The Lambayeques are also known for their ingenious irrigation systems and were prosperous farmers, mainly with corn and cotton.

This civilization has left large adobe constructions (sun-dried mud bricks) around the current city of Chiclayo, sites such as Batán Grande, 17 pyramids over 30 m high and Túcume with 26 pyramids and temples.


Between 800 and 1,475 AD

We know very little about the Chachapoyas or “warriors of the clouds”, they were conquered by the Incas after long and difficult military campaigns. Bearing a grudge against their invaders, they regularly rebelled and are part of these subject peoples who allied with the Spanish to defeat the Inca Empire. This civilization left some great works, in particular the citadel of Kuélap, a gigantic fortress made up of 400 buildings and surrounded by 20-meter high walls.


Between 1,100 and 1,400 AD

North coast of Peru. At the end of the reign of the Wari empire, a small community in the Moche region (south of Trujillo – 560 km north of Lima) began to develop. Quickly this people conquers vast territories mainly to the north, to create one of the greatest kingdoms of ancient Peru. Its capital Chan Chan, is the largest adobe (mud) city in the world. The Chimú were conquered by the Incas in the 15th century.

This civilization is characterized by its dominance of intensive agriculture, ceramics and metallurgy.

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