Norte chico civilization
June 9, 2020

Norte chico civilization and religion:

By admin

It’s always very gripping to explore antique culturesand discern our planet more intimately. The civilizations in Peru were also one the primordial settlements of Earth.  It was named Norte Chico Civilization or Caral- Supe Civilization and was a civilization of the north-central region of Peru. It was an intricate settlement with more than 30 chief populace centers. This civilization dated back to pre-Columbian ages and is the oldest civilization of America. It existed during 1300-1800 BCE. This civilization derives its name from Caral in Supe vale in Norte Chico site. It can be traced back to the era of pyramids during the Egyptian civilization. Norte Chico Civilization was nearly two millennia before the Aztec civilization. This Civilization was probably before the Stone Age and it lacks archeological evidences. Till date no sculptures or artifacts have been discovered from the excavation sites. But this ancient civilization was indeed skilled at colossal design and had large podium knolls and cadaverous spherical plazas. Textile technology had a gripping edge over this civilization and many textile figurines of Gods have been excavated dating back to Andean times. They seem to have a well structured governmental body. We would be touching on a few areas to appreciate their culture better.

Backdrop: This is one of the most primal civilizations and it led the world towards a developed technology, culture and settlement. They were a peace loving society and did not engage in any kind of violence. The small family units were transformed to clusters of society to fight all the odds. They were morally upright society and did not believe in snatching anything from anyone. The archaeological records pose the question whether this civilization was at par with other civilizations of the time. Recent excavations bear evidences that most of the technological advancements were devoted to weapon making instead of food and agriculture. Due to this few were very wealthy while others starved. Since 1940’s excavations have continued in this site. In 1990’s the first documentation of this took place at the hands of Ruth Shady Solis who was a Peruvian archaeologist.

Topography: This civilization existed along the western coast of Mesoamerica. For ages Andes civilization was considered as the oldest until the discovery of Norte Chico. It is located 150-200 km north from Lima bounded by Lurin valley on the south and Casma valley on the North. The coastal valleys of Huara, Supe, Pativilca comprised this civilization. It stretched for about 1800 km square. This civilization was further bounded by two rain shadows namely the Andes in the East and Pacific Ocean trade winds in the West. This region contains more than 50 rivers which are very good for irrigation purposes. All constructions of Norte Chico civilization took place close to the rivers. Jonathan Haas founded nearly 10 samples dated 9210 BCE which have a close relation to the pre-Columbian civilization. Though the samples found suggest that not much population was found during that era but this civilization might have existed. Some records suggest that the civilization was mainly based on fish and shell fish from the coasts. Though the exact date of the civilization is often disputed.

Agriculture: This civilization was based on mainly maritime resources. They were dependent on plants namely beans, guava. They also ate avocado and achira. The sea foods came from both coastal and inland places. They also ate sea mammals like whales. According to Michael E. Moseley the economy of the Norte Chico was seafood based. They also grew cereals. This supremacy of agriculture suggested that this was an urban settlement probably the most ancient urban settlement of Peru. Though many scholars argue that technological or industrial advancements may also be the reason for its advancement, but it seems to be more a maritime economy depending heavily on sea foods. Cotton was also grown as a major crop. It served as an important product for irrigation crucial for production of fishing net and textile advancements. They also made clothes, bags and embellishments out of cotton. Maize was the backbone of all the primal civilizations but no such evidence has been found in Norte Chico.

Governmental pattern and trading: According to the recent excavations, it’s quite evident that this civilization was a patron of music and alcohol consumption. There were certain buildings like Caral which had high significance while others were in general constructed. Large warehouses suggest the storage and control of resources like cotton. According to Haas employment mobilization suggested an exceptional form of government. He argued that Norte Chico’s governmental pattern was not borrowed and own invented. This however received many disputes. Norte Chico had two kinds of government power namely economic and ideological. Economic power can be rested upon cotton holders and other such edible stuffs which also fostered trade. This civilization was mainly in Aspero and Bandurria. They engaged in foreign imports like spondylus shells from Ecuador coast, affluent dyes from highlands of Andean and hallucinogenic snuff from the basin of Amazon. They further traded with people in the forest and mountain areas far away.

Religion and Culture: They were believers of supernatural powers and had various gods.  The knowledge about their religion is limited but interesting. Excavations have found a figurine of the God staff, a leering, cartoon symbolic figure with incisors and lid dated 2250 BCE. The staff god appears to be the most crucial deity and they had quite common symbols of gods similar to us according to Winfred Creamer. This statement is much disputed by other contemporary scholars. The inspiration behind the construction of architecture was also spiritual. Rituals and ceremonies formed a major part of the civilization. Even Shady calls Caral as a divine city. The social, economic and political focus was also on sacred sites like temples which were often reconstructed. Even human sacrifices were given. But no particular evidence of warfare has been found. This age can be called the pre ceramic age. Primal monuments and burnt buildings show absence of battle as this civilization was totally non defensive. Their power existed in good of the people instead of warfare.

Artifacts: Not many arts have been found in the Caral civilization. The architectures are quite unique for such a primal civilization. It was the most densely populace place of the world probably somewhere near to northern China. Large sites have been discovered in these valleys. Only the Aspero valley was 13 hectares. A few small scale terracing could be seen. Stylish platform mounds also existed. Eleven non-natural moulds are thought to be present. The way they are constructed, it certainly requires a large and skilled labor. Beside the northern rivers pyramid rectangular and terraced have been found ranging from 3000-100,000 meter cube. These monuments might have quarried stones and river pebbles. Clusters of workers came together and packed the stones and boulders in loose bags and then packed the trenching step like walls of the pyramids. This was the reason of their archeological progress according to some scholars. The largest among these are Piramide Mayor measuring 160m by 150m and rising 18m high. The workers might have been forced to work and given dried anchovies which are a type of currency. This civilization lacked ceramics and had no pots to boil edibles. There was a complete lack of pottery. No carvings are found. Visual arts are also absent though a few flutes have been found suggesting the presence of music.

So this was the story of one of the oldest civilizations of the world. We are taken back to the first organized human settlements. This civilization lacks written records and its symbols and writings cannot be deciphered. They leave the legacy of how prehistoric life was promoting common good. They have given us basic technologies and edibles thus tracing the journey from primal to modern world.

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