20,000 Years of Civilization
Early Settlers and Pre-Inca
We know that the history of Peru began when the first settlers arrived in Peru 20,000 years ago. It is thought that they arrived from the north via the isthmus of Panama in search of new lands. They were hunter-gatherers, as shown by the cave art at Toquepala (Tacna, 7600 BC).
As agriculture developed, the first settlements and cultures began to appear. Latest research concludes that the first civilization in Peru began with the Caral, considered to be the most ancient in the Americas, dating back some 5,000 years, when urban development in the rest of the Americas is thought to have begun 1,550 years later. Its discovery has changed previous thinking on how Peru’s ancient civilizations emerged. Until recently, Chavín de Huántar was considered to be one of the oldest cultural focal points, dating back to a maximum of 1500 BC.
After Caral, Andean culture expanded into the different areas of Peru, and produced civilizations that have left a wealth of archaeological and intangible heritage.
Each pre-Inca culture had its own level of development, but with common aspects in terms of agriculture, food, clothing, social organization and even art. This characteristic of pre-Inca towns can be explained as they all formed part of a long and extensive cultural process, which began in Caral and continued with the Inca empire.