A little over 6,000 years ago, in several places on the planet, man left forests and savannas to build grandiose cities and monuments, and live together in organized societies. Since then, we have never ceased to wonder about the mysterious forces that pushed humanity from the nomadic stage towards a sedentary lifestyle, paving the way for civilization. It was long thought that war was the main creative force of civilization. Recent research on the archaeological site of Caral in Peru come to question this theory.
The rise of mother cities at the end of prehistory
During prehistoric times, the main concern of man was summed up in one word: to survive. Organized into small family clans and in search of hospitable land, he wandered the land according to climatic and geological changes. Then one fine day, the man put down his bundle, clans gathered and decided to live together. Over a very short period in the history of mankind, centers of civilization suddenly emerged from this transition.
Whether in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, Central America or Peru, "mother cities" are suddenly emerging from the ground by the will of these groups of men. We set about building monumental constructions, we work with metals, we invent ceramics, mathematics, calendar systems and writing. If we except a divine or extraterrestrial intervention, this proliferation at the origin of civilization nowadays has three explanations: the discovery and control of irrigation, the development of trade and ... war.
The war. Society and civilization were born out of fear and the need to come together to protect themselves. The theme of war is so present in art, writing and architecture from the beginnings of these civilizations that we ended up resigning ourselves to deducing that from war everything else flowed, that from war was born and civilization developed. Until the discovery of Caral.
The discovery of the civilization of Caral
Supe Valley, north of Lima, Peru. In a desert valley, archaeologists discovered in the 1940s a pre-Columbian city made up of an impressive pyramidal complex. Since the end of the 1990s, work carried out by archaeologist Ruth Strady, among others, has made it possible to date the contours of this civilization, ie 3000 to 1800 BC. It would be the oldest Amerindian civilization, contemporary with the pyramids of Egypt and an exceptional and unique example, because intact, of a "mother city" or center of civilization.
And the research carried out on the spot in recent years shows some rather surprising results. Caral constitutes a sophisticated urbanistic and architectural ensemble, composed of several pyramids, a monumental central building, a temple and even an amphitheater, witnesses of a complex social, political and religious organization. What surprised archaeologists is that there is no trace of war or conflict on site and in the surroundings. No fortifications, no walls, no weapons, not the slightest remnant of any battle scene. Over a period that covers more than a thousand years of history, this is puzzling!
No war. So, why and how was this civilization born and flourished in this apparently inhospitable region? First of all, the site was not chosen at random by its future inhabitants. All the rivers in the region converge there, facilitating the development of irrigation and therefore subsistence farming. From this desert was born a luxuriant and fertile oasis where one cultivated fruits, vegetables and ... cotton.
Excavations carried out on the spot have revealed a massive cultivation of cotton, with which clothes and fishing nets were made. These nets were exchanged with fishermen from the neighboring coast for fish, and the increase in the quantities of fish caught using these nets resulted in an increase in food resources, in turn generating an increase in the population. This embryonic commerce seems to have been the trigger for Caral's prosperity. Subsequently, an intense commercial activity developed with other surrounding populations (up to 300 km around), Caral exchanging his textiles for objects, food, raw materials and even more or less substances. lawful.
A peaceful civilization?
Because Caral seemed to practice a rather Zen art of living. If we found neither ceramics nor forms of artistic expression on site, we discovered on the site many musical instruments, in particular flutes carved in bones, the intense local wind activity to serve as a inspiration to artists. In addition, it would seem that our peaceful "Caraliens" were consuming aphrodisiacs, even drugs, and not only for religious ceremonies. A civilization of cool pyramid builders who lived in peace for over a thousand years!
Let's be honest, the research is just beginning and very little is known about Caral yet to be drawn to conclusions too hastily. Nevertheless, the first elements discovered make this civilization an exciting and exhilarating primary focus of civilization, a civilization that was born and flourished without war, thanks to trade and exchange. By his singularity, Caral cannot leave indifferent. UNESCO has understood this well, by classifying this site as a World Heritage Site.
It would seem that it is the elements and not another group of men thirsty for blood and any wealth that are at the origin of the end of this civilization. Repeated earthquakes and an El Nino-type meteorological phenomenon would have got the better of Caral, destroying its irrigation system and its agricultural activity. To meditate. And let's not doubt that Caral will be talked about a lot in the years to come.
- Sacred city of Caral-Supe on the Unesco site
- Video documentary: The forgotten pyramids of Caral