Archaeologists recently came across a mummy of a woman that is around 4,500 years old, at Aspero, in Peru. Now to put things into perspective, this ‘new world’ discovery is almost as old as the Great Pyramid of Giza, thus shedding light into the intricacy of the pre-Columbian civilizations of America. Interestingly enough, the site of coastal Aspero in itself is only 14 miles away from inland Caral (or Caral-Supe), possibly the oldest known city in the Americas.
This ‘urbane’ nature of the Aspero community is possibly reflected by a range of valuables that accompanied the woman in her burial state. According to Dr. Ruth Shady Solís, who headed the research, the deceased was flanked by objects like broaches with animal-shaped etchings, necklace made of sea-shells, and a pendant of Spondylus (bivalve mollusks). These jewelry items allude to her affluent social status, while also hinting at how high-end commodities and items were possibly traded between the coastal and inland settlements in pre-Columbian Peru.
This obviously brings us to the question – who were these ancient inhabitants of Peru who built impressive monuments and pyramids that were contemporary to their Egyptian counterparts? Well the answer points to the so-called Norte Chico civilization, a factional conglomeration of around 30 major population centers that was established along the region of north-central coastal Peru. The Norte Chico thrived from 3500-1800 BC, thus making them the oldest known civilization in the Americas. And of the major cities (or probably the biggest one) of this conglomeration was Caral, a massive urban sprawl that covered 60 hectares of area, and was home to numerous temple complexes, earthen mounds (pyramids), circular plazas and even a geoglyph.
The main temple compound among these impressive architectural feats relates to the huge Templo Mayor, a complex encompassing an area of 150 m (492 ft) length and 110 m (360 ft) width (with average height of 28 m or 92 ft), which is more than equivalent of three American football fields! Oddly enough, the commercial and economic aptitude required for these ambitious constructional endeavors was (probably) not fueled by wars and conquests on the part of the political elite. In that regard, much like the ancient Jomon people of Japan, the Norte Chico culture was not predisposed towards violence, as evidenced by lack of warfare-based weapons, trauma-bearing skeletons and even human-sacrifices (which possibly occurred in very rare instances).
In any case, there is still much to know about the Norte Chico civilization and the inter-relation between the coastal towns (like Aspero) and the inland cities (like Caral). Furthermore, there is also the angle of how women could achieve higher-statuses within the society – as evidenced by this mummy in question. And lastly, a baffling element accompanies the architectural feats of the advanced civilization, and it pertains how the Norte Chico didn’t dabble in either visual art or ceramic-based pottery.