History & Chronology

The presence of humans in Peru can be traced back 14,000 years (11,000 BC). At that time the early Peruvians were hunters and gatherers, living in small groups. The most important remains are as old as 11,500 years for the Chivateros in Lima and 10,250 for the Man of Paijan in La Libertad, among others.

The first known civilization to exist in Peruvian land was Caral, which was located in the city of Supe, Lima (206 kilometers north of Downtown Lima). It has been proven that their main site was built around 4500 year ago (2500 BC). In 2001, the site of Caral was recognized as the oldest organized city in America (Science Magazine).

After Caral, several civilizations and even empires were established in Peru. Some practices, inventions and customs of the early Peruvians are still present in our communities. The colonization of Peru by Spain brought new practices, customs, knowledge and an implacable ruler. The Spanish Monarchy ruled Peru from 1532 to 1821. Nowadays, Peru is a country with a rich and varied history. Below is a chronological list of the most important civilizations existing in Peru:

Caral (2500 BC - 1500 BC)


Main Location: City of Supe, Region of Lima.

Presence in the Area: The Caral people ruled a big portion of the Supe Valley. Several small settlements were built in the northernmost, southernmost, easternmost, orwesternmost 27.5 miles (44 kilometers) of the valley.

Main Survival Activities: Agriculture and fishing.

Political Organization: Centralized organization ruled by the Curaca of the Valley (lord of the Valley). Each settlement had a Curaca,who was a subordinate of the Curaca of the Valley.

Decay of Caral: Itis believed that powerful earthquakes and massive floods marked the end of Caral.


  • In 2009 it was added to the World Heritage List of the UNESCO, which states that Caral is the oldest center of civilization in the Americas.
  • Caral was an important religious and political complex.
  • At the site, it is possible to see the remains of 7 buildings. The Main Pyramid is 60 feet tall.
  • The Caral people existed in complete isolation. They developed an early quipu (record-keeping system improved by the Incas later on). They also developed flutes made out of llama bones.
  • It is believed that the people of Caral were pacifists. No war weapons have been found at the site or in their domain.

Paracas (700 BC - 200 BC)


Main Location: Cerro Colorado, Paracas Peninsula, Province of Pisco, Region of Ica.

Presence in the Area: The Paracas controlled the Regions of Ica and the north of Arequipa.

Main Survival Activities: Agriculture (their hydraulic techniques allowed them to mass produce crops in a dry area), fishing, and handcrafting (textiles and ceramics) .

Political Organization: Paracas was controlled by a group of priests. Based on the evidence of textiles and human remains, it is believed they had an army of warriors. (Around 403 of the skulls found have signs of trephination as a consequence of war injuries or medical procedures.)


  • Paracas had two stages. The first Paracas (Caverns) mastered the artof ceramics while the second Paracas (Necropolis) mastered textiles. (The Paracas people probably hold the distinction of having created the most beautiful textiles of all pre-Colombian cultures settled in Peru).
  • Located l0 miles away from the city of Ica, Tajahuana was their main ceremonial site.
  • At the site, it is possible to observe some human and architectural remains.
  • The Paracas were successful trephined skull surgeons.
  • The upper class and rulers of the Paracas practiced the deformation of their skulls.

Chavín (800 BC - 200 BC)


Main Location: Chavin de Huantar, Province of Huari, Region of Ancash.

Presence in the Area: It had influence in the Regions of Tumbes and Cajamarca to the north and the Regions of Ica and Ayacucho to the south. Proof of this civilization is the ceramics found in all these areas belonging to the same period of time.

Main Survival Activities: Agriculture (well­ developed irrigation systems were implemented to produce corn, cassava, potatoes, quinoa, and other crops on a large scale), fishing, construction of religious ceremonial buildings and homes.

Political Organization: Chavin was a society based on their religious beliefs. Their societywas ruled by a group of priests. Next in the hierarchy were the skilled artisans such as goldsmiths and ceramists, and after them were fishermen, farmers and shepherds.

Decay of Chavin: Unknown. It is known that some of their technological advancements and religious beliefs remained in future civilizations such as Paracas (Necropolis) and even the Incas.


  • In l985 Chavin was added in the World Heritage List of the UNESCO.
  • Chavin de Huantar was their main ceremonial site,covering an area of 5 hectares.
  • At the site, it is possible to walk through the passages and rooms of the main ceremonial building.
  • The Chavin people were great sculptors and builders. Some examples of their work is their main temple in the shape of a U, their Monolithic Totem, tuff ball heads, and the impressive Tello Obelisk.
  • They believed ina divine trilogy formed by the jaguar, condor and snake.

Nazca (200 BC - 700 BC)


Main Location: Grande River Basin, Province of Nasca, Region of Ica.

Presence in the Area: The Nasca started at the southern coast of the lea Region and expanded to Pisco towards the north and Acari in the south (Region of Arequipa) .

Main Survival Activities: Agriculture (they built aqueducts, well-developed channels and water reservoirs), construction, warriors, and handcrafting (best ceramics in America).

Political Organization: Nasca was a theocratic and militarized society. The ruler occupied the main political and religious center, known as Cahuachi.

Decay of Nasca: Unknown.


  • The Nasca Lines were traced by the Nasca people. The reason behind their creation is still unknown. In 1994, the Nasca Lines were added to the World Heritage List of the UNESCO.
  • The ceremonial site of Cahuachi is located 14 miles from the city of Nasca.
  • At the site, it is possible to walk around and observe the remains there.
  • Their aqueducts (Cantayoc) are still in use, and locals take advantage of them to irrigate their crops.
  • They had anadvanced knowledge of astronomy. It is believed they were able to predict the behavior of the rivers, solstices and equinoxes.

Tiahuanaco (200 AD - 1000) 


Main Location: Peruvian and Bolivian Altiplano, Region of Puno.

Average Population: 5,000 to l0,000 during the first stage and 20,000 during the second stage.

Presence in the Area: The Tiahuanacos ruled in Bolivia, Southern Peru (Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna Regions) and northern of Chile.

Main Survival Activities: Agriculture, goldsmithing, and  shepherding.

Political Organization: Tiahuanaco had a theocratic government. It was a colonizer state.

Decay of Tiahuanaco: It fused with the Wari culture.


  • The mainsite is located in Bolivia, near the Peruvian border and l0 miles from Titicaca Lake.
  • They implemented the use of Chulpas (circular, tall towers made out of stone) for burials. The Chulpas of Sillustani were built by the Collas during the time of the Tiahuanaco civilization.
  • They started the worship of Wiracocha (the maker - "el hacedor"). This religion was also practiced by the Incas.
  • They started the practice of farming based on ecological steps. This system allowed the government to collect the crops of different areas throughout the colonies.
  • They were the first in Peru to work with bronze (alloy of copper and tin).

Wari (600 AD - 1,050 AD)


Main Location: City of Ayacucho, Region of Ayacucho.

Average Population: 80,000 people.

Presence in the Area: Regions of Lambayeque and Cajamarca to the north and Sihuas in the Region of Arequipa and the Region of Cusco to the south.

Main Survival Activities: Agriculture, handcrafting (ceramics and sculptures), designing and building of cities, and goldsmithing.

Political Organization: This was a military empire ruled by a tyrant.

Decay of Wari: An economic crisis hit the empire, allowing the urban centers suppressed by the Waris to rebel.


  • Wari is the result of the Tiahuanaco and Nasca cultures. The main site is located 15 miles from the City of Ayacucho, Region of Ayacucho.
  • It is considered the first empire of Peru. They built three-story buildings, well­ planned cities, temples, and palaces for royalty.
  • They venerated Wiracocha (the maker - "el hacedor"). This religion was also practiced by the Incas.
  • They built aqueducts and underground channels to improve crop production. They continued the practice of the ecological steps system.
  • They spread the Quechua language, which is the second official language of Peru nowadays.

Chimu (1100 AD - 1450 AD)


Main Location: Chan Chan, District of Huanchaco, Region of La Libertad.

Average Population: 30,000 people in the main site.

Presence in the Area: Region of Tumbes to the north and Carabaillo in the Region of Lima.

Main Survival Activities: Agriculture, handcrafting (ceramics), designing and building of cities, and goldsmithing.

Political Organization: This was a state ruled by a group of noblemen.

Decay of Chimu: Inca Tupac Yupanqui conquered them in 1450. (His father,Inca Pachacutec, started the occupancy.)


  • The adobe city of ChanChan was the capital of the state. In 1986, Chan Chan was added to the World Heritage List of the UNESCO.
  • The City of Chan Chan is the biggest mud city of all times worldwide. One hundred thousand people could have lived in it .
  • At the site, it is possible to walk around and observe the architectural remains.
  • Their major contribution to Peruvian history is goldsmithing.
  • They were polytheists. Their main gods were the moon, the sea, the storms and the Andean fox.

Inca (1200 AD - 1532 AD)


Main Location: City of Cusco, Region of Cusco.

Average  Population: During the reign of the Inca Empire, it is believed that the population reached 15 million people.

Presence in the Area: By the end of the empire, the Incas ruled in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, northern Argentina and northern and central Chile.

Main Survival Activities: The Incas were a well-organized empire where the workforce played a relevant role in agriculture, livestock, handcrafting and the construction of buildings and roads. Also, warriors and chasquis (running messengers) played an important role in their economy.

Political Organization: According to myth, the Inca king was the descendant of the Sun (theirmaingod).  As their first king, Inca Manco Capac started to build in Cusco the foundations of what became the Inca Empire. By 1438 the Incas became an empire under the rule of their king, Inca Pachacuti.

Decay of Inca: The arrival of the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro marked the end of the Inca Empire.


  • The Incas were magnificent builders. They built impressive temples, fortresses and cities made out of perfectly shaped stones placed one on top of the other. The citadel of Machu Picchu (discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham) is the best example of their work. In 1983, Machu Picchu was added to the World Heritage List of the UNESCO.
  • The Incas developed a network of roads (aka Qhapaq Ñan) covering about 30,000 kilometers. This network of roads was built in one of the world's most extreme terrains (the Andes). In 2014, the Qhapaq Ñan was added to the World Heritage List of the UNESCO.
  • Machu Picchu and a portion of the Qhapaq Ñan (known as the Inca Trail) can be visited, but a permit is needed and there is a limit to the number of daily visitors allowed.
  • The Incas were incredible architects who developed well-organized and well-designed cities. They developed an effective anti-seismic system with immense stone walls.   
  • Their main god was the Sun. (The workforce, land and livestock were under its service.) The Festival of the Sun took place every June, and it was their most important celebration. They had many other important and minor gods such as the Pachamama (Mother Earth), the Sea (Mamacocha), the Apachetas (important points in the roads).

Spanish Colony (1532 AD - 1821 AD)


Main Location: City of Lima, Region of Lima.

Average Population: Unknown.

Presence in the Area: In the beginning, the viceroyalty of Peru ruled in the Real Audiences of Panama, Santa Fe de Bogota, Quito, Lima, Choreas, Chile, Buenos Aires and Cusco.

Main Survival Activities: The Spaniards focused their economic activities in the exploitation of minerals, agriculture, commerce and livestock.

Political Organization: Peru was a viceroyalty governed by a viceroy, who reported to the king of Spain. At the same time,the chief magistrate, who collected the taxes paid by the natives, ruled in a determined territory with the same prerogatives as a viceroy.

Decay of the Viceroyalty: The freedom of Peru was obtained due to the uprising of the "Criollos" (children of Spaniards born in Peru) and "Mestizos"(mix of Spaniards and natives). There were two main groups led by Venezuelan General Simon Bolivar and Argentinean General Jose de San Martin.


  • The Spaniards brought to Peru knowledge and advancements from Europe as well as its bad practices. An example of this knowledge is the architecture and construction practices introduced to Peru. These new practices, combined with local knowledge and practices, created beautiful downtown areas such as that in Arequipa. The UNESCO added the Historical Centre of the City of Arequipa to the World Heritage List in 2000.
  • The Spaniards brought Catholicism to the people of Peru. The local beliefs syncretized with Catholicism to create Peruvian Catholicism. There are several religious festivities around Peru where it is possible to experience ancient practices. The Festival of the Virgin of Candelaria in the Region of Puno is an example.
  • Spanish cuisine and Peruvian practices and produce gave  birth  to  an exquisite cuisine. Gaston Acurio is our most prominent chef. His restaurant "Astrid y Gastón" is listed in the 2018 World's 50 Best Restaurants.
  • The Spaniards also brought alphabetization, art and music. These new practices were taught in schools and universities. The Cusco School of Art is an important and well-known school of art due to its unique style.
  • Unfortunately, the Spaniards also brought destruction and several diseases never before seen in America. These diseases dramatically reduced the population of the Inca Empire, which contributed to its conquest.

Loremp Impsiom

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