The Lost Pyramids of Caral

The Lost Pyramids of CaralThis is a pyramid that ranks as one of the largest in the world, period. It's one that covers on the surface of the mound it covers like 15 football fields. The volume of it is some, we calculate something like two million cubic metres of material. The magnificent ancient city of pyramids at Caral in Peru hit the headlines in 2001. The site is a thousand years older than the earliest known civilization in the Americas and, at 2,627 BC, is as old as the pyramids of Egypt.

Many now believe it is the fabled missing link of archeology - a 'mother city'. If so, then these extraordinary findings could finally answer one of the great questions of archeology: why did humans become civilized? (Excerpt from bbc.co.uk)

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Ratings: 6.94/10 from 16 users.

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38 Comments / User Reviews

  1. travis

    so according to this doc, civilization started to get better access to sex, drugs and music. why am i not surprised? :)

    (well besides the cotton & farming of course..)

  2. Civilized my a**

    Since when are humans civilized? We lie, cheat steal and butcher at a much more rapid rate than ever before in our history.. that's hardly civilized.

    While the soccer mom closes her garage using a controller made by a 14 year old girl in china she looks at the paint job on her gas guzzling minivan, and sighs, ohhh I'm so civilized.. meanwhile her lifestyle has resulted in the murder of over a million innocent people in the past ten years.

    Good times.

  3. ya cant fool us

    The earliest known civilisation in the Americas is 4000 bc, well documented in a book called Earthly Remains. So that article is slightly inaccurate.

  4. DS

    A worthy attempt, and I wanted to like it, but ultimately a frustrating documentary. Its presentation of archaeology and its supposed various "holy grails" and common concepts (like "crossing the Great Divide" or "the mother city") is a profoundly misleading and tendentious hash. There's a persistent implication that the religious site of Caral -- really part of a complex of sites -- is somehow telling us a universal truth about the founding of civilization; they do hedge this claim if you're listening very carefully, mind you, but it's done perfunctorily and it would be easy for a casual viewer to come away with 'Caral as the universal template of early civilization' as the basic message.

    The inference that Caral must not have had warfare because it didn't have fortifications is uncomfortably reminiscent of older starry-eyed theories about supposedly serene and pacifist civilizations like the Minoans and the Mayans, who also lacked fortifications but who -- it since emerged -- made plenty of war after all. Of course it could in fact be that Caral was relatively peaceful, but I'll be taking the overconfident presentation of that assessment in this doc with a very large grain of salt until more facts are in.

    They barely even touch on one of the most interesting things about the Norte Chico civilizational complex, which is that it seems to be an example of complex maritime forager societies spurring the development of civilization, in considerable contrast to the Neolithic farming template familiar from the "Old" World. I guess this made for less compelling glurge-fodder than the use of Caral to press forward a message about the power of pacifism -- which isn't an unworthy message but by now is one that arouses suspicion wherever it crops up in connection with archaeology, and with good reason.

  5. carl hendershot

    Awsome. So we have a group of fish eating nympho cocaine using cotton growing people. Sounds great so what happened?

  6. satir

    I just never can understand why western science insists that society and political ideology has to be war or domination and subjugation driven. A hangover from christianity and the idea that left to our own we will tend to devolve; when all the scientific and historical evidence points to the opposite (i.e. chaos theory).
    just because people left a place doesn't mean that society colapsed; there are ghost towns and reduced populations where there once were much larger ones all through out just our recent history, just because someone moved away doesn't have to mean a massive societal collapse.

  7. 8thgradereadinglevel?

    Documentary was way too dramatic. I much preferred listening to the unfolding of the story firsthand from an archeologist friend that had been there. The music was appalling. Whether it was composed for this or taken from other sources, it made it comical at times - taking away from the true magnitude of what was being discovered. It is such an interesting discovery. I would like to have heard more about what archeological methods were used to unearth the site, what geological forces led to the allusiveness of the city, what daily life was like, religion etc. There is a large amount of information missing, such as the relationship this civilization had to constellations. The dramatization in the narration and the epic movie soundtrack took much away from the naturally compelling story at hand. It assumed we're too unintelligent to make conclusions, so they fed us fireworks and frills to keep us amused. -Great find nonetheless!
    I hope someone else makes a more serious documentary on this fascinating subject, perhaps someone other than the Hollywood-izers.

  8. Peg

    As a biologist, I learned not to make all or nothing assumptions. Just because cities arose at nearly the same time in human history does not mean that they all arose the same way or for the same reasons. Rarely do we ever see black and white answers, but instead shades of grey. Many paleolithic tribes had made war against one another if only to protect hunting grounds. War did not "come many years later" as this documentary suggests. War has been present in hominids since hominids began. Our closest remaining primate relatives, the chimpanzees, show examples of warfare when rival clans come in contact with one another.

  9. CJA

    I'm sure there will be more documentaries about this site in the future. As far as we know, this was an area that was abandoned and the inhabitants went to a warring civilization a few miles over. So far, at the time of this doc, no other remains were found? Or, they'll talk about that later. Lots to still learn about this site.

    I agree about the music used...I thought oh wow, this is too dramatic for my taste, but I'd rather had a little more of that, instead of the obnoxious antics of Ken Feder. UGH! I cringe as soon as he shows up in any program.

  10. Sandy

    Aww Geez --

    Sometimes, while reading comments, I am reminded

    of a statement made by a Psychiatrist during an interview

    at a Los Angeles TV station in the 60's ---

    He stated that the Author of the book "Jonathan Livingston

    Seagull" "hatched the story in his anal tract"---

    Oh Well -----------

    Love Ya all anyway.

    Sandy

  11. Pyrrhus

    Neither did I enjoy this 'documentary'.

    @8thgradereadinglevel
    "The music was appalling."
    Regardless as to one's taste in music, the very presence of continuous background 'music' is indeed appalling. To my lights, a 'documentary' requiring this sort of distraction is no documentary at all but rather simple (or should I say 'simplistic') entertainment. I have discovered only a smattering of documentaries in my life.
    But the search goes on.

    @Peg
    I offer as a correction, for your consideration, the following:
    "War has been present in [heterosexual male] hominids since hominids began."

    If Caral was indeed an exception, it must have been an exception of epic unlikelihood: a civilization governed by women.

    "It would be much better for the world to be governed by the women in it."
    ~ James Joyce

  12. Shananay

    the word re=tarded is censerd? W T F

  13. Fred

    Interesting...

    Glad to see archaeology prove itself wrong. :-)

    But what I´d like to know is how far back this goes beyond the c14 dating? I mean, the knowledge needed to build a city and temples on this scale must have developed for quite some time. Centuries certainly, even a millennia maybe.

    Geodetic skills, mathematics, logistics, agriculture, architecture on a monumental scale with perfectly cut blocks of stone weighing 20-40 metric tonnes.....you name it, it doesn´t just spontaneously "fall into place" in 5-10 years.

    And, if modern humans have been around for at least 100.000 years, why all of a sudden start building cities 5000 years ago? What have we been doing the other 95.000 years? Huddling in caves? :-)

    We´re to find older cities than this one, I´m sure.

  14. L.Walker

    i'd say farming and the ag revolution that caused cities. people could farm more efficiently and that meant they could feed more people. when they farmed and had livestock and could trade then there was wealth and then there as warfare over those resources.

  15. 6Mr_Jones6

    Very interesting! But the script for the commentary was aweful, as is often the case with these dumbed down documentaries.

    Regarding theories on the start of civilisation, I would say that Caral is only the oldest known stone built city in the south Americas, not neccessarily the oldest civilisation in the world. Come on, I think thats going a bit too far! What about wooden built cities? These likely go back much further, perhaps even tens of thousands of years. Also, I dont like the idea that civilisation began because of trade, which allowed wealth. That sounds like very 1970s Archaeological theory. I reckon trade probably played a very small role in the creation of monumental architecture and the beginning of civilisation. Trade more likley has its foundations in a sedentary lifestyle other than full grown civilisation..In all ancient cultures the foremeost catalyst in the creation of giant architecture is always spirituality and religious beliefs and a priestly elite. The Caral people very likely had a pantheon of gods. Anyhow, it will be interesting how the archaeology of the Caral complex evolves once more finds and features become exposed.

  16. MyReligionIs2DoGood

    Umm... what about that settlement and the tools found by Steen-MyIntyre in Mexico dated to 250,000+ years ago?
    And that's only the tip of the iceberg.

  17. MyReligionIs2DoGood

    I'm not convinced.

    Inscriptions of separated body parts and some guys with knives?
    Could be a sign for warfare - but also for religious sacrifice, or the way they punished certain crimes, or even cannibalism.
    Simple pottery and sculptures? Maybe this civilization just didn't focus on improving this art, but others - like monumental architecure.
    No fortifications? Perhaps there were just no enemies to fight.
    Oldest city? Far from it! There are much older sites than this one - for example the underwater city in the Gulf of Cambay, India, which must have been built long before 10,000 BC before it sunk. Not to speak of much older settlements found all over the world - like Hueyatlaco, dating at 250,000+ years.

    As some of the commenters asked, why has civilization to be based on warfare? 'As above so below'. If we look at simple organisms we will quickly find that joining a group and specialization is for the benefit of every part of the bigger organism, something that we find in our current society as well. Aggressive acts only occur when something from outside threatens the survival of the whole organism, or if a part of the organism turns against it.

    All in all this documentary is a long series of assumptions, mostly based on mainstream dogma, and the music - although bombastically emphasizing even the most unimpressive findings - doesn't hide this very well.

    On a sidenote, the fact that we are fighting wars humans against humans is imo based on the lack of awareness that we are all part of the same organism. Greedy and corrupt people who try to gain power over everything are like cancer cells, and they have to be either reintegrated or eliminated. Otherwise our oh so civilized society will die, since we will become/are the cancer for the bigger organism called 'Earth' - and it will find a way to get rid of us!

    PS: Just for the ones who were asking - the music is mainly movie soundtracks, for example 'The Thing' by Ennio Morricone.

  18. IzirAtig

    Pyramids in Bosnia are lil bit older. Built before ice age.

  19. Kumamori

    This is a bbc doc, filled with their propaganda rhetorics like "people choose to live in a big city, pinnacle of human civilization and first buildings were made 6000 years ago". This doc has interesting things pointed out though, like war being the unifying element. Take this doc with your healthy amount of salt.

  20. Kumamori

    Who says the wall carvings and such would have to be factual? I think they might as well be some bedtime story they used to read as a family, "beware the boogeyman" :D

    Finding sites of battles and weapons and armor leftovers could support the warring theory well, although you never really know if you don't solve the puzzle, the big picture.

  21. Tim

    rather tediously told with lots of filler and hype...just pass and find something else much more interesting and concise...

  22. harry nutzack

    archaeologists are fairly dimwitted folks... they tend to overcomplicate what they observe, and pick the least likely conclusion to tie those observations together... warfare cant possibly be the impetus for civilization, for a VERY simple reason... you cant feed a ravaging hoarde without pre-existing civilizations to raid... warfare is a development due to civilization, not the other way around... the impetus for civilization is actually fairly obvious, "efficiency of effort"... a pre-civilization individual, or small group had to have skills in pot throwing, flint knapping, leather work, shelter building, hunting, foraging, and any other skill that applied regionally... if you were a lousy potter, you lost food cooking it, or storing it.. if you were a lousy forager, you didnt have a very balanced diet... if you didnt hunt, or knap stone well, you pretty much had a vegetarian future to look forward to... communal living allows for "specialization of effort", which ultimately leads to agriculture and/or primitive "industry"... civilization MUST predate warfare, metal working, "real" agriculture, or any industrial level subsistance... too much group effort involved, and time investment before any "payoff" for it to be otherwise

  23. trumpsahead

    Pyramids in Gisa, Egypt were built 10,000 bc and not a day later. Edgar Cayce says so and he never made a mistake. Besides, it has been documented in ancient script written on clay tablets regarding the fighting between Ra and his family, where the outcome was Ra was imprisoned in the Great Pyramid, but after many days it was called off and a hole was made in the pyramid to get Ra out. That hole is still there today.

  24. Willy/Will

    The world started 2000 years ago and anybody before that were barbarians. - The BBC

  25. Godsclaws

    This is the most confusing doco Ive watched on this site so far. I cant understand why people believe there is a sole reason why people decided to be civilised?
    Its as if there thinking people 2000 years ago thought "Hey we know how to use stone to build proper houses and towers etc but were going to stick to our shabby shacks...o hang on.. an enemy! Lets now build cities!"
    Seems stupid to me, I would have thought that the obvious answer wouldn't be a quick jump from village people to city dwellers but the long process of evolution and changing technologies. Village people learnt how to use stone for building instead of sticks and improved this technology over many years to build bigger and better and eventually ended up with cities. Also the growing population would have been great for that society to have more people to use for building.
    But then again. Ive only watched one documentary on this subject so what do I know....

  26. David

    So, when was the last time this region was capable of growing enough food to supprort a civilization that could engage in monumental architechture?

  27. Hosma Douglas Shumake

    area food raw materials were plentiful so plentiful there was probably a surplus. there was no need for competition at any level let alone war.
    when there is more to go around than can be used it would be foolish to
    expend effort in war when that effort can be used for creature comforts.
    grouping together with common goals can and does foster knowledge and magnify effort. population depletion scarcity eventually made war inevitable. sadly human propensity to take when taking is easier than building up probably kicked off warfare before extreme privation.

  28. sknb

    Haha. I always get that feeling that that is the innuendo. MMM... I smell Eurocentrism!

  29. sknb

    Well a lot of my experience with civilization involved drugs and music as well.

    And yes, trade. Sometimes the trade of drugs and music.

  30. DigiWongaDude

    Well said Harry. It really irks me how things are stated as fact in these programs, when the true picture is easily turned upside down with one small shred of evidence. I know it's too much to ask these folks to state 'according to our current thinking, based on this piece of evidence...' ahead of each statement, and ending it with '...but nobody really knows for sure.' I mean they found that baby and no signs of violence, and straight away use that as 'evidence' of a civilisation born out of peace, lasting a 1000 years. What?! What if the baby had revealed signs of violence? That's my point really.

    To do all this great science, only to then leap unbound to conclusions that have very little basis whatsoever? Sure it makes for dramatic, sensational viewing, but I found the exact same thing in text books at school.

    There should be big bold letters screaming out loud:

    We, the people telling you the following, don't know what's going on, nor for that matter does anyone really. The following is just a best guess to date [insert year here].

    ...because without it, it comes across suggesting well established and universally accepted.

    ...Also, did you notice (I know it was long ago you watched this) the guy had a preformed opinion about war starting civilisation and went looking' for that evidence? How scientific an approach is it when you set out to prove your own version of events subjectively? That's more about reputation and ego, and we all know how easy it is to find 'evidence' for anything you want - if you look hard enough. Very frustrating that these accepted methods are used to iterate further good science. How 'good' can it be in the end?

  31. terrasodium

    Harry overlooked one aspect of human history, and that would be the roll of "authority", those whom the group seeks out to protect the group from the boogie-man of the known or unknown crisis'. People, then and now, have a weakness for crisis, Crisis is the most powerful societal motivator, those who can impel crisis' upon a group can change it at the will of their authority , and have done so throughout recorded pasts. A good read is Carol Quigley Tragedy and Hope, and the Anglo American Establishment.

  32. DigiWongaDude

    How would you incentivise people to build these things? A simple and fundamental question - even simpler..

    ...How was the labour provided to build these things?

    Answer that, and you probably have the basis of these 'civilisations'.

    Without the ability to raise central funding from existing trade, there is really only one other way...by force. If it wasn't forced (and there's no signs that it was)...then there was some sort of central funding in place to 'pay' for this development as far back as 2600 BC !!

    Either way it's truly remarkable!

  33. terrasodium

    The most studied species on the planet is now, and has always been, humankind by humankind, and the separations into subspecies which sets the varied yolks upon humanity hasn't changed for Milena, our wording/symbols have changed , the base premises remain the same, which would be in essence ,We the management know things that would be dangerous for you the workers to comprehend , in other words the "tragedy of the commons" arguments. Structuring societies ,bridges,technologies or pyramids or churches or their dogmatic mentality for the maintenance is an ongoing reshuffling of authorities and the scripts built around them.

  34. DigiWongaDude

    As far as I can tell, we'll never be civilised all the while we freely opt to exploit each other. I'm reminded of a line from a song, to iterate my point...

    'I put you on a pedestal, you put me on the pill.'

    ...we'll never be civilised all the while we freely opt to exploit each other...and allow ourselves to be exploited.

    A learned friend reminded me...we live in a world of mirrors. How apparent that appears seems only limited to how deeply within ourselves we care to look, and our own inner 'management' plays its role in preventing just that.

  35. terrasodium

    What is to be made of options with the this headline in the UK Guardian newsrag

    Now it's a social worker for every child - in Scotland
    Emphasis on every in my reading.

  36. disqus_unqaudLoiV

    Very funny comments. I understand this city was buried under tons of sand. Must have been a great place to live. On the other hand, wasn't "Brave New World" about a civilization where drugs and recreation were the purpose of life?

  37. terencegalland

    murderous,barbaric,cannibalistic,savages by the evidence uncovered and not a lot changed from then to modern day a well dressed up story though!

  38. I Am Your GOD

    These were a civilized people who were an advanced colony of Asiatic Blacks that occupied the Planet Earth long before European Blundering existes, who brought cosmic observation with them to build these monolithic master pieces....

    One thing is for sure, you Unnatural European Devils know how to**** up a historical fact; adding your disgusting display of savagery and heath!!!

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