New discoveries made in Vichama, an archeological area belonging to the Caral civilization and located in the Lima province of Huaura, are likely to reveal the climatic difficulties experienced by ancient settlers.
These are relief carvings, a figure of a humanized toad with outstretched arms and an anthropomorphic head with closed eyes, 3,800 years old. According to Ruth Shady Solis, archaeologist and director of the Caral Archaeological Zone (ZAC), these figures represent "the return of water" after a time of drought.
The archaeologist explained that, in the Andean worldview, the toad is related to the rain and the water in the river, vital for agriculture; while the human anthropomorphic head would represent the person who was waiting for the water to get on with their life.
Shady Solis added that these reliefs, found in the antechamber leading up to a Ceremonial Hall in the Deposits building, were produced as a reminder to the population about the difficulties faced by climate change and the scarcity of water and food.
Vichama was a farming and fishing town that emerged approximately 3,800 years ago, in the last stage of Caral. Located near the Huaura River, its main economic activities were fishing and agriculture. According to Tatiana Abad, an archeologist from the Vichama zone of the ZAC, from the evidence found it is believed that they lived in a state of gender equity; the women would have occupied senior positions just like the men.
The town center of Vichama was built on a terrace and on the slopes of the Halconcillo hill, just under a mile from the coast. The archaeological site covers an area of 62 acres, 22 architectural complexes having been constructed, with public buildings, meeting places and domestic areas.
Some important discoveries have been made since 2007 that explain the ravages suffered by the inhabitants of the area as a result of the weather. Murals were found with representations of starving bodies, with an empty stomach, and which would have symbolized times of drought. Peruvian archaeologists, along with climate change experts from the University of Florida, worked to understand the climatic conditions of the time.
"We have come to the conclusion that climate change around 1950 B.C. greatly affected the societies of the time, including Caral. We also found that, in that same period, extreme climate changes forced the populations of Egypt and northern Mesopotamia to abandon their settlements", explained Ruth Shady.
Another important discovery was made in 2018. It was a relief carving of four human heads with their eyes closed and two snakes moving between them towards a fifth head, which would represent an agricultural seed with its mouth open waiting for the arrival of water
The oldest in America
Caral, which is over 5,000 years old, is considered to be the oldest civilization in America. Built strategically on a terrace that protected it from possible natural disasters, this city developed along with cultures such as Mesopotamia, India, Egypt and China.
Its inhabitants were reliant on fishing and agriculture. They developed quite innovative techniques for the time, such as irrigation channels for agricultural production; the production of clothes and utensils; as well as the planning of weather calendars. They also made weapons so it is believed that they had an army in case they had to fight.
In 2009, the Sacred City of Caral was declared a Cultural World Heritage Site in Peru, due to its universal value and remarkable architecture, featuring six pyramids, buildings built with stones and wood from dead trees; and its enigmatic circular squares.
Sources: El Comercio/ Gestión