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Five Things to Know About Norte Chico, the Oldest Civilization in Peru

A relatively recent discovery of the Norte Chico Civilization has sparked great fascination throughout Peru and the world, as it's studied to be the oldest known civilization in Peru and the Americas.

There are so many beautiful facts about this pioneering civilization that will change the way we see history. Here are the top five things you need to know:

Norte Chico Was Established Near the Coast of Peru

The Norte Chico civilization was located along Peru's west coast in the arid Andean Plateau. It's unique because most Andean cultures are situated in the high Andes mountains. Norte Chico's location is not something you expect when looking for ancient civilizations. It also implied that they had certain technologies to thrive and establish themselves in that unlikely spot.  

Their Culture Had No System of Writing

Norte Chico didn't have a writing system in their culture, something unusual since most ancient cultures had some form of writing through paper or ceramic. The Norte Chico civilization didn't have any trace of ceramic culture or any form of paper. The closest they had to writing was Quipu, a proto-writing system using knots and fabric, a standard technique used by the Incas.

They had Technological Focus on Architecture

The ancient civilization has a notable population density for a developing civilization. One reason they maintained a good number of people is their architectural prowess. Norte Chico had terraced pyramids believed to be used for practical and spiritual purposes. They also had prehistoric plazas, residential architecture, and an efficient irrigation system that helped them thrive along the arid Andean Plateau.

Norte Chico Had Complex Social Structures

Archeological findings of Norte Chico suggest that they had established complex social structures. Artifacts and architectural remains indicate that they had their form of government aside from family and tribal systems. They even used dried anchovies as their form of currency to pay builders for their services.

Norte Chico Civilization Was Peaceful and Music-Loving

Norte Chico was a civilization driven by the economic and spiritual good of the people. Aside from the absence of a written language, the Norte Chico civilization didn't present any evidence of physical basis of power or violence. Archeologists are fascinated by the lack of defensive structures, weapons, burned buildings, or bodies. It's pretty interesting since most early civilizations form out of the need for mutual defense and survival.

What archaeologists found, instead of weapons or any visual art in Norte Chico, were musical instruments. Flutes made of pelican bone were found in various sites, specifically along large structures, which indicate that Norte Chico gathers for festivities.

We can learn much from the first civilization in the Americas about building a peaceful society together. It's pretty fascinating that Norte Chico is the template for later Andean civilizations like the Incas. Their culture has trickled even onto our time; the valuing of collective peace, festivities, music, and civic projects are still incredibly evident in South American culture.