Some of the oldest civilizations in all of Latin America came out of Peru’s tall mountains and fertile valleys. Based on arrowheads found in the Pikimachay Cave, between the mountains of Cusco and the lowlands of Lima, historians date the first Peruvian civilization from 20,000 BC. Starting in 2,900 BC, archeologists have found evidence of humans domesticating animals and growing crops. Guinea pigs and llamas were some of the first livestock, and potatoes and quinoa were among the first harvests.
From these agricultural beginnings grew the vibrant and diverese country Peru has become. Over the ages, both natives and foreigners have had their moment in the Sun ruling the country. Discover how Peru has evolved over the eras to become a nation of unfathomable natural beauty, coupled with cosmopolitan city centers, and award winning fusion cuisine.
Chavín (1000 BC – 200 AD)
The Chavín people formed the first major civilization in Peru, one that spread out over the mountains and lowlands of central Peru. Near the modern city of Huaraz, they left behind a temple covered in jaguars, their central deity.
Moche (220 BC – 600 AD) and Nasca (100 BC – 700 AD)
Following the decline of the Chavín, the Moche people were the next major civilization to follow in their footsteps. Archeologists have uncovered significant deposits of Moche artifacts in tombs, most significantly at Sipán, a town in northern Peru. Now nicknamed the Lord of Sipán, archeologists found the mummy of a Moche noble in a tomb that had yet to fall prey to looters. Around the same time the Moche built their elaborate tombs, the Nasca (100 BC – 700 AD) created the huge geoglyphs in the Nasca Desert we now refer to as the Nasca Lines.
Huari (600 AD – 1100 AD)
In the modern town of Ayacucho, the Huari people established a large city, complete with aqueducts and huge warehouses. Their style of building and masonry greatly influenced the Inca.
Inca Empire (1200 AD - 1572)
The Ince Empire is one of Peru's most notable civilizations. Forming their society in present-day Peru around 1200 AD, they eventually dominated 772,204 square miles (2,000,000 sq km) of coastline from Ecuador to Chile. They fell when challenged by Spanish colonists with advanced weaponry.
Spanish Conquest (1526 - 1572)
Unfortunately for the Inca, Spanish colonists had excellent timing and arrived after in-fighting fractured what should have been united Incan forces. In 1526, Francisco Pizarro and his fellow colonists leveraged their weapons technology and underhandedness to overcome the Inca and dominate native Peruvians.
Independence (1824 and Beyond)
Since the collapse of Spanish rule, when the country finally gained its independence, Peru has mostly become a 'melting pot' of people. However not being ruled by any one society did not put an end to Peru's struggles.
The 'independence' gained on paper in the 1800s gave way to:
• A state run country intended to increase self-sufficiency, but ultimately led to a more dependent Peru—heavily in dept.
• A well-intentioned attempt to stimulate the economy by spending the country out of debt, which failed miserably—courtesy of President Alan Garcia.
• The rise and fall of a violent Communist party known as 'The Shining Path.'
• A shock to the economy which aided Peru overall, but hurt the poorest of the poor—courtesy of President turned Autocrat Alberto Fujimori.
Oddly enough, when modern day Peru finally began to get its footing was when Alejandro Toledo, the first president of indigenous descent, was elected in 2001. In a way, the country had to come full circle (civilization-wise) for all of Peru to have the opportunity to prosper.
To learn more about Peru, visit our reference page to view some of the resources we used to assemple these informative articles.