History of the North Coast

Hunting tools dating back to more than 11,000 years have been found in the caves in different parts of the Peruvian coast and even some proof of old Andean Civilizations. Over the following three thousand years, inhabitants switched from nomadic lifestyles to cultivating land. As these inhabitants became more sedentary, farming and the keeping of life stock allowed them to build settlements and new societies emerged along the coast and in the Andean mountains. The first known city in all of the Americas was Caral, located in the Supe Valley at about 200 km north of Lima. It is the oldest city in America and was built in approximately 2500 BC.

What is left from this civilization, called Norte Chico, are about 30 pyramid structures built up in receding terraces ending in a flat roof; some of them measured up to 20 meters in height. Caral is one of six world centers of the rise of civilization.

Many of these coastal and Andean Civilizations got absorbed by the more powerful civilizations. For the northern part of Peru the dominating society was that of the Moche Culture. The Moche Culture, flourished from about 100 BC until about 700 CE, and was known for the high level or organization and architecture and maybe even more for their impressive pottery skills. Most famous sites the Moche Culture left behind are Chan Chan, Sipan and the Temple of the Sun and the Moon. These coastal cultures eventually began to decline as a result of recurring El Niño floods and droughts. In consequence, the Huari and Tiwanaku, who dwelt inland in the Andes, became the predominant Andean Civilizations of the region encompassing much of modern-day Peru and Bolivia. In the North, they were succeeded by powerful city-states, such as Chancay, Sipan, and Cajamarca, and two empires: Chimor and Chachapoyas culture. These cultures developed relatively advanced techniques of cultivation, gold and silver craft, pottery, metallurgy, and knitting. Around 700 BC, they appear to have developed systems of social organization that were the precursors of the Inca civilization. One of the great buildings of the Chachapoyas culture can be found close to Chachapoyas and is called Kuelap.

At this time Pachacutec, one of the great Inca’s gained power in Cusco and started to expand his kingdom rapidly. They arrived at the coast and quickly incorporated the coastal civilizations in their empire. Most coastal and Andean civilizations where taken in a pacific manner but some were not willing to offer their loyalty to the Incas as the Incas expanded their empire, and many were openly hostile. The other Andean Civilization; the people of the Chachapoyas culture were an example of this, but the Inca eventually conquered and integrated them into their empire. On the height of the empire the Inca Empire reached from nowadays Colombia to central Chile.

With the arrival of the Conquistadores, the Inca Empire also came to an end together with the great civilizations of the north. After arriving first in Piura and heading south, they arrived in Cajamarca, where one of the two Inca rulers had his capital, the other in Cusco. The Inca Empire was starting to suffer from its own success, debilitating the Andean Civilization due to the sheer size of its empire. Just before the arrival of the Spanish the Inca Empire was divided in two and two brothers divided the territory. This is where the Spanish found an easy ally, internal division. Easily conquering the Northern Inca Empire by winning the battle in Cajamarca; a battle in which the Inca’s were faced with an enemy with weapons never seen before (horses, firearms and swords). After the fall of the Inca’s, some cities in the north were rebuild by the Spanish, such as Trujillo, Chimbote, Chiclayo and Piura, but the region had lost some of its great history.

As you can read here for many historicists the northern Peru is the baker mat of many Peruvian cultures and societies, holding some of the oldest on the continent.

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