The first pre-Columbian cultures in Peru arose about 10,000 years before Christ. The remains of this are to be found at the coast, in the Andes and in the Amazon. The first people who lived on the whole continent of America most probably came here at the end of the last ice age, about 12,000 years ago. They came here most probably over a narrow ice bridge between Asia and Alaska. During the ages after, those peoples went from north to south. Other theories suggest people having lived in South America much earlier. Tracks in Brazil date from more than 40,000 years ago.
However, the oldest tracks in Peru date from about 10,000 years ago, found near Ayacucho and lake Titicaca, they were hunters and foragers. Around 6,000 B.C. the first settlements were built and people started cultivation and livestock-farming. Around 3,000 B.C. the first bigger buildings were built and the first small societies arose. Because of new irrigation skills people also went inland.
An important source about the pre-Columbian cultures is the ceramic which dates from 1800 B.C. and was used in whole Peru from 1500 B.C. Here a summary of the most important Indian cultures until the Inca time.
- Chavin Culture(1400 - 400 B.C.): First important society in Peru; great performances concerning architecture and sculpture art; introduced corn cultivation on high altitude.
- Paracas Culture(800 - 100 B.C.): Arose in the desert area of southern Peru; extension to Pisa and Chincha; small villages, living of cultivation; Terrific weaving skills.
- Nazca Culture (100 B.C. - 600 A.D.): Succeeded the Paracas in about the same region; Built houses, temples and cemeteries; Irrigated and cultivated land; Exciting phenomenon are the Nazca lines, ground drawings of hundreds of meters size. Most probably they were a astronomical calendar; Last period Nazca changed to Wari culture.
- Moche Culture (100 B.C. - 700 A.D.): Arose at the same time as Nazca, but in North of Peru; Also artist with ceramic, first to use malls, matrixes and stamps; masters in processing gold and developed a way to draw on white background.
- Tawaniku Culture: Same period as Nazca and Moche; advanced skilled farmers; also developed a large trade network; Used techniques later to be used by the Kollas and the Incas.
- Wari Culture (500 - 900): First to found an empire, by invading all other peoples at the coast and in the mountains; very quarrelsome but not very culturally educated and took over many styles and knowledge from other cultures; the first to discover and use bronze.
- Chimu Culture(1000 - 1480): Developed in the same region after the Moche (north of Peru); Chan Chan was an important king's city, then largest of the world with 30,000 inhabitants; extended pyramids build by Moche and took over a lot of things of Moche and Wari culture; Ceramics had become too normal, edelsmeedkunst was more special for this people. Conquered Lambayeque in the south and Chancay in the north, but were defeated in the 15th century by the Incas, leaded by Tupac Yapanqui.
- Chancay Culture (1000 - 1400): South of the Chimú Empire.
- Ica Culture (900 - 1550): In the Nazca region; High quality pottery; in 1470 incorporated by the Incas.
- Kolla Culture (900 - 1300): Lived west of lake Titicaca; were farmers but resisted heavily against the Incas.
The Inca Empire
The Inca empire existed from 1200 to 1500 A.D. From the capital Cusco amongst others Bolivia was ruled by the Incas. Every person in the empire was obliged to speak the Quechua language which is still an official language in Peru. The empire was divided in four parts: a big part of Peru, entire Chile, a part of northern Argentina and entire Bolivia. The Incas built roads, aqueducts, terraces, fortresses and temples. Also big cities on the plains arose. After all 43 peoples were submitted by the Incas. About 1520 the empire started to collapse because of intern conflicts and the arrival of the Europeans. The most important ruling period of the Incas did not even last 100 years.