This Might Have Been The First American Civilization

The Americas — the entire region, not just the United States — was home to several different pre-Christian civilizations. People have heard about the Incas and the Mayans, of course, but there might even be an entire civilization that came before them.

Meet the Norte Chico peoples, one of the earliest known civilizations in the world, which predates early Mayans by at least 1,000 years, according to How Stuff Works. They lived in Peru's Norte Chico region, over 100 miles from what is now Lima. The civilization is also called the Caral/ Caral-Supe for the location of its best-known and most-studied sites.

The Norte Chico probably started around the 4th millennium BCE, per Ancient Origins, but it expanded by the 3rd millennium BCE. They built structures around the area that looked like pyramids. These pyramids, also called platform mounds, actually came before their famous Egyptian cousins. Terraced, rectangular, and made of stone, these pyramids most likely served a ceremonial purpose. Around six pyramids have been discovered in Caral.

There was evidence besides the pyramids that the Norte Chico had advanced systems. A team of researchers from Northern Illinois University (NIU) found Caral and other sites were part of a more complicated region of residential centers.

The Norte Chico was an odd civilization

The Norte Chico also proved that early civilizations relied on marine resources like fish instead of focusing on agriculture, the team from NIU said. Before learning more about Norte Chico, most historians believed ancient people in the Andes flourished due to agriculture and hunting. But evidence suggests the Norte Chico ate a lot of seafood, along with more standard fare of root crops and maize.

Archeaological digs proved that the Norte Chico thrived for years. Still, the civilization was overlooked for decades because they lacked crucial advancements: They did not develop pottery or leave ancient art or writing. Unlike the archaeological record of cultures such as the Mayans and the Incas, historians had difficulty finding artifacts. Ancient Origins wrote the Norte Chico was odd because most people make ceramics first before building monuments. The closest to an artifact archaeologists found were gourds depicting what could be a divine being.

In the end, the Norte Chico probably died out because of starvation. At one site, some carvings showed emaciated people praying to a god and hoping for more rain. Much like how the Mayans died out and how the Incan Empire crumbled, the end of the Norte Chico people gave way to other societies trying to survive in harsh lands.