Talking in detail about the cultures of Peru would take us forever. Peru is one of the countries with one of the richest pasts in the world. And not only for the Inca culture, the most famous, since there were many other pre-Inca cultures in Peru.
In this post we are going to focus on the 10 cultures that we were able to discover through the archaeological remains still present in Peru.
Join us on this journey through time!
Timeline of ancient Peruvian cultures
First of all, each of them must be put in temporal context (of which we know, there are many more).
It is important, because as we will see later, many of them are related in some way.
1. Cultures of Peru: Caral
This culture, contemporary of the first civilizations in the world, is the oldest in Peru and America. Located in the valleys of the north-central coast, it stood out above all the Supe valley. It is here where you can find the archaeological remains of the sacred city of Caral, capital of the culture of the same name.
It is in this city where step pyramids, circular squares, the sacred altar, workshops and houses were erected. A city highly evolved for the time!
Chronology: 3000 a.C. – 1800 a.C.
Despite its antiquity, today you can still see archaeological remains of this first Peruvian civilization (Read more about our visit to the city of Caral).
2. Cultures of Peru: Paracas
Located on the central-south coast of Peru, it was an advanced civilization both in handicrafts and textiles and in the art of war (large presence of weapons in burials). They were also great surgeons, for the time, as trepanations have been found in skulls and evidence of patient survival.
Chronology: 700 a.C. – 200 d.C.
Today the archaeological remains of the Paracas culture, being prior to the Nazca culture, are overshadowed by the Nazca Lines. However, visit the Paracas Nature Reserve and Ballestas Islands is a great option.
3. Cultures of Peru: Nazca
This culture is related to the Paracas culture, since it occupied practically the same territory and immediately succeeded it in time. Furthermore, it can be considered as an evolution of the previous one.
It is known worldwide for the construction of the enigmatic Nazca Lines, located in the middle of the coastal desert of Peru. And it does not cease to amaze, since Japanese scientists recently discovered a total of 143 new geoglyphs, in addition to those already identified and studied previously.
Chronology: 200 d.C. – 700 d.C.
If you want to know more about the Nazca lines, as well as tips for your visit, you can read our experience flying over the Nazca lines.
4. Cultures of Peru: Mochica
Formed in its beginnings in the Moche Valley, it expanded along the northern coast of Peru. On a religious level they worshiped Ai Apaec, the beheading, as the main god. However, also worshiped the moon and the sun, which they built the 2 main huacas in the city of Moche.
Other huacas and the tomb of the Lord of Sipán stand out in this culture, one of the most important burials in America.
Chronology: 150 d.C. – 700 d.C.
5. Cultures of Peru: Lambayeque/Sicán
The culture arises after the disappearance of the Mochica culture, assimilating many of its customs and traditions. It stands out for the construction of the Tucume pyramids/huacas, the tomb of the Lord of Sicán, for making beautiful funeral masks and the Golden Tumi (ceremonial knife), one of the symbols of Peru. It represents his god, Naylamp, who, according to tradition, arrived on the coast sailing from the sea.
Chronology: 750 d.C. – 1375 d.C.
In northern Peru you can visit the archaeological remains of the Tucume pyramids/huacas, typical of the Lambayeque culture, and many other interesting (Read more about the huacas of northern Peru) .
6. Cultures of Peru: Chimú
Just as the Lambayeque culture assimilates the tradition of the Mochica culture, the Chimu culture conquers the territories of the Lambayeque kingdom. Therefore, traditions, ceramics, textiles and religion have continuity within this culture.
Stands out for the impressive adobe city of Chan Chan, made up of 9 citadels (one for each that existed in this culture). It is believed that its decline began with the confrontation against the Inca empire, losing the war and joining the Tahuantinsuyo.
Chronology: 1000 d.C. – 1470 d.C.
The most representative archaeological remnant of the Chimú culture is the city of Chan Chan. Do not forget to write down your visit on your trip through northern Peru.
7. Cultures of Peru: Chachapoyas
It is the culture that flourished in the northern Peruvian jungle, specifically in the Utcubamba river valley (right bank of the Marañón river). They stood out as the most advanced culture in the Peruvian jungle, until they went to war with the Inca empire (Tahuantinsuyo), were defeated and became part of it.
Chronology: 900 d.C. – 1470 d.C.
The most outstanding archaeological remains are the ancient fortress of Kuelap. So, if you are near Chachapoyas, Jaen or Cajamarca, be sure to visit it.
8. Collas (Qhapaq Qulla)
Aymara Kingdom that extended by Bolivia and Peru, as well as northern Chile and Argentina. Inside it grouped different ethnic groups, which were subsequently subdued by the Inca empire. This ancient kingdom, plus other territories to the south, were called Collasuyo (southern region within Tahuantinsuyo).
Chronology: 1200 d.C. – 1450 d.C.
9. Cultures of Peru: Inca
It was, along with the Aztec empire in present-day Mexico, the largest and most advanced civilization in America. This empire, known as Tahuantinsuyo, covered practically all of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as northern Chile, Argentina and a small part of southern Colombia.
With its capital in Cuzco, this empire politically and religiously unified much of South America. Noted for its impressive constructions , such as: Machu Picchu, Qoricancha, Pisac, Maras, Choquequirao, Ollantaytambo, …
Although he was mortally wounded in 1533 with the capture and death of Atahualpa, the fall of the last redoubt of the Tahuantinsuyo occurs 39 years later. It is in 1572 when Tupac Amaru I, the last Inca, was executed who ruled over the small kingdom of Vilcabamba.
Chronology: 1438 d.C. – 1572 d.C.
It is surely the best-known culture outside of Peru and the one that attracts more tourists. It is not for less, since enjoying Cusco and its archaeological sites, nerve center of the Children of the Sun, visit Machu Picchu, directly or touring the Inca trail, it is a totally recommendable experience.
Although they really were part of the Colla civilization, and were later assimilated by the Inca empire, we want to highlight this town for its peculiar way of life. They do not live near Titicaca Lake, but rather live on floating reed islands within it.
If you want to see how the Uros lived in the past, we recommend that you visit their reed islands in Titicaca Lake. Although they do not live this way today, you can get an idea and also enjoy the spectacular Titicaca Lake.
These are the cultures that we have been able to admire in our trips through Peru, but there were many more cultures in Peru that we still have to know: Chavin, Wari, Chancay, Ichma, Lima, Cajamarca, Chincha, Gallinazo, Vicus, Salinar, …
Surely you know places in Peru that belonged to these cultures. Tell us about your experience!
P.S.: Official links with information about Covid-19: (Official information to Spain), (Official information to Peru), (Official information to Chile), (Official information to Argentina), (Official information to Colombia).
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Kiss and hugs.