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Caral: Ancient Peru city reveals 5,000-year-old 'writing'

July 19, 2005, 22:45, Source SABC News

Archeologists in Peru have found a "quipu" on the site of the oldest city in the Americas, indicating the device, a sophisticated arrangement of knots and strings used to convey detailed information, was in use thousands of years earlier than previously believed. Previously the oldest known quipus, often associated with the Incas whose vast South American empire was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century, dated from about 650 AD.

But Ruth Shady, an archeologist leading investigations into the Peruvian coastal city of Caral, said quipus were among a treasure trove of articles discovered at the site, which are about 5,000 years old. "This is the oldest quipu and it shows us that this society ... also had a system of "writing" (which) would continue down the ages until the Inca empire and would last some 4,500 years," Shady said. She was speaking before the opening in Lima today of an exhibition of the artifacts which shed light on Caral, which she called one of the world's oldest civilizations.

The quipu with its well-preserved, brown cotton strings wound around thin sticks, was found with a series of offerings including mysterious fiber balls of different sizes wrapped in "nets" and pristine reed baskets. "We are sure it corresponds to the period of Caral because it was found in a public building," Shady said. "It was an offering placed on a stairway when they decided to bury this and put down a floor to build another structure on top."

Pyramid-shaped public buildings were being built at Caral, a planned coastal city 180km north of Lima, at the same time that the Saqqara pyramid, the oldest in Egypt, was going up. They were already being revamped when Egypt's Great Pyramid of Keops (or Khufu) was under construction, Shady said. "Man only began living in an organized way 5,000 years ago in five points of the globe - Mesopotamia (roughly comprising modern Iraq and part of Syria), Egypt, India, China and Peru," Shady said, adding Caral was 3,200 years older than cities of another ancient American civilization, the Maya.

 

Caral: The Oldest Quipu