The River and the Sky: Astronomy and Topography in Caral Society, America's First Urban Centers

A. César González-García, Aldemar Crispín, Ruth Shady Solís, José Ricra, Felipe Criado-Boado, Juan A. Belmonte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


America's first urban centers may have been located in the Supe Valley, Peru. After investigating the location and the orientation of the main built structures, we show that it is not only the presence of the Supe River that determines their orientation but also that astronomical relationships within the orientation of the buildings dictate their setting within the valley. The southernmost position of moonrise on the horizon seems to be the most important astronomical target. There is the possibility of a trend toward attributing greater importance to the June solstice sunrise and the rising of certain stars or asterisms. These orientations could relate to specific moments throughout the year, in particular to seasonal rains, subsequent river flooding, and agricultural cycles. This is one of the earliest examples of the interaction of land-and skyscapes in human cultures and indeed the first in the Americas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-172
Number of pages19
JournalLatin American Antiquity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Clive Ruggles, Ivan Ghezzi, and the several referees for valuable comments and suggestions that helped improve the quality of this article. This work was partially supported by the projects P/310793 “Arqueoastronomía” of the IAC, AYA2015-66787P “Orientatio ad Sidera IV” of the Spanish MINECO, and the AECID grant “Astronomía en la Cultura del Valle del Supe, Perú” from the Spanish MAEC. This research was carried out within the framework of the Archaeological Research Program, “Caral Civilization in the Valleys of Supe and Huaura during the Initial Formative and Early Formative” of the Caral Archaeological Zone, Executing Unit No. 003 of the Ministry of Culture of Peru, which since 2014 has been studying mainly the orientation of the buildings of the Caral archaeological site. We acknowledge support of the open access publication fee by the CSIC Open Access Publication Support Initiative through its Unit of Information Resources for Research (URICI).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for American Archaeology.


  • Andean Formative period
  • Caral
  • Supe Valley
  • archaeoastronomy
  • landscape
  • orientation
  • topography


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