The Norte Chico civilisation was already flourishing in Peru 5,000 years ago. It is the oldest known civilisation in the Americas, and the people built impressive monumental architecture. The two most important archaeological sites are at Aspero and Caral, where there are substantial, pyramid like mounds.
A thousand years later, the Cupisnique built a significantly more sophisticated civilisation in Peru’s Moche Valley. The most important finds, which include friezes, giant clay heads, and decorative ceramics, are on show in the Museum of Pre Columbian Art in Cusco. The museum’s collection is an absolute must see if you want to understand and appreciate Peru’s early history.
Peru’s Wari and Inca sites are relatively recent at 500 to 1,500 years old, with the advantage that they are much better preserved: you can still walk along the original paved streets and enter many of the buildings. Pikillaqta is remarkable for its scale; and many of the Inca palaces and temples in Cusco have been incorporated into later buildings in the city.