The Andean civilizations were complex societies of many cultures and peoples mainly developed in the river valleys of the coastal deserts of Peru. They stretched from the Andes of southern Colombia southward down the Andes to Chile and northwest Argentina. Archaeologists believe that Andean civilizations first developed on the narrow coastal plain of the Pacific Ocean. The Caral or Norte Chico civilization of Peru is the oldest known civilization in the Americas, dating back to 3200 BCE.
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Despite severe environmental challenges, the Andean civilizations domesticated a wide variety of crops, some of which became of worldwide importance. The Andean civilizations were also noteworthy for monumental architecture, textile weaving, and many unique characteristics of the societies they created.
Less than a century prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, the Incas, from their homeland centered on the city of Cusco, united most of the Andean cultures into one single empire that encompassed all of what is usually called Andean civilization. The Timoto Cuica of Venezuela remained outside the Inca orbit. The Inca Empire was a patchwork of languages, cultures and peoples.
Spanish rule ended or transformed many elements of the Andean civilizations, notably influencing religion and architecture.