Peru has a population of 32 million, which includes Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua or other indigenous languages. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music.
Prehistory and Pre-Columbian Peru:
The earliest evidences of human presence in Peruvian territory have been dated to approximately 12,500 BCE in the Huaca Prieta settlement.
Andean societies were based on agriculture, using techniques such as irrigation and terracing; camelid husbandry and fishing were also important. Organization relied on reciprocity and redistribution because these societies had no notion of market or money. The oldest known complex society in Peru, the Caral/Norte Chico civilization, flourished along the coast of the Pacific Ocean between 3,000 and 1,800 BCE. These early developments were followed by archaeological cultures that developed mostly around the coastal and Andean regions throughout Peru. The Cupisnique culture which flourished from around 1000 to 200 BCE along what is now Peru’s Pacific Coast was an example of early pre-Incan culture.
The Chavín culture that developed from 1500 to 300 BCE was probably more of a religious than a political phenomenon, with their religious center in Chavín de Huantar. After the decline of the Chavin culture around the beginning of the 1st century CE, a series of localized and specialized cultures rose and fell, both on the coast and in the highlands, during the next thousand years. On the coast, these included the civilizations of the Paracas, Nazca, Wari, and the more outstanding Chimu and Moche.
The Moche, who reached their apogee in the first millennium CE, were renowned for their irrigation system which fertilized their arid terrain, their sophisticated ceramic pottery, their lofty buildings, and clever metalwork. The Chimu were the great city builders of pre-Inca civilization; as loose confederation of walled cities scattered along the coast of northern Peru, the Chimu flourished from about 1140 to 1450. Their capital was at Chan Chan outside of modern-day Trujillo. In the highlands, both the Tiahuanaco culture, near Lake Titicaca in both Peru and Bolivia, and the Wari culture, near the present-day city of Ayacucho, developed large urban settlements and wide-ranging state systems between 500 and 1000 CE.
In the 15th century, the Incas emerged as a powerful state which, in the span of a century, formed the largest empire in the pre-Columbian Americas with their capital in Cusco. The Incas of Cusco originally represented one of the small and relatively minor ethnic groups, the Quechuas. Gradually, as early as the thirteenth century, they began to expand and incorporate their neighbors. Inca expansion was slow until about the middle of the fifteenth century, when the pace of conquest began to accelerate, particularly under the rule of the emperor Pachacuti. Under his rule and that of his son, Topa Inca Yupanqui, the Incas came to control most of the Andean region, with a population of 9 to 16 million inhabitants under their rule.