Early Civilizations in South AmericaThe Chavin, Nazca, and Moche cultures, which existed in South America before the Inca, built stone buildings and sophisticated irrigation systems. Later, the Inca became a spectacular, well-organized empire. The Inca Empire was still flourishing when the Spanish arrived in the sixteenth century.Early CivilizationsThe Chavin, Nazca, and Moche cultures existed in South America before the Inca came to power.HISTORY & YOU What objects might provide future archaeologists with infor-mation about twenty-first-century America? Read to learn what archaeologists have learned about the Chavin, Nazca, and Moche peoples.As in Mesoamerica, great civilizations flourished in early South America. The people of the Chavin, Nazca, and Moche cultures lived before the Inca gained power in South America. The cities, buildings, and artifacts these peoples left behind provide clues about their cultures. The Chavin and Nazca CulturesIn the Supe River valley of Peru, Caralis the oldest major city in the Americas. It is believed to be 1,000 years older than the cities previously known in the Western Hemisphere. The city has stone buildings for officials, apartment buildings, and grand residences. The inhabitants of Caral also developed a sophisticated system of irrigation. Caral was abandoned between 2000 and 1500 b.c.Around 900 b.c., the Chavinpeople in the coastal regions of modern-day Peru and Ecuador built a temple with stones gath-ered from nearby hills. Part of a larger ceremonial complex, the temple was surrounded by stone figures depicting different gods and two pyramids. For unknown reasons, the Chavin declined around 200 b.c.Around the same time, the Nazcaculture appeared in Peru. The Nazca prospered from around 200 b.c. to a.d. 600. Nazca culture preserved some aspects of Chavin culture, especially its style of pottery. However, the Nazca culture built no great temples. They may have practiced their religion out of doors, as suggested by ancient formations known as the Nazca Lines. These are grooves etched into the rocky soil of southern Peru in the image of ani-mals, especially birds, as well as humans and other geometric shapes. The images are so large, however, that their shapes can only be seen from the air.