What Ancient Civilization Lived in South America?

South America is a continent with a rich history, and ancient civilizations played a significant role in shaping it. Many of these civilizations are now lost to time, but some have left behind fascinating clues that help us understand their way of life. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable ancient civilizations that lived in South America.

The Incas

The Inca civilization is perhaps the most well-known ancient civilization in South America. The Inca Empire was established in the 13th century and lasted until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. It was centered in modern-day Peru and extended its reach across much of western South America.

The Incas were known for their impressive architecture, including Machu Picchu, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Inca Empire also had an organized system of roads and a sophisticated agricultural system that allowed them to thrive in the Andean highlands.

Maya Civilization

While many people associate the Maya civilization with Central America, it actually extended into parts of South America as well. The Maya civilization was established around 2000 BCE and lasted until around 900 CE.

The Maya people were known for their impressive knowledge of astronomy and mathematics, as well as their intricate artwork and architecture. They built impressive cities with towering pyramids and ball courts where they played a game that had religious significance.

Nazca Civilization

The Nazca civilization was established around 100 BCE and lasted until around 800 CE. It was located in modern-day Peru, near the Nazca lines – a series of massive geoglyphs carved into the desert floor.

The Nazca people were skilled engineers who constructed an elaborate system of underground aqueducts to bring water to their desert community. They were also known for their intricate textiles, which featured images of animals and geometric shapes.

Tiwanaku Civilization

The Tiwanaku civilization was established around 400 CE and lasted until around 1000 CE. It was located in modern-day Bolivia, near the shores of Lake Titicaca.

The Tiwanaku people were skilled architects who built impressive structures using massive stone blocks. They also had a sophisticated agricultural system that allowed them to grow crops in the high-altitude environment around Lake Titicaca.


South America is home to many ancient civilizations, each with their own unique culture and way of life. From the Inca Empire to the Maya civilization to the Nazca and Tiwanaku civilizations, these ancient peoples left behind impressive architectural feats, intricate artwork, and sophisticated systems of agriculture and engineering. Their legacy lives on today as we continue to study their history and learn from their achievements.