Peru's earliest inhabitants arrived in the area about 12,000 years ago and settled along the coast. By about 8000 B.C., they had begun to occupy the highlands.

Important dates in Peru
c. 2800 B.C. The first cities in the Americas were built in the region of Norte Chico on the coast of Peru.
c. 800-400 B.C. The civilization of the Chavin Indians reached its peak.
c. A.D. 1500 The empire of the Inca Indians reached its greatest size.
1532-1533 Spanish troops led by Francisco Pizarro conquered Peru and made it a Spanish colony.
1780 The mestizo Tupac Amaru led an unsuccessful revolt of Indians and mestizos against white rule.
1821 Jose de San Martin declared Peru independent of Spain.
1879-1883 Peru lost its nitrate-rich southern provinces to Chile in the War of the Pacific.
1924 The revolutionary APRA political party was founded.
1968 Military leaders took control of Peru's government and began socialistic reforms.
1980 A civilian government, elected by the people, began working to increase private enterprise.
1992 In April, President Alberto Fujimori suspended Peru's Constitution and dissolved the legislature.
1993 Peru adopted a new constitution. It was written by a popularly elected Constituent Assembly.

A number of distinct cultures developed in the region from 200 A.D. to 1000 A.D. The earliest known is that of the Chavins. The civilizations of the Chimu and Tiahuanaco followed. The Mochicas, Paracas, and Nazcas are known for their pottery and textiles.

By 1500, the Incas dominated the region. Having subjugated neighboring groups, they extended their control throughout most of Andean South America. The Incas were architects, warriors, and road builders. Great stores of silver and gold were held in the city of Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire.