Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central coastal part of the country, in a valley on a prevalent desert coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms a contiguous urban area known as the Lima Metropolitan Area. With a population approaching 9 million, Lima is the most populous metropolitan area of Peru, and the fourth largest city in the Americas (as defined by "city proper").
Lima was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, as Ciudad de los Reyes. It became the capital and most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru. Following the Peruvian War of Independence, it became the capital of the Republic of Peru. Today, around one-third of the Peruvian population lives in the metropolitan area.
Lima is home to one of the oldest higher learning institutions in the New World. The National University of San Marcos, founded on May 12, 1551 during Spanish colonial regime, is the oldest continuously functioning university in the Americas.
In the pre-Columbian era, the location of what is now the city of Lima was inhabited by several Amerindian groups under the Ychsma polity, which was incorporated into the Inca Empire in the 15th century. In 1532, a group of Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro defeated the Inca ruler Atahualpa and took over his Empire. As the Spanish Crown had named Pizarro governor of the lands he conquered, he chose the Rímac valley to found his capital on January 18, 1535 as Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings). In August 1536, rebel Inca troops led by Manco Inca besieged the city but were defeated by the Spaniards and their native allies.
Lima gained prestige after being designated capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru and site of a Real Audiencia in 1543. During the next century it flourished as the centre of an extensive trade network which integrated the Viceroyalty with the rest of the Americas, Europe and the Far East. However, the city was not free from dangers; the presence of pirates and privateers in the Pacific Ocean lead to the building of the Walls of Lima between 1684 and 1687. Also in this last year a powerful earthquake destroyed most of the city buildings; the earthquake marked a turning point in the history of Lima as it coincided with a recession in trade and growing economic competition with other cities such as Buenos Aires.
A combined expedition of Argentine and Chilean patriots under General José de San Martín landed south of Lima in 1820 but did not attack the city. Faced with a naval blockade and the action of guerrillas on land, Viceroy José de la Serna e Hinojosa evacuated its capital on July 1821 to save the Royalist army. Fearing a popular uprising and lacking any means to impose order, the city council invited San Martín to enter Lima and signed a Declaration of Independence at his request. However, the war was not over; in the next two years the city changed hands several times.
In 1940, an earthquake destroyed most of the city, which at that time was mostly built of adobe and quincha. In the 1940s, Lima started a period of rapid growth spurred by migration from the Andean regions of Peru, as rural people sought opportunities for work and education. The population, estimated at 0.6 million in 1940, reached 1.9 million by 1960 and 4.8 million by 1980. At the start of this period, the urban area was confined to a triangular area bounded by the city's historic centre, Callao and Chorrillos; in the following decades settlements spread to the north, beyond the Rímac River, to the east, along the Central Highway, and to the south. The new migrants, at first confined to slums in downtown Lima, led this expansion through large-scale land invasions, which evolved into shanty towns, known as pueblos jóvenes.
Lima Region, also known as Lima Provincias, is one of twenty-five regions of Peru. Located in the central coast of the country, its regional seat (capital city) is Huacho. Lima Province, which contains the city of Lima, the country's capital, is located on the western part of the Lima Region. However, this province is autonomous and not under the jurisdiction of the Regional Government.
In 2006, a team of archeological researchers led by Robert Benfer announced their findings from a four-year excavation at Buena Vista, Peru in the Chillón River valley a few miles north of present-day Lima. They had discovered a 4200-year-old observatory constructed by an early Andean civilization, a three-dimensional sculpture, unique for the time period in this region, and sophisticated carvings. The observatory is on top of a 33-foot pyramidal mound and has architectural features for sighting the astronomical solstices. The discovery pushes back the time for the development of complex civilization in the area and has altered scholars' understanding of Preceramic period cultures in Peru.
The remains of early Andean inhabitants, hunters and harpoon fishermen from about 1000 years ago, are to be found in the Lima region. These remains were found in Chivateros, near the Chillón River, and in various other places. These persons incorporated nets, hooks, farming, ceramics and weaving to their everyday objects. The inhabitants of the coast lived in the lomas and the valleys, where they built temples and dwelling complexes, leading to huge ceremonial centers, such as the Huacoy on the Chillón River; Garagay and La Florida (prehistoric) on the Rímac River, Manchay on the Lurín River; and Chancay, Supe and many other valleys to the north and south. There are finely ornamented temples with figures modeled in clay. The Lima culture (100 A.D. to 650 A.D.) arose in this area, specially in the central valleys from Chancay to Lurín. It was distinguished by painted adobe buildings.
During this time, the Huari conquest took place, thus giving rise to Huari-style ceramics, together with a local style known as Nievería. As the population grew, their culture changed. With the decline of the Huari, whose most important center was Cajamarquilla, new local cultures arose. The Chancay are the most well known. They developed large urban centers and a considerable textile production, as well as mass-produced ceramics.
At this stage in the mid-fifteenth century, the Incas arrived from their base in the Andes. They conquered and absorbed the regional cultures and occupied important sites such as Pachacamac, turning it into an administrative center.