BY HIROSHI ISHIDA AND KUNIICHI TANIDA, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
CHANCAY, Peru--Japanese researchers said they believe they have discovered--with the unintended help of looters--the ruins of a temple at least 4,800 years old that could be one of the oldest in the Americas.
The temple was likely built before or around 2600 B.C. when Peru's oldest known city, Caral, was created, the researchers said.
The discovery was made in the ruins of Shicras located in the Chancay Valley about 100 kilometers north of Lima. The team started full-scale excavation work on Monday.
There are two 10-meter-high pyramid-shaped structures made of stone running north to south for about 50 meters and east to west for about 30 meters, according to Tetsuya Inamura, professor of cultural anthropology at Aichi Prefectural University who is part of the excavation team.
Experts said they hope the discovery will shed light on the origins of ancient civilizations of Latin America.
"It can be regarded as a structure built using organized labor," Taiken Kato, professor of cultural anthropology at Saitama University, said. "If the excavation could confirm urban developments in a wide range of coastal areas in Peru, it would contribute to unraveling the formation of the Andes civilization."
In August last year, Hiroshi Sakane, chief curator of the Lima-based Museo Amano, and Masami Fujisawa, professor of seismic engineering at the Tsukuba University of Technology, found the ruins in a 4-meter-wide, 8-meter-deep pit apparently made by looters.
The Amano museum was established by Yoshitaro Amano who spent his life collecting artifacts of the Chancay culture.
When the two researchers looked into a section of the pit, they found reed bags filled with stones and pebbles that were used as reinforcing material, scrapings of charcoal and fibers, and other items.
The researchers said the ruins were likely part of a religious facility, possibly a temple, because of the complicated construction method used and the traces of fire apparently used in rituals.
Radiocarbon dating showed the reinforcing materials and scrapings of charcoal and fibers were up to 4,800 years old.
There are also indications that the structure underwent reconstruction work seven or eight times.
A team comprising Japanese experts on archeology, cultural anthropology, seismic engineering and other fields, as well as a Peruvian archeologist from the Amano museum, was granted permission to excavate the site from the Peruvian government.
The past 10 years have yielded some remarkable findings at
the archeological site in Caral, about 150 km north of the ruins,
including a temple at least 30 meters tall built with gigantic stones,
as well as a group of at least 30 large buildings.
(IHT/Asahi: June 21,2006)