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Oldest Urban Site in the Americas Found, Experts Claim
National Geographic News ^ | 02-26-08 | Kelly Hearn

Posted on 02/27/2008 5:04:57 AM PST by Renfield

A circular plaza found under an existing archaeological site in Peru could be the oldest known human-made complex in the New World, experts report.

Initial analysis dates the ceremonial structure to around 3500 B.C.—500 years older than the current record holder, an ancient city named Caral, also in Peru.

Although the age has yet to be confirmed, reports of the newfound plaza surfaced in Peruvian media on Sunday.

Peter R. Fuchs, a German archaeologist who worked at the site, told the Peruvian newspaper El Commercial that the excavation contained "construction from 5,500 years ago."

Cesar Perez, an archaeologist at Peru's National Institute of Culture, praised the finding.

"This has tremendous importance, both in Peru and internationally," Perez told media outlets. "We think it's the oldest urban site found in the Americas."

(Related news: "Pre-Inca Observatory Is Oldest in Americas, Study Says" [March 1, 2007].)

Neither Perez nor Fuchs had responded to calls from National Geographic News by press time.

Built and Rebuilt

According to local media reports, the 46-foot-diameter (14-meter-diameter) plaza was discovered beneath Sechin Bajo, an archaeological site about 230 miles (370 kilometers) north of the capital city of Lima.

"We've found other pieces of architecture underneath the plaza that could be even older," German Yenque, an archaeologist at the dig site, told the Reuters news service.

"There are four or five plazas deeper down, which means the structure was rebuilt several times, perhaps every 100 to 300 years."

If confirmed, the site could reconfigure notions of how culture spread through the region.

For most people the Inca are the standout contributors to Andean history. (See photos of Inca ruins in Peru.)

But a number of pre-Inca civilizations left archaeological traces, such as tombs and stone murals that, thanks in part to a contemporary development boom in Peru, are increasingly being uncovered.

Kit Nelson, an archaeologist from Tulane University, told National Geographic News that the circular plaza at Sechin Bajo falls within the Preceramic-Late Archaic period, which has been studied at other nearby sites.

One of those sites is Caral, which is dated to about 5,000 years ago and is still the largest and most complex of the Preceramic sites. Other sites in the Norte Chico Valley, roughly 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of Sechin Bajo, date to about the same period.

"These projects also have early dates and sunken circular plazas, a defining feature of the Preceramic era," said Nelson, who was not involved in the latest dig.

The function of these circular plazas, as argued by researchers working at Preceramic sites, "seems to be associated with monumental architecture or [shortened] pyramids, and probably are civil or ceremonial in function," she said.

Nelson also noted that most of the previously known sites are dated to about 2000 to 2500 B.C., and that there is still much to be learned about this important period in Peruvian prehistory.

"So this date is not surprising, and it is also possible that these dates will be found in other areas on [Peru's] central coast," she said.

Awaiting Confirmation

In fact, many experts think that Peru's central coastal region was a key anchor point for cultural development.

"We are discovering more and more that this late Preceramic and Late Archaic period was a time of real culture revolution on the Andean coast," said Jonathan Haas of the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois.

"It was a time when the Andes became distinct, an uninterrupted cultural chain going through the central coast in an unbroken fashion for 5,000 years—all the way up to the Inca," he said.

Haas, who has talked to researchers at Sechin Bajo since the news reports broke, works on the pre-Inca site of Caballete.

"Finding a plaza in that region isn't that surprising," he added.

But the 5,500-year age estimate could simply be the oldest in a range of possible dates given by carbon-dating techniques, he said.

"The main issue has to do with what are the actual dates on the structure," Haas said. "The key point is whether this is pre-3,000 B.C.—I don't think that has been shown."

TOPICS: Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: archaeology; godsgravesglyphs; peru

Archaeologists stand on a circular plaza found recently under an existing ceremonial site in Peru.

The plaza, whose discovery was announced on February 24, 2008, could be 5,500 years old, which would make it the oldest known human-made complex in the New World, experts say.

Photograph by Reuters/STR New

1 posted on 02/27/2008 5:05:02 AM PST by Renfield
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To: blam; SunkenCiv

GGG ping.

2 posted on 02/27/2008 5:05:26 AM PST by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Renfield

Keep digging- there’s bound to be a “No Parking” sign buried in there.

3 posted on 02/27/2008 5:13:03 AM PST by silverleaf (Fasten your seat belts- it's going to be a BUMPY ride.)
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To: Renfield

Fools, all they have to do is find the corner stones with the “2500 BC” dates.

4 posted on 02/27/2008 5:25:12 AM PST by Bringbackthedraft
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To: Renfield

thanks Renfield.

Centuries-old Maya Blue mystery finally solved | February 26, 2008.
Posted on 02/26/2008 5:17:19 PM EST by Jedi Master Pikachu

5 posted on 02/27/2008 5:29:15 AM PST by SunkenCiv ( updated Tuesday, February 19, 2008)
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· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic ·

Thanks Renfield. Just adding to the catalog, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are Blam, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach

· Google · Archaeologica · ArchaeoBlog · Archaeology magazine · Biblical Archaeology Society ·
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· History or Science & Nature Podcasts · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·

6 posted on 02/27/2008 5:31:48 AM PST by SunkenCiv ( updated Tuesday, February 19, 2008)
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To: Renfield

whoops! I mean...

Ancient ceremonial plaza found in Peru
Associated Press | February 26, 2008 | Andrew Whalen
Posted on 02/26/2008 6:30:52 PM EST by decimon

7 posted on 02/27/2008 7:40:10 AM PST by SunkenCiv ( updated Tuesday, February 19, 2008)
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