Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mysterious Pyramid Complex Discovered in Peru

The remnants of at least ten pyramids have been discovered on the coast of Peru, marking what could be a vast ceremonial site of an ancient, little-known culture, archaeologists say.

In January construction crews working in the province of Piura discovered several truncated pyramids and a large adobe platform.

Officials from Peru's National Institute of Culture (INC) were inspected after the discovery.

Last week announced that the complex, 2 miles (3.2 km) long and 1 miles (1.6 km) wide, belonged to the old Vicús culture, and was likely to be either a religious center and a cemetery for nobility.

The Vicús was a pre-Hispanic culture flourished in Peru, the northern coastal desert from 200 BC to 300 AD, and is known for its ceramics decorated.

Experts say little is known about the culture, because their sites were heavily looted over the years.

"We have found several partially pyramids, at least ten," said César Sánchez Santos, chief archaeologist for the INC's Piura Division.

"We also have a large adobe platform, which we speculate, had for the burial rituals. But we can not know, without further examination."

Skull Fragments

The platform, measuring 82 feet (25 meters) by 98 feet (30 meters), was found alongside one of the larger pyramids in the complex.

Another of the larger pyramids contained some artifacts as well as bone fragments from a human skull.

The fact that the skull fragments were found several meters below the surface, indicating a deep grave that took much time to dig, prompted researchers to theorize that the individual buried there had high social status.

Santos added that the complex is surrounded by four large hills: Pilán, Vicús, Chanchape, and Tongo.

"We think that because of its geographic location the complex could have been a place of strategic value," Santos said.

The area containing the pyramids is surrounded by a cemetery that has been looted by grave robbers.

"But the complex itself is intact," Santos said...

Who Were the Vicús?

"The Vicús are very interesting, but so poorly understood, given the fact that most of what we know about them is through looted ceramic art," said Steve Bourget, an archaeologist at the University of Texas at Austin.

"This could be an important find because it is one of the few with monumental architecture. But it is still too early to say."

Experts say that the ceramic Vicús style resembles in some respects to those of the Moche, a fact that led the research on the relationship between the two cultures.

The Moche civilization flourished in the areas south of the Vicús from around 100 to 750 AD, the production elaborately painted pottery and gold ornaments, irrigation systems, and monuments.

The two cultures thrived within a relatively short distance of each other-less than the between Los Angeles and San Francisco experts point out.

"It is possible that the Vicús for a part of its history was closely associated with the Moche culture," said Joanne Pillsbury, an archaeologist at Washington, DC-based Dumbarton Oaks, a research institute associated with Harvard University.

The discovery of the pyramids Vicús comes as perceptions about the Moche have shifted, she added.

"It was once believed that it is a single monolithic Moche state, but the people do not believe that it is more true," said Pillsbury.

"It was probably a number of regional or multi-valley kingdoms divided that a wider culture. Vicús And was probably part of this sphere of interaction."