The discovery of a 3,800-year-old elaborately decorated wall in Vichama, Peru, reveals previously unknown details about the ancient, pre-hispanic Caral civilization, the Cultural Ministry reported Thursday.
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Covered in skulls, seeds and snake skeletons, the abandoned remnants of the ancient bas relief – which measures 2.8 meters wide and one meter high – were uncovered by archaeologists stationed just north of the capital.
Experts from the Archaeological Zone Caral (ZAC) believe the wall formed the antechamber of a public building and faced the fields which at one time filled the Huara Valley, 140 km north of Lima.
"The reliefs symbolize the fertilization of the earth: snakes represent the deity, linked to water, which filters into the earth and makes the seed germinate," said lead archeologist Ruth Shady Solis.
The ancient building likely occupied roughly 874 sq meters and included stepped windows and a sunken circular plaza. Similarly styled structures have been uncovered in the area and dated prior to the famine and drought which caused the community's ultimate departure from the region, Shady said.
"The new relief reinforces the approach of capturing, in the collective memory, the difficulties faced by society due to climate change and water scarcity, which caused serious effects on agricultural productivity," said Shady.
The discovery was made in April, the archaeologist said, but had been kept from the public until now, just days after the 11th anniversary of the ancient city of Vichama. Research shows the community, just 1.5 km from the Peruvian coast, was an agricultural society and inhabited the area somewhere between 1800 and 3500 BC.