A team of German and Peruvian archeologists say they have discovered the oldest known monument in Peru: a 5,500-year-old ceremonial plaza near Peru's north-central coast.
Carbon dating of material from the site revealed it was built between 3500 B.C. and 3000 B.C., Peter Fuchs, a German archaeologist who headed the excavation team, told The Associated Press by telephone Monday.
The discovery is further evidence that civilization thrived in Peru at the same time as it did in what is now the Middle East and South Asia, said Ruth Shady, a prominent Peruvian archaeologist who led the team that discovered the ancient city of Caral in 2001. Shady serves as a senior adviser to Peru's National Culture Institute and was not involved in the project.
The find also raises questions about what prompted "civilizations to form throughout the planet at more or less the same time," Shady said.
The circular, sunken plaza, built of stones and adobe, is part of the Sechin Bajo archaeological complex in Andes foothills, 330 kilometers northwest of Lima.
The plaza served as a social and ritual space where ancient peoples celebrated their "thoughts about the world, their place within it, and images of their world and themselves," Fuchs said.
Walter Alva, the Peruvian archaeologist who uncovered the Lords of Sipan tombs, said the plaza found in Fuchs' dig was probably utilized by an advanced civilization with economic stability, a necessary condition to construct such a ceremonial site.
The find "shows the world that in America too, human beings of the New World had the same capacity to create civilization as those in the Old World," Shady said.==