November 12, 2007—
A massive clay temple with colorful paintings and an altar for fire worship has recently been unearthed in northern Peru
, archaeologists announced Saturday.
The temple dates back 4,000 years and is among the oldest sites discovered in the Americas, said archaeologist Walter Alva, who led the team that made the find.
The temple was built by an "advanced civilization" that predated the Inca by several centuries, Alva told the Reuters news service.
"This discovery shows an architectural and iconographic tradition different from what has been known until now," he said.
The large, vibrant wall paintings found at the site are likely the oldest murals ever found in the Western Hemisphere, he added.
Some of the paintings feature red-and-white designs, and one depicts a deer being hunted with a net.
The large temple complex was unearthed near the city of Lambayeque, about 470 miles (755 kilometers) from the modern capital of Lima.
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Photograph by Ignacio Alva/Handout/Reuters