for National Geographic News
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 (see map).
Officials from Peru's National Institute of Culture (INC) were dispatched to inspect the discovery.
Last week they announced that the complex, which is 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) long and 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) wide, belonged to the ancient Vicús culture and was likely either a religious center or a cemetery for nobility.
The Vicús was a pre-Hispanic civilization that flourished in Peru's northern coastal desert from 200 B.C to 300 A.D. and is known for its decorated ceramics.
Experts say little is known about the culture, because its sites have been heavily looted over the years.
"We found several partial pyramids, at least ten," said César Santos Sánchez, chief archaeologist for INC's Piura division.
"We also found a large adobe platform that we speculate could have been used for burial rituals. But we cannot know without further testing."
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.
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