Oldest Urban Site in the Americas Found, Experts Claim

February 26, 2008

A circular plaza found under an existing archaeological site in Peru could be the oldest known human-made complex in the New World, experts report.

Initial analysis dates the ceremonial structure to around 3500 B.C.—500 years older than the current record holder, an ancient city named Caral, also in Peru.

Although the age has yet to be confirmed, reports of the newfound plaza surfaced in Peruvian media on Sunday.

Peter R. Fuchs, a German archaeologist who worked at the site, told the Peruvian newspaper El Commercial that the excavation contained "construction from 5,500 years ago."

Cesar Perez, an official with Peru's National Institute of Culture, spoke to National Geographic News by telephone from the site.

"This find is extremely important," he said. "German and Peruvian archaeologists have definitively established that the structure is 5,500 years old. Thus we have one of the oldest structures in Peru and perhaps the Americas."

(Related news: "Pre-Inca Observatory Is Oldest in Americas, Study Says" [March 1, 2007].)

Built and Rebuilt

According to local media reports, the 46-foot-diameter (14-meter-diameter) plaza was discovered beneath Sechin Bajo, an archaeological site about 230 miles (370 kilometers) north of the capital city of Lima.

"We've found other pieces of architecture underneath the plaza that could be even older," German Yenque, an archaeologist at the dig site, told the Reuters news service.

"There are four or five plazas deeper down, which means the structure was rebuilt several times, perhaps every 100 to 300 years."

In addition to the sunken plaza, the archaeologists uncovered a six-foot-tall (two-meter-tall) adobe frieze containing the image of a man. Researchers say the frieze is 3,600 years old.

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