Hundreds of footprints and the fossilised remains of various prehistoric animals, probably dinosaurs that lived 120 million years ago, have been discovered in the Ancash region of central Peru.
The find came when the Antamina mining company, which is owned by BHP Billiton and Xstrata, among other partners, was building a road from its camp at Yanacancha to the Conococha crossroads, in Huari province, some 400 km northeast of Lima.
The company confirmed that a preliminary examination of the site, which is 4,600 metres above sea level, revealed more than 100 footprints made by at least 12 different types of ancient animals, including marine species, demonstrating that in the distant past the site lay at the bottom of an ancient ocean.
According to calculations by the paleontologists in charge of these finds, the site could date back to the Early Cretaceous Period about 120 million years ago.
Some of the fossils discovered there, the daily El Comercio reported, are from large marine reptiles known as sauropterygians, complete skeletons of which were found.
Other fish-like reptiles called ichthyosaurs were also found there, along with extinct species of crocodiles, flying reptiles called pterosaurs, tortoises and fish, not to mention very well-preserved specimens of assorted invertebrates.
The paleontological work in the area dates back to 2006, when construction on the road began and exposed potentially fossil-bearing layers of sediment, according to an analysis conducted by the Ornithology and Biodiversity Centre, known as Corbi.
The excavations performed to date at the site, which is called Cruz Punta, at Kilometer 80 of the highway, revealed a rocky wall-like formation several dozen metres in length on which there were clear indications of fossilised animal tracks, according to the Corbi study.