A team of German and Peruvian archaeologists say they have discovered the oldest known monument in Peru: a 5,500-year-old ceremonial plaza near Peru's north-central coast. <b1>
Carbon dating of material from the site revealed it was built between 3500 BC and 3000 BC, Peter Fuchs, a German archaeologist who headed the excavation team, told The Associated Press by telephone on 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 kilometres northwest of Lima, where Fuchs and fellow German archaeologist Renate Patzschke have been working since 1992.
It predates similar monuments and plazas found in Caral, which nonetheless remains the oldest known city in the Americas dating back to 2627 BC.
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.