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Left:A circular plaza unearthed at the ruins of Sechin Bajo, 230 miles north of Lima, may have been a site for gatherings and ceremonies, archaeologists say. El Comercio.
 

Plaza in Peru may be the America's oldest urban site
The circular structure at the ruins of Sechin Bajo is about 5,500 years old, archaeologists report.
February 26, 2008. Source: Los Angeles Times by Patrick J. McDonnell.


LIMA, PERU -- An ancient stone plaza unearthed in Peru dates back more than five millenniums and is the oldest known urban settlement in the Americas, according to experts here.

Archaeologists say the site, uncovered amid a complex of ruins known as Sechin Bajo, is a major discovery that could help reshape their understanding of the continent's pre-Columbian history.

Carbon dating by a German and Peruvian excavation team indicates that the circular plaza is at least 5,500 years old, dating to about 3,500 BC, said Cesar Perez, an archaeologist at Peru's National Institute of Culture who supervised the dig.

That would make it older than the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Sechin Bajo, 230 miles north of the capital, Lima, thus eclipses the ancient Peruvian citadel of Caral, some 5,000 years old, as the New World's oldest known settlement.

"This has tremendous importance, both in Peru and internationally," Perez said by cellphone from the area. "We think it's the oldest urban site found in the Americas."

Word of the discovery was first published Sunday in the Peruvian daily El Comercio.

"The findings in Sechin Bajo, especially in the buried circular plaza, have demonstrated that there is construction from 5,500 years ago," Peter R. Fuchs, a German archaeologist who worked at the site, told the newspaper. "Whoever built Sechin Bajo had a good knowledge of architecture and construction."

Much of the hidden plaza was uncovered this year, and a great deal of excavation remains to be done, Perez said. Relatively little is known about the people who lived there.

The plaza, 33 to 39 feet across, may have been a site for gatherings, perhaps a kind of ceremonial center. It was built of rocks and adobe bricks.

Successive cultures lived in the area and built over the site.

Earlier finds in the Sechin Bajo area, in the Casma Valley of Peru's Ancash region, had been dated at more than 3,000 years old. But the circular plaza pushes the area's settlement date back considerably.

Peru is perhaps best known to outsiders as the cradle of the Inca empire, which stretched from modern-day Chile to Ecuador. But the Incas were relative latecomers in Peru's long history of human settlement, rising to prominence in the 15th century before being conquered by the Spanish in the early 16th century.

Before the Inca, Peru was home to various civilizations that left a rich legacy of ruins, pottery, tombs and artifacts. Teams of archaeologists are at work throughout the country, including the bustling capital.

Scientists say settlements were beginning to grow in Peru about the time of urbanization in such cradles of civilization as Mesopotamia, Egypt and India.

Headlines

Oldest Urban Site in the Americas Found, Experts Claim
National Geographic, DC - Feb 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. ...

Ancient Ceremonial Plaza Found in Peru
The Associated Press - Feb 26, 2008
LIMA, Peru (AP) A team of German and Peruvian archaeologists say they have discovered the oldest known monument in Peru: a 5500-year-old ceremonial plaza ...

Plaza in Peru may be the America's oldest urban site
Los Angeles Times, CA - Feb 26, 2008
A circular plaza unearthed at the ruins of Sechin Bajo, 230 miles north of Lima, may have been a site for gatherings and ceremonies, archaeologists say. ...

Scientists discover ancient Peru ruins
The Age, Australia - Feb 25, 2008
A team of archaeologists have discovered the ruins of the oldest known structures in Peru, erected 5500 years ago, the Lima newspaper El Comercio reported. ...

Peru's oldest known monument found
PRESS TV, Iran - 7 hours ago
The fourth phase of archeological excavations in Peru's Sechin Bajo complex has led to discovery of the country's oldest known monument. ...

Ancient Ceremonial Plaza Uncovered in Peru
RedOrbit, TX - 8 hours ago
German and Peruvian archaeologists claim they have uncovered the oldest known monument in Peru, adding further proof of an advanced civilization in Peru at ...

Ruins of 5500-year-old plaza found in Peru
RIA Novosti, Russia - Feb 26, 2008
MOSCOW, February 26 (RIA Novosti) - A group of archaeologists have discovered the ruins of an ancient ceremonial plaza in Peru, built 5500 years ago, ...

Major archaeological discovery in Peru
The Tech Herald, IN - Feb 25, 2008
by Rich Bowden - Feb 26 2008, 06:23 A team of Peruvian and German archaeologists have discovered an ancient ceremonial plaza at Sechin Bajo, in Casma, ...

Archeologists find 5500-year-old plaza in Peru
Reuters - Feb 26, 2008
By Marco Aquino LIMA (Reuters) - A ceremonial plaza built 5500 years ago has been discovered in Peru, and archeologists involved in the dig said on Monday ...

Could be One of Oldest Places Built in Americas
ABC News - Feb 25, 2008
A view of the ruins of Sechin Bajo, that was built 5500 years ago, after it was discovered in Casma in this February 2008 file photo. ...
 


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