Hidden among the rubble for more than three millennia, a small engraved bone was discovered in Lima that provides a glimpse of powerful Chavin, the first great civilization of ancient Peru, whose dominion covered what is present-day Peru more than 2,000 years before the Incas.
The bone, an animal rib engraved with the image of a bird of prey, was found in excavations that the Culture Ministry, in conjunction with the Andres del Castillo Museum, is carrying out at the El Paraiso complex, a formation of the most ancient temples in the Peruvian capital, dating back some 3,700 years.
The artefact measures a scant 15 centimeters (6 inches) long and constitutes the most ancient evidence of the presence of the Chavin civilization on the territory of today’s chaotic and bustling Lima at least 300 years before it was thought to exist, archaeologist Oscar Araujo, who discovered the bone, told EFE.
“There’s no doubt it’s Chavin,” curator Santiago Morales added, upon observing the shape and style of the engraving, very similar to one excavated in Chavin de Huantar, whose temples set deep in the northern Andes were at the center of this culture that extended over a radius of hundreds of kilometers (miles).
At more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the center of the Chavin civilization, time and neglect broke the relic in two, though it is still possible to distinguish the eye, feathers, talons and beak with which the bird has seized its prey, engraved in exceptionally fine detail.
Archaeologists still debate whether the prey is a fish or a sloth, because if it is the latter, this could be a harpy eagle and would reaffirm its Chavin origin, a civilization in constant contact with the Amazon region. The bird of prey was also a very distinctive element of Chavin iconography, as were the puma, the anaconda and the crocodile, Morales said.
For that reason the inhabitants of El Paraiso, whose temples stand on the arid desert banks of the Chillon River, very near to where it flows into the Pacific Ocean, were familiar with the birds and beasts of the jungle on the other side of the Andes, since in various excavated graves even the remains of macaws have been found.
Unfortunately, the excavations with state funding will end in January 2019 and cannot be extended except by private initiative, which will probably leave underground more revelations that the ancient temples of El Paraiso might still have hidden about ancient Peru and its pre-Columbian civilizations.