Fire Destroys Years of Research at 4,500-year-old Ventarron Site

The oldest mural in the Americas, depicting a deer caught in a net, before the fire at the Ventarron archaeological site in northern Peru. Source: Andina

The Ministry of Culture has requested a criminal investigation into the causes of a fire that has heavily damaged the pre-Inca site of Ventarron, outside the city of Chiclayo on the north coast in Lambayeque.

Conservation specialists from the Culture ministry have arrived at the site to assess the damage.  According to archaeologist Walter Alva, who discovered the magnificent burial site of the Lord of Sipan nearby almost 30 years ago,  years of research and excavation work have been lost.

Alva’s son Ignacio, also an archaeologist and working at the site, said pots and other artifacts more than 4,500 years old have also been destroyed or damaged.

Detail of a frieze at the Ventarron site. Source: RPP

Sharp design and color along one wall in the site, prior to the fire. Source: Ministry of Culture.

Ventarron, an exceptional site, is the oldest architectural complex in northern Peru and includes the oldest mural painting discovered so far in the Americas.  The unusual mural, now blackened from the fire is painted in blacks and ochers and depicts a deer trapped in a net.

The fire could have been prevented with minimum protection measures and maintenance, according to Alva.

Pots, murals, friezes and years of research lost in the fire at Ventarron in Lambayeque. Source: RPP

“This tragedy is the product of abandonment and indifference,” Alva told the Andina state news agency, and blamed the ministry’s Naylamp Lambayeque unit for being mired in bureaucracy despite his warning them several times of the risks at the site.  He also blamed the Pomalca sugar estate, bordering on the site, of negligence.

The fire began on Sunday afternoon when workers at Pomalca set fire to sugar cane in a field alongside the Ventarron site. Alva says, however, that the flammable materials used for the roofing over the central part of the site were also unsuitable.

“I can only express my indignation and sorrow for this irreparable loss,” Alva said to La Republica daily.

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