Archaeologists Discover 5,000 Year Old Underground Temple in Lima

El Paraiso - Chillon ValleyPeruvian archaeologists have unearthed a temple on the outskirts of Lima that could be 5,000 years old, potentially making it one of the oldest temples found in the Americas, the government said.

The Ministry of Culture said in a statement that the temple was found in the El Paraiso archaeological complex, located in Lima’s San Martin de Porres district.

Deputy minister of cultural heritage, Rafael Varon, said the temple has characteristics that have never before been seen in Lima. Its characteristics more closely resemble ruins on Peru’s north central coast and Andean regions, Varon said.

The temple is underground, next to the ground-level stone building known as Unit 1, considered the central building of the 60-hectare complex and which has been extensively investigated in the past, as reported by James Vreeland in The Lima Times in 1975.   A clay pit in the underground temple was used for making burnt offerings, judging from the remains found.  The archaeologists, led by Marco Guillen, have named the section the Temple of Fire.

“This finding opens a new path for the El Paraiso archaeological complex,” Varon said.

The rectangular temple measures 6.8 meters long and 8.0 meters wide, the Culture Ministry said. It was made of stone and decorated with red paint, the ministry said in a statement.

Archaeologists say the temple shows that the religions and trade connections between societies living in the Late Preceramic Period (3500 BCE and 1800 BCE) were much more extensive than previously thought.

“This discovery at the El Paraiso archaeological complex is particularly important because it is the first of this kind of structure that is found on the central coast, which corroborates that Lima was one of the focal points of civilization of the Andean territory, demonstrating its religious, economic and political importance,” Varon said.

Archaeologists will confirm the age of the temple with radiocarbon testing.

El Paraiso is the oldest and largest archaeological site in Lima. It includes 10 buildings that are spread out of 50 hectares. It was first excavated in 1965 by archaeologist Frederic Engel.

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