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Surprising Finds Beneath a Peruvian Temple

The excavation of a ritual platform at the ancient village of Pampa la Cruz on Peru’s northern coast has offered University of Florida archaeologist Gabriel Prieto a unique glimpse of a belief system that may have roots in cultural practices that began around 1500 B.C. Dating to between A.D. 500 and 750, the platform was constructed during an era when the fishing community of Pampa la Cruz became part of the world of the Moche, who flourished in northern Peru from A.D. 200 to 800. The unprecedented discovery of marine animal burials beneath the platform suggest that the people who constructed it incorporated long-standing local beliefs into the design of this Moche religious site. All the following images from the Pampa la Cruz excavation are courtesy of Gabriel Prieto.   

  •  The burials of two whales unearthed beneath the platform at Pampa la Cruz were oriented as if they were swimming inland.
  • Archaeologists unearthed the burials of three sacrificed men beneath the Pampa la Cruz platform just a few feet from the skeleton of a shark.
  • The lower half of a mural on the Moche-era platform at Pampa la Cruz stands about three feet high and depicts three warriors striding to the left.
  • Fragments of a Moche-style pottery vessel at Pampa la Cruz depict a captive with a rope around his neck (left), and a figure carrying a war club (right).

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