Peruvian archaeologists have uncovered a temple in Lima which could be older than Stonehenge and the Step Pyramid in Egypt.
The temple was found in the north of the capital and may well date back to 3,000 BC, making it one of the oldest in the Americas, according to Deputy Culture Minister Rafael Varon. It was discovered inside the El Paraiso archaeological complex.
The rectangular stone building covers an area of 517 square feet and is thought to have been created in a similar period to Caral, a 5,000-year-old temple discovered in the city 12 years ago.
"This was the pre-Ceramic Period, when civilisations lived off fishing and basic agriculture," said Jose Hudtwalcker, an archaeologist at the Riva y Aguero Institute in Lima.
"Carbon dating will make it definitive, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was at least as old as Caral."
Archaeologists found a fireplace in the centre of the building, dubbed the Temple of Fire, which may have been the scene of sacrificial offerings of shellfish and agricultural produce, according to Marco Guillen, who led the team which made the discovery.
The Culture Ministry plans to turn the temple into a tourist attraction. The government will supply extra security to deter thieves and illegal urban settlements, said Guillen.
Peru, home of the Inca Trail, was previously ruled by civilisations such as Chavin, Wari-Tiahuanaco and Mochica, which succeeded the people who built El Paraiso and Caral.
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