Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Area of Zarahemla: One of the Oldest Centers in Ancient Peru

Until recently little archaeological investigation and excavation was done in the area of Lima, specifically at this important famous ancient complex called El Paraiso, and therefore little was known about the life of Lima's ancient inhabitants. It is believed that the complex consisted of around 10 to 15 pyramidal structures. Unit I or the main temple of El Paraiso was believed to have been a ceremonial center used by the community. Unit IV was speculated to have been a feasting site associated with Unit I. Unit II and VI, today just big hills, may have been used for domestic or multi activity purposes.
One of the buildings uncovered at El Paraíso in Lima, Peru

    Architecture has been the subject of considerable focus at El Paraiso. In 1965, Engle identified seven major structures and designated them Units I-VII. This naming convention was continued by Quilter's research team when five more structures were identified in the 1983 survey of the site. Unfortunately for archaeologists, modern machinery, roads, and irrigation canals have disturbed the ground in the immediate vicinity of the features, especially in the western half of the site. Because of this, the exact nature of the relationship between Units III and IX is unknown; additionally, Quilter has speculated that Unit III, a structure identified as a rubble pile, may in fact be two structures that have collapsed on themselves. In the eastern part of the site, a brick storage yard has been constructed on the remains of Unit VI, one of the two largest structures at the site; preliminary investigation suggests that the structure once extended under the brick yard.
The newly discovered temple and complex beneath the present structures at El Paraiso. Note the size of the Egyptian pyramid footprint by comparison

    However, in December of 2012 a new investigation and excavation project led by Mark Guillen started at El Paraíso. And after just three months, they had a groundbreaking discovery finding an ancient temple located next to the main temple of El Paraíso. First excavations uncovered an underground ceremonial center comprising four levels each older than the other. The construction is believed to have been built around 3000 B.C. (it has not yet been radio-carbon dated and no exact date has been set).
    The inside discovered fire place where presumably offerings were burnt earned the ceremonial center the name "Templo el Fuego" (Fire Temple). The project is financed until 2017, so we can hope for more interesting and revealing findings.
    According to the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, the building is a stone rectangle that covers 517 square feet. It was plastered with a mud layer and decorated with red paint, and included features never before discovered in Peru. It could be defined as a temple, according to the ministry, and contained signs of fire that would have been tied to religious tradition. The area, in the right wing of the Main Pyramid at the complex, and according to Deputy minister Rafael male Gabai, open avenues for further research and preservation in the area, which was originally explored in 1965 and slated for preservation in 2012.
    According to archaeologists, the only access to the temple is a 19-inch-wide gap. Only one person can enter the temple's center room, which was a flat, rectangular area in the center of which would have been a ceremonial fire used for burnt offerings.
"This discovery in El Paraíso is particularly important because it is the first of this type of structure that is located in the central coast, which confirms that the current Lima region was one of the earliest centers of civilization in the Andean region, demonstrating its religious, economic and political (value) since time immemorial," Gabai said. This certainly verifies its existence at the time of earliest Zarahemla, and then the Nephite era as the Nation’s capital.
    "This find opens a new road for the El Paraíso Archaeological Complex, for research and comprehensive recovery of all the monument's secrets," the Minister said in a statement. The ruined temple measures 22 by 26 feet, and in the center of the temple is a sloping rectangular floor, to which one gains access via a step about 18 inches high. In the center of this sloping floor is the ceremonial hearth, a space where offerings to the gods were burned.
"This discovery at the El Paraíso Archaeological Complex has particular importance because it is the first of this type of structure found on the central coast, which corroborates the fact that the  Lima region was one of the focus of the civilizations in the Andean territory," Deputy culture minister Rafael Varon said.
    Recent excavations have confirmed a dependence upon seafood, but there was also agriculture, especially of the industrial crop cotton. Other estimates of the age of El Paraíso, which required about 100,000 tons of rock to finish, is that it was built around 2,000 B.C. and has ten buildings, making it one of the largest settlements from this early period, encompassing over 58 hectares of land (143 acres).  
    The discovery is believed to be about 5,000 years old and if the date is confirmed, it would be among the oldest sites in the world, comparable to the ancient city of Caral, a coastal city about 125 miles to the north.
Archaeologists found the hearth in mid-January as they were carrying out conservation work at a set of 4,000-year-old ruins of El Paraíso, located 25 miles north-east of Lima in the San Martin de Porres District of the Chillon River Valley. Varon told reporters the discovery shows "that the Lima region was a focus of civilizations in the Andean territory."
    Unfortunately, construction workers in August of 2013, using heavy machinery equipment, bulldozed over one of the oldest of the pyramids at El Paraiso and one of eleven at the site, leaving the ten known today. Land owners and the government have been fighting over this land since 1950 and private ownership has bought up everything in the area right up to the edges of the complex.
    What is important, as we have reported in this blog before, that the area of Zarahemla in the scriptural record includes far more of an area than just the one complex known today as Pachacamac. It is only reasonable that the area the Mulekites first settled and were still living in when Mosiah discovered them after some 400 years from the time both the Mulekites and Lehites first left Jerusalem should have warranted a great development area than generally previously thought by various theorists.
    As Mosiah and the Nephites joined and combined with the Mulekites, the city would have grown under Nephite expansion building and the entire area would have developed far beyond anything previously considered by most theorists. As the hub and center of the Nephi Nation, it would have had numerous palatial buildings to go with the temple and other public buildings—exactly what is being found now in the greater Lima area as more is learned of what was once beneath the present Peruvian capital.

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