Image: Walter Alva
AP
Archeologist Walter Alva points out a white and red mural depicting a deer hunted in a net, in Lambayeque, Peru. A team of Peruvian archeologists have excavated a 4,000-year-old temple near Peru's northern coast.
updated 11/11/2007 3:37:18 PM ET 2007-11-11T20:37:18

Carbon dating tests and excavation of a colorful pre-Incan temple indicate that it was built thousands of years ago by an advanced civilization, a prominent archaeologist said in comments published Sunday by a Peruvian newspaper.

Unearthed in Peru's archeologically rich northern coastal desert, the temple has a staircase leading to an altar that was used for worshipping fire and making offerings to deities, Walter Alva, who headed the three-month excavation, told El Comercio.

Some of the walls of the 27,000-square-foot site — almost half the size of a football field — were painted, and a white and red mural depicts a deer being hunted with a net.

Alva said the temple was apparently constructed by an "advanced civilization" because it was built with mud bricks made from sediment found in local rivers, instead of rocks.

"This discovery shows an architectural and iconographic tradition different from what has been known until now," said Alva, who discovered and is the museum director for another important pre-Incan find, the nearby Lords of Sipan Moche Tombs.

The carbon dating tests, conducted in the United States, indicate that the site is 4,000 years old, he claimed.

The oldest known city in the Americas is Caral, also near the Peruvian coast, which researchers dated to 2627 B.C.

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