|25 November 1998
Early Metal Use Found in Peru
Ancient residents of the Andes Mountains produced delicate gold and copper foils, 1,000 years earlier than archaeologists had previously thought they learned to work metal. Burger and Yale geologist Robert B. Gordon unearthed delicate copper and gold foils near an ancient temple made at Mina Perdida, a site in the Lurin Valley along Peru's central coast thought to be occupied for about 800 years during the second millennium B.C, in the journal Science.
A 71-feet high flat-topped pyramid dominates the site, which lies on a natural terrace above the valley's floodplain. The researchers discovered over a dozen delicate foils (each smaller than a postage stamp) at a platform near the pyramid's base, on its flat summit, and on earthen terraces behind the pyramid. Elaborate carvings of supernatural beings on the walls of buildings at the six centers, as well as the presence of ceremonial paraphernalia, indicate the centers were used for religious rituals as well as other civic purposes, the researchers said.
Based on the dating of carbon atoms attached to the foils, they appear to have been created between 1410 and 1090 BCE, roughly the period when Moses led the Jews from Egypt and the era of such pharaohs as Amenhotep III, Tutankhamen and Ramses. The earliest previous evidence of metalworking in the Andes was by the Chavin and Cupisnique cultures between 600 and 200 BCE The gold was worked cold, pounded with stone hammers to a tenth of a millimeter or less: thinner than a piece of a paper.
The finding shows that early Americans were using metals hundreds of years before we thought they were, says archaeologist Jeffrey Quilter at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. We continually underestimate the abilities of our ancestors, they were much more clever than we give them credit for, he says. Quilter suspects the flashy foils might have been used to adorn people or ritual objects during ceremonies.
Sources: Associated Press / ABCE News
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