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1 May 2006
4,000-year-old temple found in Peru

The Temple of the Fox lay covered by dirt and sand for 4,000 years in the barren hills of Buena Vista, Peru, before it was unearthed in June 2004 by Robert Benfer, professor emeritus of anthropology at Missouri University. In the 33-foot high Andean temple, Benferís team found the earliest known astronomical alignment and sculptures in the New World. "We did not expect to find architecture like this," he said. "No one did."
     For Benfer, ancient Andean forecasters used the astronomical alignments to predict weather such as droughts and floods. However, these astronomical alignments no longer point to significant constellations and will not do so again for approximately another 22,000 years, Benfer said. He said these minor positioning differences prove that the astronomical alignments are not simply coincidental. "That was the only time you would have alignment with the constellations and the solstice," Benfer said, "The only time it would be of any use." He added other excavated temples in the region contained the exact same angle alignments, which further supports his theory.
     He said ancient Andean people held the fox with the utmost respect because they believed foxes walked in areas suitable for building canals. "They are not wildly attractive, but they will be very interesting because they are so old," Benfer said of the mural findings. Benfer said the temple was well-preserved because rainfall on the western side of Peru occurs only about once a century.
He said the temple was almost disrupted by looters, who came within inches of uncovering and likely ruining some of the structures. Because ancient Andeans built offering chambers on top of each other, the original chambers remained hidden from looters and the elements. In the chamber were offerings of ancient cotton and twigs. Benfer used radiocarbon dating technology on two of the twigs and dated both of them to be from 2200 BCE a rare match.
     The site is currently covered with protective coverings shielding it from looters looking for gold or other treasure, Benfer said. However, gold isnít likely to be found since ancient Andeans had yet to use gold in 2200 BCE, he said.

Source: Columbia Missourian (25 April 2005)

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