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Historic mural found in Peru after greater than a century

A team of archeology students has rediscovered a 1,000-year-old mural depicting a deity surrounded by warriors that was last seen a century ago.

The mural, known as the Huaca Pintada, consists of fantastic depictions of scenes from mythology. The 30-meter-long painted wall was first found by a group of grave robbers in 1916 in the north of the country, in Ilim near the town of Ćiklay.

The beauty of the mural is immortalized in photographs taken at the time by Hans Heinrich Brining, a German ethnographer whose work spurred the archaeological study of pre-Columbian ruins and relics in the region.

However, grave robbers destroyed part of the wall after being prevented from making money from their discovery and the location is once again a mystery.

More than a century passed until a Swiss-Peruvian team led by Sam Gavamy of the University of Freiburg decided to tackle the mystery and rediscover the lost mural hidden by carob trees and bushes.

“We felt a great relief when we got permission to access the relief site,” said 33-year-old archaeologist Ghawami in a telephone conversation with Guardian reporters.

Pandemic slowed excavation

One of the biggest problems, says Gavami, was access to the site, which is on private land.

“It took two years to convince the family, who were fiercely protective, to allow them to dig,” says Ghavami.

A Swiss archaeologist and about 18 Peruvian students began excavations in 2019, thanks to a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation.

After a break in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, work resumed in 2021, and the excavation was completed in November of this year.

“The first time we saw the huge wall, we were just removing the sand. We could see that the walls were buried. “In the last two months of excavation, the team rediscovered murals that were lost at the time of Bruning, as well as new sections extending some 11 to 12 meters that the looters had not discovered,” explains Ghavami.

According to him, it was an extensive job because no one could see the monumentality of the mural when it was covered with soil, trees and other vegetation.

When it was revealed, the archaeologist adds, people began to look at the wall in a new way.

Painted walls illuminated by the sun after more than 100 years

Archaeologists believe that the mural dates from the period of the Sikan culture, that is, from the ninth century AD.

He was buried in a pyramidal mound in the La Leche Valley near another place called Tukume, in the region of Lambayeca.

“It is the most exciting and important discovery in recent years.” The long-lost murals of Huaca Pintada have been found after more than 100 years,” said Luis Jaime Castillo, professor of archeology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.

The Mochica civilization flourished in areas of northern Peru between 100 and 700 AD.

“A mix of Mochica and Lambayeca iconography adorns the wall. The depictions bear witness to social transition, and perhaps to changes in cosmology. They provide us with a unique opportunity to reflect on the ancient societies of the region, their deities and myths,” said Castillo.

For now, the archaeological site is covered to protect it from damage, but Gawami, who is writing a doctoral dissertation on the sociocultural changes that took place in Lambayek at the time the mural was created, would like to see the mural restored to its former glory and open to the public. .

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