Ancient Murals at the Fire Temple (ca. 2000 BC)

By: The Scribe on Monday, November 12, 2007



This 4,000-year-old fire temple from Peru was built by an advanced, pre-Incan society which deliberately buried it after the temple had served its use.

It was around 4,000 years ago that an advanced civilization lived in the northern coastal desert of Peru, pre-dating the Inca and building massive, complex structures to their deities. Who were the people of this advanced civilization? Currently, the question of who they were remains unanswered – however, they left behind a large, colorful temple for future historians to admire.

The temple is massive, and was constructed in an unusual way for the people of ancient Peru – whoever built the temple created their own mud bricks to use for building the structure, instead of using carved stones or rocks as most Peruvian civilizations did. The ability to create mud bricks from local sediment is considered an advanced function of society – so whoever constructed this temple knew exactly what they were doing.

What the temple was used for isn’t too difficult to surmise – on the front of the building there was a staircase leading up to an altar. The kind of altar here, and the location of the altar on the building, point directly to its use for making offerings to deities and engaging in fire worship.

The fire temple had several of its walls painted as well, which makes these murals possibly the oldest wall paintings known in the Western Hemisphere. One of the red and white murals shows a deer being hunted and trapped in a net, which makes this fire temple a place of very different iconographic and architectural tradition than what was previously known to be the case in the area.

The murals found on the fire temple’s walls are the oldest known wall paintings in the entire Western Hemisphere! The iconography is extremely different from any other known cultures in Peru.

With a size of approximately 2,500 square meters – nearly half the size of a football field – the Peruvian fire temple is close to the modern city of Lima, about 755 kilometers away. Adding to the curiosity factor of the building is a skeleton of a monkey and a piece of turquoise, as well as the way which the dirt was burying the building – it appeared as though once the people finished using this building, they deliberately buried it! The monkey skeleton and turquoise, found near ritual areas of the temple, were probably ceremonial offerings to commemorate the building.

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