Archaeologists find ancient jaguar monolith in northern Peru


A joint Peruvian and Japanese team of archaeologists excavating at the Pacopampa archaeological site in Cajamarca have found a 250 kilogram carved stone monolith.

The monolith, which features the striking image of a half-man, half-jaguar, was discovered buried in the Pacopampa archaeological complex. El Comercio reports that the carving is in excellent condition, and archaeologists involved in the project are currently investigating options for its continued preservation.

Japanese archaeologist Yuji Seki, the director of the dig, told El Comercio that the monolith was probably a way for the government of the region to communicate their divine power and ideology to the people they ruled. Seki suggested that the anthropomorphic feline design carved on the monolith is meant to represent the power of a priest or priestess whose mystical abilities included being able to communicate with animals.

El Comercio reports that though the monolith is unique, it shares important characteristics with other famous finds. Both the Raimondi Stela and the Tello Obelisk from the temple at Chavín de Huantar feature a similar anthropomorphic figure.

According to El Comercio, the monolith originally stood at the entrance to the temple. However, when the Cajamarca culture replaced the original inhabitants of Pacopampa, they buried the monolith. Seki points out that this would have been a sign of fear and respect towards the artifact.

In 2009, Seki was also part of the team that discovered the tomb of the Lady of Pacopampa. Archaeologists hypothesize that powerful priestesses may have ruled the area at one point.

Until they are able to properly transport and preserve the carving, the team at Pacopampa is planning to re-bury the monolith in order to protect it. Further study will reveal more about its purpose.