The oldest astronomical observatory in the Western Hemisphere has been discovered on a hillside a few miles north of Lima, Peru, archaeologists recently reported. Researchers also found ornate carvings more sophisticated than any before seen in the region.
The site dates back 4,200 years—800 years before such artistic and scientific skill was previously known to have existed in the Americas.
The find was part of an ancient temple built by an unnamed civilization from Peru’s "pre-ceramic" period, which predated the better-known Inca culture by thousands of years.
Temple structures, including a giant carving of what looks like a frowning face, align with the directions of sunrise and sunset at critical points in the agricultural calendar, including December 21, the start of the Southern Hemisphere’s growing season, and June 21, the end of harvest.
This proves that the ancient civilization was already highly dependent on agriculture, said Robert Benfer, anthropologist at the University of Missouri, Columbia, who was one of the lead researchers of the find.