Archaeologists in Peru claim they have discovered a 5,000-year old temple at the ancient site of El Paraiso, 40 km near the capital, Lima.

The archaeologists found the structure, measuring 6.82m by 8.04m (22ft by 26ft), in the right wing of the main pyramid of El Paraiso, according to Peru’s Ministry of Culture.

Archaeologists said the entry to the rectangular structure was via a narrow passageway. At the temple’s centre, a hearth was discovered, which they believe was used to burn ceremonial offerings. The temple walls were made of stone and covered in fine yellow clay which also contained some traces of red paint.

The find suggests that the communities in the Late Pre-ceramic Age (3500 BC-1800 BC) were more closely connected than had been previously thought.

Peru’s Deputy Minister for Culture Rafael Varon stressed that the temple, the first structure of its kind to be found on Peru’s central coast, “corroborates that the region around Lima was a focus for the civilisations of the Andean territory, further bolstering its religious, economic and political importance since times immemorial.” 

It should be mentioned, that with 10 ruins, El Paraiso is one of the biggest archaeological sites in central Peru.

The temple of fire

Archaeologist Marco Guillen, who led the team which made the discovery, said the hearth gave insight into the civilisation which had used the site. “The main characteristic of their religion was the use of fire, which burnt in the centre,” he told the BBC’s Mattia Cabitza in Lima. “The smoke allowed the priests to connect with their gods,” Mr Guillen added.

Archaeologists believe El Paraiso was one of the first human settlements of the Andes. Due to its proximity to the sea and the valleys, it supported farming and fishing community numbering hundreds of people.