Archaeologists excavating in Peru have discovered 20 pre-Columbian statues made of wood. The statues are 800 years old and were found in the largest pre-Columbian site in the Americas, the Chan Chan archaeological site.

The statues were all well preserved except one and the site they were found in was once the capital of the Chimu Kingdom, before the Inca Empire. Chan Chan, which means resplendent sun had 30,000 inhabitants and was located near the modern city of Trujillo. It once included 10 citadels in the city centre alone, stretching over six km2. The entire city covered an area of 20km2.

The statues are 70cm high and are black with beige clay masks; they have a circular object on their backs, possibly a shield, and they are the oldest ones found in Chan Chan. They were placed in niches in the wall of a ceremonial corridor in a line. The corridor was decorated with high mud reliefs and the building is a thousand years old. It was discovered in June at the Great Chimu palace and the statues were discovered in September.

Although only a small part of the original complex is preserved (14km2) it is facing threats due to climate conditions and looting. Thousands of tourists it from all over the world visit it every year. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.