A team of Peruvian and German archaeologists have discovered an ancient ceremonial plaza at Sechin Bajo, in Casma, 370 kilometres north of the capital Lima. The find, estimated by carbon dating to be around 5,500 years old, is one of the oldest discoveries in the Americas.
Ruth Shady, a highly-respected Peruvian archaeologist who led the team that discovered the ancient city of Caral in 2001, told Associated Press the find in Casma proved there was civilisation in Peru at the same time as it was developing in the Middle East and South Asia and was therefore an important discovery.
"It's an impressive find; the scientific and archaeology communities are very happy," added Dr Cesar Perez from Peru's National Institute of Culture who led the project. "This could redesign the history of the country."
The site consists of an area around 14 metres across and scientists say it was built by the Incas who ruled Peru prior to the invasion of the Spanish.
Some friezes were discovered nearby showing a warrior wielding a knife and experts say that older structures may be found underneath the site as they speculate the plaza was rebuilt over time.
"We've found other pieces of architecture underneath the plaza that could be even older," archaeologist Dr German Yenque said. "There are four or five plazas deeper down, which means the structure was rebuilt several times, perhaps every 100 to 300 years."
Dr Yenque said the archaeologists plan to rebury the site to prevent the perennial problem of people stealing artefacts and will return when the team had sufficient funds to dig for evidence of earlier constructions.