Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

Rare Animal-Shaped Mounds Discovered in Peru by MU Anthropologist

March 30, 2012
COLUMBIA, Mo. - For more than a century and a half, scientists and tourists have visited massive animal-shaped mounds, such as Serpent Mound in Ohio, created by the indigenous people of North America. But few animal effigy mounds had been found in South America until University of Missouri anthropology professor emeritus Robert Benfer identified numerous earthen animals rising above the coastal plains of Peru, a region already renowned for the Nazca lines, the ruined city of Chan Chan, and other cultural treasures.

"The mounds will draw tourists, one day," Benfer said. "Some of them are more than 4,000 years old. Compare that to the effigy mounds of North America, which date to between 400 and 1200 AD. The oldest Peruvian mounds were being built at the same time as the pyramids in Egypt."

Benfer identified the mounds, which range from five meters (16.5 feet) to 400 meters (1,312 feet) long in each of the six valleys he surveyed in coastal Peru. The mounds pre-date ceramics and were probably built using woven baskets to carry and pile up rock and soil.

Like the Nazca lines, which include a series of giant animal outlines drawn on the ground to the south, the animal mounds were best observed from a higher vantage point. Google Earth images of the mounds revealed the shapes of birds, including a giant condor, a 5,000 year-old orca, a duck, and a caiman/puma monster seen in bone and rock carvings from the area.

"The finding of animal effigy mounds where there were none before changes our conception of early Peruvian prehistory," Benfer said. "That they probably represent the Andean zodiac is also a new find. A controversial interpretation of some Nazca figures as representations of the zodiac is supported by these mounds."

Benfer suggested the structures may have been built as terrestrial manifestations of constellations the ancient Peruvians saw in the stars above. The mounds not only represented the stars, they aligned with them. So far, Benfer has found astronomical orientations at every giant mound.

For example, at the Chillón Valley site, an earthen condor's charcoal eye lined up with the Milky Way when viewed from a nearby temple. The monstrous caiman/puma mound aligned with the June summer solstice when viewed from the same temple.

According to Benfer, astronomer priests may have made directed construction of the mounds and then made observations of the sky and offerings to the Earth from atop the earthen creatures. For the ancients, having a celestial calendar allowed farmers and fisherman to prepare for the year ahead.

"For example, knowing that December 21 had passed was very important. If there was no sign of an El Niño by then, fishers would know they would have another good year, and farmers would face neither drought nor floods," Benfer said.

Previously, the only other effigy mounds known from South America were a few sites in the Andes, but Benfer's discoveries may be just the beginning.

"In each field season, I have found more giant mounds and more fields of smaller ones. I will go back in June and July confident of identifying more on the ground," Benfer said.

Although they appear to be plentiful, researchers overlooked the animal effigies since the first days of scientific archeology in Peru.

"I had always noted that a very large structure just north of Lima resembled a bird. But since there were supposedly no giant animal effigy mounds in South America, I thought it couldn't be one," Benfer said.

Then, two years ago, while studying satellite views of archeological sites, Benfer noticed what looked like teeth on one of the mounds north of Lima. The jagged teeth-like structures had been misidentified as irrigation canals. But after a ground survey of the area, he realized he was standing atop the caiman/puma monster of Chillón Valley. He soon found the nearby condor mound and went on to identify numerous other earthen animal effigies.

The results of Benfer's work were published in the journal Antiquity. The Curtiss and Mary G. Brennan Foundation supported his work as did the research board of the University of Missouri. The Museum of Anthropology and Pre-Columbian Agriculture of the National Agricultural University of Peru provided laboratory and technical support. The field team of Bernardino Ojeda, Omar Ventocilla, Andrés Ocas, and Lucio Laura produced maps and valuable observations.

Although retired, Benfer continues field research in Peru and Mexico. His work today focuses on the intersection of astronomy and archeology, particularly alignments between celestial events and religious structures. He has been invited to submit a major review of his work and will do so this spring.

University of Missouri



More Animal Effigy Mounds Current Events and Animal Effigy Mounds News Articles

Emblematic Mounds and Animal Effigies

Emblematic Mounds and Animal Effigies
by Stephen Denison Peet (Author)


This book was originally published prior to 1923, and represents a reproduction of an important historical work, maintaining the same format as the original work. While some publishers have opted to apply OCR (optical character recognition) technology to the process, we believe this leads to sub-optimal results (frequent typographical errors, strange characters and confusing formatting) and does not adequately preserve the historical character of the original artifact. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as blurred or ...

Water Panthers, Bears, and Thunderbirds: Exploring Wisconsin's Effigy Mounds (New Badger History)

Water Panthers, Bears, and Thunderbirds: Exploring Wisconsin's Effigy Mounds (New Badger History)
by Bobbie Malone (Author), Amy Rosebrough (Author)


Based on recent archaeological interpretation, this standards-based resource enriches material covered in Native People of Wisconsin. Water Panthers, Bears, and Thunderbirds introduces young readers to effigy mound sites in five southern Wisconsin counties. Suggested activities encourage students to graph, compare, contrast, and analyze the ways these mound groups vary from county to county.

Gardner's Art Through the Ages: A Concise Global History (with Arts CourseMate Printed Access Card)

Gardner's Art Through the Ages: A Concise Global History (with Arts CourseMate Printed Access Card)
by Fred S. Kleiner (Author)


GARDNER'S ART THROUGH THE AGES: A CONCISE GLOBAL HISTORY provides you with a comprehensive, beautifully illustrated tour of the world's great artistic traditions! Easy to read and understand, the latest edition of this best-selling art history book continues to evolve, providing a rich cultural backdrop for each of the covered periods and geographical locations, and incorporating new artists and art forms--all reproduced according to the highest standards of clarity and color fidelity. A complete online environment, including all images and an eBook, is also available. The unique Scale feature will help you better visualize the actual size of the artworks shown in the book. A new timeline within each chapter, along with "The Big Picture" overviews at the end of every chapter, makes it...

Gardner's Art through the Ages: A Global History

Gardner's Art through the Ages: A Global History
by Fred S. Kleiner (Author)


As fascinating as a real visit to the world's famous museums and architectural sites, GARDNER'S ART THROUGH THE AGES: A GLOBAL HISTORY gives you a comprehensive, beautifully illustrated tour of the world's great artistic traditions--plus all the study tools you need to excel in your art history course! Easy to read and understand, this 13th Edition of the most widely read history of art book in the English language is the only textbook that includes a unique "scale" feature (accompanying the book's photographs of paintings and other artworks) that will help you better visualize the actual size of the artworks shown in the book. You'll also find materials that will help you master the key topics quickly and help you study for your exams--for example, "The Big Picture" overviews at the end...

Emblematic Mounds and Animal Effigies - Primary Source Edition

Emblematic Mounds and Animal Effigies - Primary Source Edition
by Stephen Denison Peet (Author)


This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.

Path of Souls: The Native American Death Journey: Cygnus, Orion, the Milky Way, Giant Skeletons in Mounds, & the Smithsonian

Path of Souls: The Native American Death Journey: Cygnus, Orion, the Milky Way, Giant Skeletons in Mounds, & the Smithsonian
by Gregory Little (Author), Andrew Collins (Introduction), Andrew Collins (Introduction)


America’s ancient Mound Builders left behind thousands of pyramid-shaped and conical burial mounds, complex geometric earthworks, effigy mounds, and incredible artifacts depicting mysterious symbols. When the first European explorers began reporting their discovery of these enigmatic structures (over 400 years ago) no one knew who built them. No one seemed to know the meaning of the symbols, and the ritualistic purposes of the complex geometric earthen shapes were a complete mystery. That forgotten knowledge is explained by the decimation of Native American populations by explorers and gold-seeking Spanish conquistadores. Within a generation after the Spanish entered America, Native American populations decreased by over 90 percent from disease and war. It is now known that many ancient...

The Pendulum Kit

The Pendulum Kit
by Sig Lonegren (Author)


The pendulum is a tool that bridges the gap between the logical left brain and the intuitive right brain. By interpreting the movements of a swinging pendulum, you can tune into your intuition, find the answer to any question, and locate objects and energy centers in the earth.
This completely self-contained kit includes everything you need to become an expert dowser, including a pendulum with cord and a 128-page instruction book with exercises, dowsing charts, astrology charts, and maps that show you how to:
* interpret every movement of the pendulum even if it makes none
* answer questions about your health, love life, career and potential talents
* use the Sun Sign, Planet and Astrological Houses Charts for divination
* forecast the weather and temperature
*...

The Medicine Wheel Garden: Creating Sacred Space for Healing, Celebration, and Tranquillity

The Medicine Wheel Garden: Creating Sacred Space for Healing, Celebration, and Tranquillity
by E. Barrie Kavasch (Author)


The American Indian medicine wheel was an ancient way of creating sacred space and calling forth the healing energies of nature. Now, drawing on a lifetime of study with native healers, herbalist and ethnobotanist E. Barrie Kavasch offers a step-by-step guide to bringing this beautiful tradition into your own life--from vibrantly colorful outdoor circle designs to miniature dish, windowsill, or home altar adaptations. Inside you’ll find:

• Planting guides for medicine wheel gardens in every zone, from desert Southwest to northern woodlands

• A beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of 50 key healing herbs, including propagation needs, traditional and modern uses, and cautions

• Easy-to-follow herbal recipes, from teas and tonics to skin creams and soaps--plus...

Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America

Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America
by Jack Weatherford (Author)


"Well written, imagery-ridden...A tale of what was, what became, and what is today regarding the Indian relation to the European civilization that 'grafted' itself onto this ancient system.'"
MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE
Conventional American history holds that the white settlers of the New World re-created the societies they had known in England, France, and Spain. But as anthropologist Jack Weatherford, author of INDIAN GIVERS, brilliantly shows, the Europeans actually grafted their civilization onto the deep and nourishing roots of Native American customs and beliefs. Our place names, our farming and hunting techniques, our crafts, the very blood that flows in our veins--all derive from American Indians ways that we consistently fail to see.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Native American History

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Native American History
by Walter C. Fleming (Author)


This book is a comprehensive overview of the history and culture of the peoples who are now known as the First Americans. Author Walter C. Fleming covers the many different tribes that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, including compelling biographies of their greatest leaders. He examines the beliefs, customs, legends and the myriad contributions Native Americans have given to modern society, and details the often tragic history of their conquest by European invaders, their treatment-both historical and recent-under the U.S. government, and the harsh reality of life on today's reservations.

© 2014 BrightSurf.com