Gramalote (Pérou): Archaeologists Find Temple Used by Ancient Shark Hunters

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Archaeologists in northern Peru have found a temple that was used by fishermen who set out to sea to hunt sharks over 3,000 years ago, according to daily El Comercio.

The temple was unearthed in Pampas Gramalote, a community near Huanchaco, a fishing and surfing hub located just north of Trujillo in La Libertad region.

Pampas gramalote

Archaeologists say they believe the first fishermen from Gramalote used the temple some 3,500 years ago to perform rituals before heading out to sea.

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Reference photo. (Photo: Andina)

The temple included private areas that were connected by hallways, as well as the remains of three children’s bodies, suggesting they were sacrificed, a practice that was common in later civilizations in the area. There was also evidence that a fire was set in the temple, that experts believe was kept burning for long periods of time, even years, by the fishermen.  Similar fire pits in temples have been found in other early civilizations, including at the 5000-year old El Paraiso site in Lima.

Prior to the discovery of the temple, archaeologists believed that the fishermen would walk long distances to a site in the middle of a nearby valley in order to provide offerings to the gods.

Archaeologist Gabriel Prieto, a Yale doctoral candidate,  believes all men in the village were fishermen, but that a few of them gradually began to perform the religious rituals.

We think that at Gramalote there were no full-time priests like there were in Huaca de la Luna centuries later, but they were in the process of changing,” he said.

Pampas Gramalote is an extraordinary site, but like many sites in northern Peru’s rich prehispanic heritage, urban growth has seriously encroached on the area.

To protect the site, Prieto and his team are working with the support of the Sustainable Preservation Initiative, incorporating the local population in the process not only of working on the site but in creating and developing a tourist center, store and ‘cultural park.’  Under Prieto’s guidance,  the center has already become economically sustainable since it opened two years ago. Activities include teaching local artisans,  young and adult, to carve gourds and create other artwork as their ancestors did .