Photograph by Caral Archaeological Zone, Ministry of Culture, Peru
Photograph by Caral Archaeological Zone, Ministry of Culture, Peru

3,800-Year-Old Ritual Offerings Uncovered in Peru

Archaeologists believe three painted figurines were deposited before the construction of a building during a time of devastating drought.

This story ran in the April 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine.

A trio of painted, unfired-clay figurines has come to light at the coastal site of Vichama in what is now Peru. The three may represent powerful people in an offshoot of the ancient Caral culture. The largest, almost nine inches tall, may portray a priestess. A male with long, blond hair and another female could be political leaders. All were found facing each other in two nested baskets.

The figurines were likely deposited as ritual offerings before the construction of a building. Archaeologists believe the female figures attest to the power women wielded as their city struggled to survive a long drought.