Fire destroys ancient Peruvian mural

Story highlights Archaeological site engulfed on flames is a large number of years old

Fire reportedly started by nearby sugar cane farmers who have were burning fields

(CNN) A fire destroyed much of an archaeological site in northern Peru including a mural thought to be the oldest uncovered in the Americas, site officials said.

The fire broke out Sunday and was reportedly cause by farmers burning sugar cane fields near to the ancient site.

The VentarrĂ³n archaeological complex was uncovered in 2007 and housed a 4,500-year-old temple with a number of preserved pottery and art. The mural was carbon dated to 2000 BC — a large number of years before the Inca civilization.

The site is found in the Lambayeque region, about 475 miles north of Lima.

“We have misplaced the cradle of our lifestyle,” stated Ignacio Alva Meneses, director of the VentarrĂ³n Archaeological Project. “Five thousand years of record, the original temple, the foundation of the Northern Peru civilization, mural artwork and the oldest & most sophisticated symbolic meanings destroyed in a couple of hours.”

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