Peruvian property developers bulldozed a pyramid on one of the oldest archaeological sites in the Americas, parts of which date from about 3,000 B.C.
After knocking down the six-meter-high (20 foot) building, which covered 2,500 square meters (3,000 square yards), the group scattered refuse over the rubble and set it ablaze, the Culture Ministry said in an e-mailed statement. They were caught by police attempting to tear down some of the 11 other pyramids on the site.
“The damage caused is irreparable,” the ministry said. Those responsible face as many as eight years in prison, it said.
The destruction comes five months after archaeologists found a temple on the archaeological site, known as El Paraiso, which may be as old as Caral, a 5,000-year-old temple north of Lima discovered in 2001. At 3,000 B.C., the complex would predate the Step Pyramid in Egypt and Stonehenge in England.
Marco Guillen, who headed the team of archaeologists that made February’s discovery, said at the time that additional security was needed to prevent theft and illegal urban settlements.
Peru, best-known for the Inca Empire that lasted for a century until the Spanish Conquest of 1532, was previously dominated by civilizations such as Chavin, Wari-Tiahuanaco and Mochica. Those civilizations came after the people who built El Paraiso and Caral.