After more than a century, an epically scaled pre-Hispanic mural in northern Peru has resurfaced, thanks to the work of a German archaeologist and a group of students.
Agence France-Presse reports that Sam Ghavami, an archaeologist with the University of Freiburg, helped rediscover the mural, which he estimated could be around 1,000 years old. He believes that the painting combines the styles of the Moche and the Lambayeque peoples.
The mural was reportedly once a part of the Huaca Pintada temple, and shows, in one section, what the press agency labeled “a procession of warriors” that “can be seen heading toward a birdlike deity.”
Until now, the most recent evidence of its existence was a 1916 black-and-white photograph by Hans Heinrich Brüning, a German ethnologist who had been made aware of the painting because looters had attempted to plunder it. Brüning had been studying the Moche, whose rituals and customs he studied, and whose documentation now resides at a museum dedicated to him in the Peruvian city of Lambayeque.
Since Brüning photographed the mural, foliage has obscured it. Per AFP, no one had attempted to discover the painting, either—not, at least, until Ghavami went in search of it. The press agency described “a long battle to obtain permission from the family who owns the land where the mural was found” on Ghavami’s part.
While it’s not entirely clear what the mural depicts, Ghavami said he would continue to study it. He said its images “appear to be inspired by the idea of a sacred hierarchy built around a cult of ancestors and their intimate links with the forces of nature.”
He went on to praise the mural as a key find, calling it “unique in the history of mural art in pre-Hispanic Peru.”