April 2, 2012
-- Huge prehistoric effigy animal mounds, dating to thousands of years ago, have been found along the coastal plains of Peru. Similar enormous animal-shaped mounds are known to exist in North America, such as the Serpent Mound in Ohio.
The new finds, documented in the journal Antiquity, include mounds that were built at around the same time as the pyramids in Egypt.
The project's leader Robert Benfer, a University of Missouri anthropology professor emeritus, believes the raised earthen mounds were built as terrestrial manifestations of constellations the ancient Peruvians saw in the stars above.
"The finding of animal effigy mounds where there were none before changes our conception of early Peruvian prehistory," Benfer said. "That they probably represent the Andean zodiac is also a new find. A controversial interpretation of some Nazca figures as representations of the zodiac is supported by these mounds."
This image is of a mound shaped like an orca, an animal regularly hunted. According to Benfer, this effigy dates to approximately 5,000 years ago.