The Japan Times, November 7, 1998
Andean metalwork culture began over 3,000 years ago
WASHINGTON (AP) Ancient residents of the Andes Mountains produced delicate gold and copper foils - possibly for decorations -1,000 years earlier than archaeologists had thought they learned to work metal.
"This was astonishing," anthropologist Richard L. Burger of Yale University said of the find.
Burger and Yale geologist Robert B. Gordon report their discovery, made in the Lurin Valley south of Lima, Peru, in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
The foils were produced between 1410 B.C. and 1090 B.C., roughly the period when Moses led the Jews from Egypt and the era of such pharaohs as Amenhotep III, Tutankhamen and Ramses.
The earliest previous evidence of metalworking in the Andes was by the Chavin and Cupisnique cultures between 600 B.C. and 200 B.C.
"These artifacts reveal a previously unknown stage of Andean metalworking," Burger wrote.
Residents had asked the researchers if they were looking for the area's legendary hidden treasures of gold, Burger said, but he told them no, confident that the ancient people of the area had done no metalworking. The researchers were simply studying the ancient cultures of the area.
"I was shocked," he said of finding several examples of copper and gold foils. "These early examples of Andean metalworking ... show three patterns that were to characterize the Central Andean metalworking tradition for the next three millennia." They include "an unusual concern with the production of thin metal foils, the gilding of copper, and the close association of metalworking with religious ritual and the supernatural realm."