Washington, Oct 30 : Archaeologists have discovered a 3,000-year-old temple featuring an image of a spider god in Peru, which may hold clues to little-known cultures in the ancient past of the country.
People of the Cupisnique culture, which thrived from roughly 1500 to 1000 B.C., built the temple in the Lambayeque valley on Peru's north coast.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the adobe temple, found this summer and called Collud, is the third discovered in the area in recent years.
"The finds suggest that the three valley sites may have been part of a large capital for divine worship," said archaeologist Walter Alva, director of the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum.
Alva and colleagues started the dig in November 2007, when they discovered a 4,000-year-old temple and a mural painting at the Ventarron site in the valley. Both the temple and mural were the oldest ever found in the Americas.
The entire religious complex houses every ancient Peruvian architectural style up to the Inca, one of only a few sites in Peru that spans so many cultures.
The spider-god image appears often in other sites created during Peru's Early Formative Period, 1200 to 400 B.C.
For instance, the Garagay temple in Lima and the Limon Carro site in northern Peru both include the imagery, according to Ignacio Alva, Walter Alva's son and colleague.
at the newfound Collud, the spider god carried several meanings, according to experts.
The image combines a spider's neck and head, the mouth of a large cat, and a bird's beak. The spider is also carved with lines radiating from its neck, creating a web-like appearance.
The web symbolizes hunting nets, a sign of human progress and prosperity, according to Ignacio Alva. Traps set with nets caught more prey than spear hunting, he added.
According to Ignacio Alva, the spider figure also had political significance. "Any emergent political group would have to be associated with this god."
The importance of spiders owed partly to their connection with life-giving rain, according to Richard Burger, an archaeologist at Yale University, who first identified the spider deity in stone bowls found at the Limon Carro site.
"They were associated with divination of rainfall because spiders come out before rain," said Burger. "The spider deity was also associated with textiles, hunting, war, and power," he added.
"There is an image of spider deities holding nets filled with decapitated human heads, so there was an analogy with successful warriors and claims of power," he further added.