The so-called Pachacamac Idol, a wooden statue believed to represent one of the principal deities in Inca culture, was discovered in 1938. Uncovered at the Pachacamac archaeological complex located around 20 miles south of the Peruvian capital, Lima, the idol instantly drew attraction with its intricate woodwork and complex patterns.
Speaking to Newsweek, Marcela Sepulveda, from the University of Tarapacá in Chile, said: “Several myths and ethnohistoric sources from the 16th century onward inform about the power and characteristics of the Pachacamac divinity.
“One of them indicated that he was the Earth Creator, the earthquake deity, among other roles.
“He was considered an oracle and the Inca emperor came to consult it at Pachacamac monumental centre of pilgrimage.
“It occupied a similar place to the Viracocha divinity.
“Both are known as son of the Sun, the principal deity of the Inca empire.”
In a study published in the science journal, PLOS ONE, Ms Sepulveda and her colleagues took a wood symbol from the idol and chemically analysed it – something that has never been done.
The carbon dating revealed that the statue was carved between 760 and 876 AD.
This indicated that the idol was worshipped for nearly 700 years before the Spanish conquest of the region in 1533.
The researchers say the can now confirm the idol is ancient and has undergone several restorations, clearing up questions over its originality and age.
“So, we were expecting to find some colour traces. When we began our study we were surprised to observe not only red traces but also yellow and white ones.
“Then we were surprised to identify the use of cinnabar mineral as this kind of pigment is scarce and normally restricted to specific uses – rituals, funerary – and for certain social categories – elites or warriors.
She continued: “Its accessibility was certainly controlled.
“We demonstrated the economic and political implications of the use of specific mineral the cinnabar in this specific context.”
The carbon dating of the statue indicates that it was made by the Wari culture.
This developed in what is now the Peruvian Andes and flourished between 500-1000 AD.
This was before the emergence of the Inca Empire.
Ms Sepulveda said: “Their principal capital city was Wari, located near to the city of Ayacucho.
“They dominated a vast territory including the highlands and coast of current Peru.
“They constructed several administrative centers in different regions to control them but also to establish social relations with other groups and cultural traditions politically dominated by them.
“They were contemporaries of the Tiwanaku culture, developed in the south of Titicaca Lake.”