The Spider's on the Wall

Digs & Discoveries July/August 2021

(Feren Castillo)

Farmers in Peru’s Virú Province accidentally unearthed a temple complex dating to between 1000 and 200 B.C. in an earthen mound. Although the farmers’ heavy machinery destroyed much of the site, a vibrant, multicolored mural was preserved on a wall of one of the complex’s adobe buildings. The compound was built by people of the Cupisnique culture who lived along Peru’s northern coast for some 2,000 years. At the mural’s center is a figure holding a ceremonial knife in one of its many limbs. The figure, which also appears on Cupisnique stone vessels, has been interpreted as a spiderlike god. According to archaeologist Régulo Franco Jordán of the Wiese Foundation, this is the first known depiction of the supernatural being on a Cupisnique mural. The Cupisnique people relied on seasonal rains for their survival, and Jordán suggests that the temple’s location in a valley near the right bank of the Virú River connects the site to the worship of water deities, likely including the mysterious spider figure.

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