The oldest forged gold in the Americas was found at the archaeological site of Kuntur Wasi. Set within Peru’s Northern Highlands, this site was one of the most important ceremonial centers in the region during the Formative Period (2,500–50 B.C.).
Kuntur Wasi means “the house of the condor” in the local Quechua language. Appropriately, this site is set atop the La Conga hill near the small village of San Pablo. Cajamarca is about 80 miles (130 km) east.
It’s thought that the inhabitants of Kuntur Wasi were part of the Chavín civilization. The complex may have been used for both religious and social purposes.
Kuntur Wasi was excavated in 1989 by Japanese archaeologists. The 2,800-year-old forged gold that was found here is the oldest in the Americas (by comparison, the forged gold found at Sipán is about 1,800 years old). Other artifacts unearthed from the site’s eight tombs include crowns, masks, chest plates, earrings, and stone jewelry. These objects confirm Kuntur Wasi’s role as an important ceremonial center during Peru’s Formative Period.
Today travelers can see ceremonial architecture uncovered at Kuntur Wasi. This includes a hilltop temple, sunken courtyard, stepped platforms, carved rock sculptures, and a series of rooms. Kuntur Wasi also has a modern museum with about 200 artifacts on display.