Nov. 13 (UPI) -- A fire in northern Peru damaged much of an archaeological site, including a mural more than 4,000 years old, officials at the site said.
Officials believe farmers burning sugar cane nearby sparked the fire at the Ventarron archaeological complex Sunday.
Archaeologists discovered the mural, carbon dated to 2000 B.C., in 2007 at the 4,500-year-old temple. It depicts a deer caught in a net.
Local media reported about 95 percent of the complex was damaged and the mural sustained smoke damage. Pottery and other artifacts were damaged when a plastic tarp covering them melted.
"We are losing an exceptional monument unique to its generation," archaeologist Walter Alva said. "I can only express my outrage and sadness for this irreparable loss."
Peru's culture ministry was investigating the cause of the fire.
"We have lost the cradle of our culture," said Ignacio Alva Meneses, director of the Ventarrón Archaeological Project. "Five thousand years of history, the original temple, the origin of the Northern Peru civilization, mural art and the oldest and most complex symbolic meanings destroyed in a few hours."