This Mask Is Among the Oldest Human-Made Metal Objects in South America

An ancient, rectangular copper mask recently found in the southern Andes in Argentina is about 3,000 years old — one of the oldest human-made metal object from South America — and its discovery challenges the accepted idea that South American metalworking originated in Peru, according to archaeologists.

Found at a site where adults and children were buried, the mask dates to approximately 1000 B.C., the scientists wrote in a study describing the find. Holes mark the position of the mask’s eyes, nose and mouth, with additional small, circular openings near the edges that could have been threaded to secure it to a face or an object.

Sources of copper ore have been found within 44 miles (70 kilometers) of the location where the mask was uncovered, suggesting that it was produced locally. It is therefore highly probably that metalworking emerged in Argentina at the same time that it was developing in Peru, the researchers wrote in the study.

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