Scientists study mysterious volcano-shaped pyramid

Scientists remain puzzled over a mysterious man-made structure in Peru that resembles a volcano, though there may be indications that it was used for activities related to solar eclipses.

According to a recently published study, the approximately 50-foot-high earthen mound—now called El Volcán due to its shape and uppermost crater—was discovered by researchers in the 1960s.

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The structure was particularly notable, as the paper points out because "there are no volcanoes in the vicinity of El Volcán to serve as models, nor indeed are any other examples of volcano-shaped structures known from Peru or elsewhere."

LiveScience notes that after retired University of Missouri professor Robert Benfer got a good view of the site, he decided to take a team to inspect it close up. Their work involved digging a trench in El Volcán's cratered peak.

The team says in the study that they ended up finding a "collapsed stairwell that descends beneath, and thus pre-dates, a row of adobe bricks."

They also uncovered a hearth about six-feet down which "contained charcoal and shell along with a mud-packed floor."

Based on the evidence and an approximate radiocarbon date of AD 1563, researchers suspect the structure may be linked with ceremonies relating to solar eclipses—four of which happened in the preceding decades.

However, many questions still remain about the structure's design and purpose.