Archaeologists have discovered a mummy said to be in especially good condition in Peru, dating back to about 1000 or 1200 CE.
Researchers from the Université libre de Bruxelles spent nine weeks exploring the pre-Colombian site of Pachacamac in Peru, as part of the Ychsma Project, which is named after the local people.
The team explored three huge structures during the project, which included a sanctuary for the local ancestors. The area was under Inca rule in the late 15th century, when it was turned into a water and healing temple. The mummy, however, was a welcome discovery. It was made by the Ychsma people, who were native here from the 10th Century until they were conquered by the Incas in the 15th Century.
“Discoveries like this one are exceptionally scarce, and this mummy is incredibly well preserved. Samples were collected for carbon-14 dating, but the area in which it was discovered and the type of tomb suggest this individual was buried between 1000 and 1200 [CE].”
Before the Inca arrived at this site, it had been looted by Spanish conquistadors. One chamber, though, was found intact and included this mummy. It was so well preserved that it could be studied without needing to unwrap it.
“Although thousands of mummies have been buried at the site, of which 300 [have been] excavated to date by the Ychsma Project, most of them have suffered from looting and other disturbances,” Professor Eeckhout told IFLScience, describing the finding of this mummy as “really exciting.”
When the Incas arrived it’s thought they made considerable changes to the site, establishing it as a large pilgrimage center on the Pacific coast of Peru. They used the worship of deities to help wield power, promoting worship across their empire and creating a “common sense of identity,” according to Professor Eeckhout.
The team plans to study the mummy using medical imaging techniques such as X-ray scans and 3D reconstruction. They want to try and work out what position the person inside is in, what offerings are inside it, and also if they suffered from any diseases. At the moment they think an adult is inside.
A number of other objects were found at the site, presumably left by worshippers, including Spondylus shells, which symbolize fertility and abundance. These were likely brought to this region from Ecuador by water during El Niño.
The researchers also found an Inca monument to post pilgrims and rituals, and some sort of chapel for foreign pilgrims. Inside were more offerings such as vases, and even animals such as dogs.