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Unburying History: Unusual Tomb Discovered in Peru

According to a National Geographic article, archaeologists continue to unearth new discoveries in Northern Peru.

Although tourists tend to visit Machu Picchu and other Inca ruins in the surrounding Sacred Valley, Peru’s ancient cultures date back much further than the Incas and were located all across the country. The northern coastal cities of Trujillo and Chiclayo are surrounded by ancient structures left behind by cultures that thrived as far back as 200 BC.

The Sican (sometimes called the Lambayeque) were an agriculturalist culture that lived along Peru’s arid coastline from 750 AD until 1375, when experts believe drought and floods related to El Nino played a large role in the society’s eventual decline.

In 2011, archeologists uncovered a tomb of a Sican priestess, buried with eight other bodies. But, according to the article, further recent explorations revealed an unexpected tomb located a layer below. Four bodies were discovered in the burial site that is believed to be 800 years old. Beads of pearl and shell adorned one of the bodies, indicating the person had been an elite member of society.

The head of the excavation team, Carlos Wester La Torre, called it, “A very valuable finding.” Adding that, “The amount of information of the funerary complex is very important, because it changes [what we know of] the political and religious structures of the Andean region.”

Stacked graves are unusual for this region of the world, and tombs of the elite are almost always isolated. Additionally, some archaeologists believe the newly-discovered tomb was built specifically to fall below the water line, so that the chamber would flood. Since water played a large role in the Sican belief system, the placement could have larger cultural significance.

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