As anthropologists gingerly removed the layers of ancient textiles swaddling the thirtysomething elite male last month at a Lima lab, offerings both strange and familiar came to light—slingshots, corn, a figurine in identical dress.
Taken together, the artifacts, the mummy, and the excavation site
suggest that the mysterious, little-studied Chancay civilization held a
surprisingly tight grip on the fertile north-central Pacific coast of
Peru during the culture's heyday, between A.D. 1000 and 1500, when it
finally fell to the unstoppable Inca Empire, experts say.
Until now most Chancay remains have come from sites that had
been looted or bulldozed for expanding farms, making the specimens'
context and origins uncertain.
That spotty record makes the discovery of the new mummy in an
untouched, corncob-lined tomb in the Chancay farming village of Rontoy
"We know exactly where [this mummy] is from, and we are finding
things that we always thought were Chancay. We actually have a male
[wearing] what we've always called male tunics," Tulane University
anthropologist Kit Nelson said.
"All of these things come together so we can say, in fact, yes
this is Chancay, [and] this is what it looks like," said Nelson, who,
along with Arturo Ruíz Estrada of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San
Marcos in Lima received funding for the project from the Committee for Research and Exploration of the National Geographic Society (which owns National Geographic News).