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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rare Mummy Found With Strange Artifacts, Tattoo in Peru

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Disemboweled and decorated with scarlet paint, metal eye plates, and a tattoo, an exquisitely preserved, thousand-year-old mummy has been discovered in Peru. (See photos.)

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.

Photo of a new Peru mummy with tattoo, slingshots, metal plates
Enlarge Photo

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 a breakthrough.

"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).

National Geographic News
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