Pre-Inca empire tomb found untouched in Peru

Gold jewelry, bronze axes and dozens of bodies uncovered in Wari empire ceremonial room

PRE-INCAN GAZE A painting of a Wari lord decorates this 1,200-year-old ceramic flask, which archaeologists found with the body of a queen in a tomb in Peru.

Daniel Giannoni

Archaeologists have discovered the first unlooted royal tomb of the Wari empire, a pre-Inca civilization that covered what’s now western Peru from 700 to 1000.

A team led by Milosz Giersz of the University of Warsaw dug through rubble at a Wari site near Peru’s northern coast last September and entered a ceremonial room that contained a stone throne. There they found more than 1,000 artifacts, including gold and silver jewelry and bronze axes. A main chamber contained 60 human bodies buried in seated positions, possibly as ritual sacrifices. Bodies of three Wari queens rested in side rooms, along with possessions such as gold weaving tools and a ceramic flask decorated with a painted Wari lord.

Discoveries in the tomb suggest that the Wari developed a cult of royal ancestor worship. Giersz’s team suspects that the Wari periodically displayed mummies of their queens on the ceremonial room’s throne.

Giersz announced the discovery at a June 27 press conference at the South American site.

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.

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