Big Peru Find: Royal Tomb That Hasn't Been Looted

63 bodies, vast trove of artifacts inside

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 28, 2013 6:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – South America's first empire was the work of the Wari people, who built it between 700 and 1,000 AD. And archeologists have just brought us closer to their world: For the first time, researchers have discovered a Wari royal tomb that hasn't been looted, National Geographic reports. The "temple of the dead," discovered by Polish and Peruvian researchers, was packed with precious artifacts ranging from jewelry to weapons to tools.

Some 63 people were buried inside—including three queens. "We don't see female high-status rulers in the art of the Wari very often," an archeologist tells USA Today. While many bodies belonged to women and were sitting upright, there were also some likely human sacrifices. "They were people thrown into the grave before the grave was sealed," says an expert. "They were lying on their bellies, in an extended position, and their limbs went in different directions." Fearing looters could still come to claim prizes, Milosz Giersz's team kept their discovery long secret; they began digging last September at El Castillo de Huarmey, a pyramid site some 185 miles north of Lima, Reuters reports.

Remains of those interred in a mausoleum at El Castillo funerary complex lay exactly where Wari attendants left them some 1,200 years ago, in Huarmey, Peru.
Remains of those interred in a mausoleum at El Castillo funerary complex lay exactly where Wari attendants left them some 1,200 years ago, in Huarmey, Peru.   (AP Photo/National Geographic Society, Milosz Giersz,)
A Wari lord painted with eyes wide open stares out from the side of a 1,200-year-old ceramic flask found in a newly discovered tomb at El Castillo funerary complex, Huarmey, Peru.
A Wari lord painted with eyes wide open stares out from the side of a 1,200-year-old ceramic flask found in a newly discovered tomb at El Castillo funerary complex, Huarmey, Peru.   (AP Photo/National Geographic Society, Daniel Giannoni)
A pair of gold-and-silver ear ornaments that archaeologists believe a high-ranking Wari woman wore to her grave, the imperial tomb at El Castillo funerary complex.
A pair of gold-and-silver ear ornaments that archaeologists believe a high-ranking Wari woman wore to her grave, the imperial tomb at El Castillo funerary complex.   (AP Photo/National Geographic Society, Daniel Giannoni)
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