Archaeologists from the University of Wrocław have discovered more than 150 ancient graves in the Atacama Desert belonging to a previously unknown culture in Peru, according to a report in PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland. The characteristics of the 4 th – 7 th century burials are not consistent with the practices of the Tiwanaku civilization, which flourished from 500 to 1000 AD and extended into present-day Peru and Chile, suggesting that the area had been inhabited by a farming community before the expansion of the Tiwanaku culture.
The graves were discovered in the Tambo River delta, in the northern part of the Atacama Desert. They had been dug in the sand without any stone structures and had been naturally preserved by the warm, dry conditions.
"These burials are of the virtually unknown people, who inhabited the area before the expansion of the Tiwanaku civilization. Items found in individual graves indicate that the people already had a clear social division," said Professor Józef Szykulski, leader of the research project.
The international research team made up of archaeologists from Poland, Peru, and Columbia, found numerous grave goods including large wooden helmets, maces with stone or copper finials, richly decorated weaving tools, many jewellery items, including objects made of copper and tumbaga (an alloy of gold and copper), reed withes that were attached to the ears of the dead, bows, and quivers with arrows tipped with obsidian heads.
“This is a very interesting find, because bows are a rarity in Peru," said Szykulski. “These objects and the bows were symbols of power, which proves that representatives of elite were buried here".
The bodies had been wrapped in mats, cotton burial shrouds, or nets, which suggests that one of the forms of activity of that culture was fishing. Nearby, researchers also found the remains of a llama, which suggests that the animal had been brought to the region earlier than previously believed.
Along the Tambo River delta, archaeologists also found tombs of the Tiwanaku civilization, which reveals that the Tiwanaku people reached an area where they are not thought to have ventured. Taken together, the discovery adds important knowledge to the understanding of pre-Columbian civilizations in Peru.
Featured image: The mummies wrapped in burial shrouds and mats. One of the dead has a bow. Photo: Archives of the Tambo Project of the University of Wrocław.
The year started off with a heady discovery. Archaeologists found 17 decapitated skeletons, their heads resting between their owner's legs or feet, in a 1,700-year-old Roman cemetery in the village of Great Whelnetham in Suffolk, England.
Their skulls appear to have been removed from their heads after death. "The incisions through the neck were postmortem and were neatly placed just behind the jaw," Andy Peachey, an archaeologist with Archaeological Solutions, the company responsible for excavating the cemetery, told Live Science. "An execution would cut lower through the neck and with violent force, and this is not present anywhere."
No grave goods were found with the headless individuals, though their bones were in good shape, suggesting the individuals were well-nourished. A few of the individuals had tuberculosis, which was common in farming communities at the time.
Why the heads of these people were removed is a mystery. One possibility is that the ancient people there believed that the head was a container of the soul and needed to be removed so one could advance to the afterlife.
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Archaeologists discover new ancient burial site at Knowth
New archaeological relics from the Neolithic era have surfaced in Knowth, Co Meath, reports the Meath Chronicle. The new finds were discovered at an area just southeast of the passage tomb cemetery at Brú na Binne, which has been the focus of Professor George Eogan’s study for the past few decades.
At the site, a “number of previously unknown large-scale monuments” have been discovered. Joe Fenwick, a member of the archaeology department at NUI Galway, conducted a number of “noninvasive, topographical” surveys of the area in conjunction with Professor George Eogan.
With their study, the team has discovered “a complexity of sub-surface wall-footings, earth-filled ditches, and post-pits. This research confirms that the archaeological footprint of Knowth extends over a far greater area than previously thought,” notes The Meath Chronicle.
“A large double-ringed oval measuring 65m across its minor axis and a sub-rectangular ditched enclosure with internal features measuring over 70m in maximum dimension,” are the most apparent images gathered from the tests conducted on the area.
While the meaning or exact date of the new discoveries is not completely known just yet, they do suggest the overlapping of successions of different populations in the area, ranging from the Neolithic period until today.
The archaeologists working at the site noted that, without exact dating, only “tentative interpretations” about the site can be made for now.
Other discoveries made around Knowth include undecorated stones built into satellite tombs, and some structural remains which is speculated to be part of an ancient chapel. Most notably however, is a stone bearing an ancient spiral design from the megalithic tradition.
Tombs of the Lords of Sipan
In 1987, some of the world’s richest and most extraordinary tombs were found on the North coast of Peru. They were left by the people of the Moche culture, who preceded the Inca by some 1,000 years. To this day, the site continues to yield great wonders. The editor Nadia Durrani went to Peru to discover the latest.
This is not ‘deepest darkest Peru’ rather we are in Lambayeque, the white-hot, desert coastal zone of Northern Peru, set between the Andes and the Pacific. I am with archaeologists Walter Alva and Luis Chero. The little-told story of their discovery of the Lords of Sipan, which rivals that of Carter and Carnarvon’s in Egypt, began on the night of 25 February 1987…
Alva, then the 37 year old Director of Lambayeque’s Brüning Museum, was feeling miserable with bronchitis when the phone rang. It was the local Chief of Police: they had retrieved some looted items that they wanted him to see. With a wretched cough, Alva magnanimously agreed that he would come over first thing next morning. But the policeman insisted he come now: tomorrow would be too late.
On arriving at the police station, Alva was presented with items roughly wrapped in paper: a pure-gold face, with wide unblinking turquoise eyes two giant peanuts made of pure gold, three times normal size a feline head also of gold, with jagged teeth of shell set in an angry snarl. Alva no longer felt unwell. Despite decades of scientific research, never before had such items been found – yet all came from an unprepossessing pyramid site of Huaca Rajada, not far from the local village of Sipan. By dawn, Alva, his 27 year old archaeological assistant Luis Chero, and a crew of 20 policemen were at the pyramid. But news of the discovery had got out and they found the site swarming with frantic shovel-wielding locals, gripped with gold fever. The crowd dispersed leaving a dusty field of craters.
From this inauspicious start began one of archaeology’s greatest discoveries. Over the past 20 years, Alva and his team have uncovered a whole complex of unplundered tombs containing some of the world’s most extraordinary ancient finds. The treasures – gold, silver, textiles, pottery, and a whole wealth of archaeological data about a lost civilization are continually emerging, so much so that two splendid new museums have been built to house the material. The Lord of Sipan, still relatively unknown to the wider world, is now one of Peru’s greatest celebrities.
Huacas typically take the form of mud-brick pyramids, many up to 30m or 40m high, that date from c.3000 BC until the arrival of the Spaniards in 1532. Today, these adobe pyramids tend to be deeply scored and corroded by centuries of heavy rain-weathering and thus lack the external beauty of Maya or Mexican stone pyramids. However, they were once impressive structures and the depositories of great treasures – hence their attraction to the huaqueros, whose illicit digging work is evident in the heavily pock-marked landscape that surrounds almost every pyramid. These looters tended to be impoverished locals desperate to make some small money on the insatiable international antiquities black market. But rarely would they find much: the Spanish conquistadors had done a sterling job of ransacking the huacas and melting down their hidden gold. Clearly, the Spaniards had overlooked the pyramid of Huaca Rajada.
One can only imagine the excitement of the local gang on uncovering the riches, and the story goes that they excavated non-stop for three days and nights. However, in true gangster style, one huaqero, feeling he had not received his fair share of the treasure, turned informer to the police. The police raided, and hence the gold on the table. Some days thereafter, the police raided again, recovered more gold, but this time they fatally shot a gang member.
There was simply no time to lose. On 1 April 1987, Alva and Chero began work at Huaca Rajada. For the task, they raised $900 from local businessmen and lived off donated spaghetti and beer. These were difficult political and economic times in Peru. However, life was even worse at the local level: for the first six months the two archaeologists were forced to hide in the looters’ holes at night. They feared for their lives from locals who were angry at the death and that their treasure had been usurped. So began Alva’s quest to re-educate the locals, and soon he had gathered a small local team to work with him at Huaca Rajada.
The Lord rises
Huaca Rajada – meaning ‘split’ huaca – takes its name from a large cut made through the site by road-building. The complex consists of two large and badly-eroded mud-brick pyramids, one 35m the other 37m high, to the east of the road, plus a smaller, mud-brick platform. The low platform plus one of the pyramids was built before AD 300 by people of the Moche culture who lived, worshipped and farmed in the region from around AD 1-700. The second pyramid was built by hands of a later culture at around AD 700 (but still long before the fabled Inca Empire that was established around AD 1200, with its centre at Cusco some 1,500km to the south-east).
It was Huaca Rajada’s more accessible low platform (80m by 55m and 11m high) that the looters had targeted. Even on clearing the rubble left behind by the looters, Alva and Chero found sumptuous Moche-culture objects including fine ceramics, metal masks, metal earplugs and, embedded in a side wall, a heavy copper sceptre over 1m long, intricately decorated with a supernatural scene. (It remains unclear how much else the looters recovered but Chero tells me that a quantity of material is still in the hands of a private Italian collector based in Lima.)
Unsurprisingly, the archaeologists’ first major discovery came soon. Adjacent to the looters’ hole, they found an enormous cache of 1,137 ceramic Moche pots. Then, beneath these, they found the skeleton of a man in a seated position. This was odd since Moche dead tend to be laid on their backs but stranger still, his feet had been removed. Why?
Digging deeper, they would find the answer: a tomb, about 5m by 5m, still sealed and in an unplundered context, carbon-dated to c.AD 250. The man’s feet had likely been severed so that he could never leave his post – guarding what lay within. For in the centre of the tomb was a wooden sarcophagus – the first of its type to be reported in the Americas. And within the wooden box, Alva and Chero discovered opulent treasures: a full royal regalia adorning the poorly preserved skeleton of a man, aged 35-45 years old, and around 1.63m (5′) tall.
The man’s costume included an enormous crescent headdress made of beaten gold 0.6m across, a gold face mask, and three exquisite sets of gold earspools, masterly inlaid with turquoise. Two necklaces hung around his neck, each bearing ten preternatural thrice-sized peanuts – ten in gold and ten in silver and exactly of the type recovered by the police. On his body he wore a pure gold warrior’s back-flap shield weighing almost 1kg pectoral shields made of shell, bone and stone feather ornaments and banners of gilded metal each with a central figure with outstretched arms begging attendance. He was covered with several blankets adorned with ornate, gilded, copper platelets. In his right hand he carried a golden sceptre-like object in the form of an inverted pyramid. On his feet were copper sandals.
His tomb contained a range of other ceremonial utensils including a rattle hammered from sheet gold and hafted with a solid copper blade gold bells showing a deity severing human heads three other headdresses hundreds of beads and tropical spondylus sea shells. His tomb contained a total of 451 ceremonial utensils and offerings in gold, silver, copper, textile and feather intended to accompany or protect him in the afterlife.
So who was this man? Research by physical anthropologist John Verano discovered a lack of wear to his teeth, implying that he ate a special diet – as does the fact that he was rather tall for his time. Current thinking suggests he may have perished of an epidemic during a period of famine. But what was his role and why was he buried with so much pomp? Though the Moche, like the Inca, had no writing system, they did paint their history in ceramic form. Thus their buried art helps us to reconstruct their rituals and even to identify individual figures. Based on a comparison of his regalia with iconographic depictions found in his tomb, this man is understood to have been a high ranking Moche warrior-priest or a lord. Half god, half man, he was very likely the pre-eminent ruler of the Lambayeque valley. This mighty pre-Inca aristocrat is now known (after the local town) as the Lord of Sipan.
Six other individuals were also buried with him: at the head of his coffin lies a child aged nine or ten. Two men flank his coffin – their robust stature suggests they may have been warriors, possibly ritually sacrificed on the occasion of the burial of the Lord. Three women, aged between 15 and 25, lie at the Lord’s head and foot in coffins made of cane. The women – possibly the Lord’s young wives – appear to be re-burials, indicating that they died a certain time before the Lord. A dog and two llamas were also slaughtered and laid in the tomb – the dog perhaps to guide the man to the afterworld (according to folk traditions that still persist in the area), and the llamas to provide sustenance. Five niches in the walls of the tomb contain a further 211 pieces of pottery, some of which probably once contained food and drink offerings.
This outstanding tomb is the find of a lifetime, and a worthy rival to King Tut. Yet the Lord and his associates were not alone at the site.
The priest of death
In 1988 the archaeologists discovered a second major tomb at Sipan. ‘Tomb 2’, also dated to around AD 250 – contemporaneous with the Lord of Sipan. It contained the body of a man holding a copper cup in his right hand and wearing a headdress featuring an owl with out-spread wings. Around his neck he wore a metal necklace adorned with small golden pendants modelled into eerie human faces that strike a variety of expressions. Only one pair of earspools accompanied this burial while his metal rattles are not as elaborate as those found in Tomb 1.
He, too, is buried with other people, but they are arranged somewhat differently. And he is also accompanied by a man whose feet have been cut off – his ‘guard’? But this time, the guard was placed in a coffin together with gourd vessels, a feather ornament, and a copper headdress. Two women were also found, one facing up and one facing down but neither woman was interred in a coffin, although they were probably wrapped in textile shrouds. The young woman to his left had an elaborate copper headdress similar to one worn by the female buried at the feet of The Lord of Sipan, possibly indicating that these women may have shared similar social rank.
Whatever the case, based on the collection of artefacts, the buried man has been identified as a priest: the man who – according to iconographic depictions – would have collected blood from sacrificial victims to ceremonially feed to the Lord, second only in status to the Lord himself.
While these two contemporary burials may give the impression the Huaca Rajada was a mausoleum, this was not its main function. Rather, its chief purpose was probably as the sacred and thus political centre of the area. Throughout the region, pyramid huacas (or at least those that have been studied – there are 28 huacas within walking distance of Huaca Rajada alone) tend to follow the same pattern. Each would be in use for centuries, undergoing a series of layer-cake rebuildings over time, with (presumably) each new leader building a new and larger pyramid atop the previous pyramid, creating a ‘Russian doll’ effect. Each layer was built for the performance of ritual activities deemed necessary to keep life going, and it was only as a corollary that each layer would ultimately serve as the resting place for the leader and his entourage.
At Huaca Rajada, the site has six known phases and Tombs 1 and 2 are contemporary with the pyramid’s sixth and final phase. So what of the other phases? The answers are still emerging. However, about 5m below the current surface, and associated with the site’s earliest platform, the archaeologists struck gold yet again, with the discovery of Tomb 3.
The Old Lord
In Tomb 3, beneath an extraordinary 16 layers of the finest ornaments and clothing, the archaeologists found another body. In life, he had been a strong man, perhaps an expert warrior, and skeletally healthier than the Lord of Sipan. His possessions demonstrate the same high rank as the Lord of Sipan, and DNA analysis has shown that the two were related through the matriarchal line. Had the archaeologists discovered the site’s founding father? It seemed likely, so the archaeologists named this man the ‘Old Lord of Sipan’.
The Old Lord’s tomb was rather more subdued than his descendant’s, with neither a niched chamber nor a wooden coffin. Also, he was buried with just one woman, and a footless man, again interpreted as his guardian. However, his tomb contains the finest metalwork found at the site, including many pieces made of thin, hammered plates of gold, and gilded copper and alloys.
Among the star items is a tiny gold figurine of a Moche warrior found above the dead man’s nose, between two pairs of earplugs. Measuring just 38mm high, the miniature figurine holds a shield and club, wears turquoise inlaid earplugs, a turquoise shirt, a moveable nose ornament and an owl headdress with tiny, moveable platelets (akin to the headdress of the ‘Priest’ of Tomb 2). The Old Lord himself was covered with a great amount of gold armour and adorned with intricate jewellery such as a striking necklace of golden spiders all held together with very fine wire.
It is notable that many items found with the Old Lord are related to the sea – such as a large octopus breast plate and a model of a crab man with an almost comically perturbed face. The archaeologists also found an array of hefty spondylus shells. The latter live off the coast of Ecuador but are washed onto the Peruvian coast during periodical, calamitous El Niño rains. In Spanish times, it was said that the Inca regarded these shells more highly than gold.
A profound interest with the sea is a recurrent theme in the pre-Spanish cultures of this region. Origin myths tend to centre around the ocean, which was regarded both as their provider and – because of the Los Niños – as their potential destroyer. Though the North coast of Peru typically receives less than 25mm of rain per year, shifting Pacific weather patterns known as Los Niños periodically unleash torrential, terrifying downpours that the ancients clearly tried to placate and control through rituals. It is even possible to observe the impact of the El Niño at various levels at Huaca Rajada: in the stratigraphy just above the Old Lord’s tomb there is evidence of very heavy rainfall, accompanied by a burnt level – could this be the remains of people lighting fires to pray for the end of the rain? There is a also great deal of sediment in Tomb 1, again implying the presence of much rain. Was it an El Niño that marked the end of this use of the platform at Huaca Rajada?
The 14th tomb
To date, Alva and his team have found a total of 14 Mocha elite burials at the site – and it seems quite clear that many more are still waiting to be found in this Peruvian micro-‘Valley of the Kings’. The latest, 14th, tomb was found in 2007. It contained a man’s richly decorated body together with the skeleton of a woman, two llama heads and a basket of dried llama meat. Many of the items found within the tomb imply the dead man was once a warrior priest. He wears the costume appropriate to this role: a grand golden headdress, highly decorated. His tabard is fringed with gold triangles and covered with gleaming moveable golden squares that would once have caught and sparkled in the sunlight – almost identical to the gown worn by the ‘warrior priest’ in ceramic representations. With him was placed a small copper owl with wings outstretched, while in his hand is a metal-covered wooden mace/sceptre, again of the type seen on ceramic depictions. Two metal cups also found with him are assumed to have been used to receive human blood – as shown on ceramic representations. About his neck is a collar adorned with seven snarling feline faces.
Seeing Sipan’s Splendours
The items from Tomb 14 are held in a new site museum: Museo de Sitio Huaca Rajada, opened in January 2009, while all the items found during the 1987-2000 excavations are held in the Museum of Tumbas Reales de Sipan (or the Royal Tombs of Sipan), inaugurated in 2002, and located in the nearby city of Lambayeque. Both museums are must-visit places. Walter Alva, who no longer subsists on a diet of donated spaghetti, directs the magnificent Tumbas Reales, while Luis Chero – once his 27 year old unpaid assistant – is in charge of the new site museum at Sipan.
Alva’s striking Tumbas Reales museum echoes the multi-levelled Moche pyramid platform: the visitor ascends an external ramp (a feature of Moche pyramids) and enters at the upper level to view the burial of the Lord of Sipan and his priest, then moves down to view the splendours of the Old Lord beneath. The items have all been beautifully preserved and full site reconstructions are offered.
Reflecting a subtle shift in thinking, a novel approach has been taken to the displays in Chero’s site museum. Thus, many items are displayed half preserved and half left in their original, sometimes corroded, state. This allows one to appreciate how material appears when taken from the ground. One wonders how many beautiful things must have been discarded by looters over the centuries, unable to see merit in any item aside from untarnished ceramics and gold.
Alva, despite his modesty, is now one of the most famous men in Peru – second only, perhaps to the Lord of Sipan himself, whose name has lent itself to many a street side café and even to a new university. Alva’s work – met, initially, with such passionate hatred – has won over the locals: many work at the site, and since 2000 Alva has set up a range of projects to benefit the community, such as the installation of running water, the construction of a community building and recreation areas, plus training in traditional arts. Northern Peru is also beginning to benefit from tourism – in 2008, 160,000 visitors (80% of whom were Peruvian) visited Alva’s museum.
Looting is no longer an issue in the area. But more than this, the work of Alva and his team has given the Peruvians a new pride in and understanding of their pre-Spanish past, while, to the world, they have cast light on some of the most extraordinary treasures of a forgotten people. All hail the Lords of Sipan!
This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 35. Click here to subscribe
Archaeologists Discover Site of One of History’s Largest-Recorded Incidents of Child Sacrifice
Back in 2011, archaeologists first uncovered evidence of a large-scale human sacrifice that occurred some 550 years ago in Peru. Now the full details of the excavation in Peru’s northern coast, near the modern-day city of Trujillo, have been revealed, Kristin Romey reports in a National Geographic exclusive.
The 7,500-square-foot burial site, known as Huanchaquito-Las Laamas, is believed to have been built by the Chimú empire, Peru’s most important civilization to pre-date the Inca empire.
While the Aztec, Maya and Inca civilizations are known to have performed human sacrifices, the Huanchaquito-Las Laamas discovery is believed to be one of the largest-recorded incidents of child sacrifice in human history.
According to researchers, more than 140 children between the ages of 5 and 14 were sacrificed at the pre-Hispanic site. Evidence, including damage on their breast bones and dislocated rib cages, suggests that their hearts were ripped out.
The children, many of whom also had red pigment on their faces, may have died when their chests were cut open, but researchers haven’t ruled out that they may have also been killed another way first.
The remains of more than 200 llamas, bearing similar cut marks to those found on the children, were also uncovered at the site.
Tulane University anthropology professor John Verano, one of the members of the interdisciplinary team of researchers at the excavation site, expressed shock at the discovery. "I, for one, never expected it," he tells Romey. " I don't think anyone else would have, either."
Researchers believe the child and animal sacrifices took place at the same time, based on evidence from a dried mud layer.
The remains of three adults were also found at the site near the sacrificed children and llamas. Researchers suspect that the evidence of blunt force trauma to their heads as well as the omission of items buried alongside their bodies, suggests they were involved with the large-scale sacrifice and were killed soon after it was completed.
Researchers say the children and animals may have been sacrificed to bring relief from flooding caused by the El Niño weather.
As The Associated Press reports, children, symbolic of the future, and llamas, a significant part of the society’s economy, would have been considered among the most important offerings to appeal to the gods.
The children were healthy at the time of the sacrifice, and it doesn’t appear that they tried to escape. But the llamas probably did try to get away. "The llama footprints sometimes suggest this, and they [the llamas] had ropes around their necks to lead/control them," Verano tells Live Science’s Owen Jarus.
One thing that isn’t yet clear is why the children were buried facing the sea and the animals were buried facing inland.
Jeffrey Quilter, director of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, tells the AP that a team of scientists will analyze DNA samples from the skeletal remains to find out if the children were related in some way and which part of the Chimú empire they hailed from.
About Julissa Treviño
Julissa Treviño is a writer and journalist based in Texas. She has written for Columbia Journalism Review, BBC Future, The Dallas Morning News, Racked, CityLab and Pacific Standard.
Incan and Wari Archaeology Volunteering in Peru
Are you fascinated by history and discovering what life was like centuries ago? Do you want to get actively involved in digging up the past? Then our Incan & Wari Archaeology Project in Peru is perfect for you!
This project will take you directly into the world of ancient South American societies and cultures. You&rsquoll learn from experienced archaeologists, who will teach you everything you need to know about the subject. This is especially useful if you are studying history or anthropology, and want to add hands-on experience to your resume.
You don&rsquot need any previous experience or qualifications to join. We have archaeologists and other staff on hand to guide and supervise you. You&rsquoll also attend regular workshops and lectures, and visit museums.
This project runs throughout the year, and you can join at any time from a minimum of one week. Please be aware that certain activities may not be available during different seasons. Most of our work at excavation sites takes place during the dry season from May to September. During the wet season from October to April, we focus on indoor research.
What will I do on the Incan and Wari Archaeology Project?
You’ll work with experienced archaeologists as they continue doing research to discover more about the ancient Incan and Wari civilizations. These are the main areas you’ll focus on:
- Assist with the discovery and registration of new archaeological sites
- Maintain archaeological sites through clearing and maintenance tasks
- Raise awareness about the importance of protecting cultural heritage in local communities
- Attend workshops and presentations to learn more about archaeology work in Peru
Our archaeological activities in Peru are largely determined by the weather. Dry season differs greatly from wet season, as some activities are prohibited by the rain. You will focus on these main activities during your project:
Assist with the discovery and registration of new archaeological sites
An exciting part of archaeology is uncovering the unknown. During your time in Peru, you’ll get involved with exploring and registering new sites. During the registration of new sites, you’ll use GPS and photography to record your findings. You’ll take part in the mapping of the sites to further current research, and you can also assist with returning artifacts to the ground after research, if needed.
Maintain archaeological sites through clearing and maintenance tasks
You’ll work alongside experienced archaeologists on-site. They’ll teach you how to perform various archaeological activities and supervise your work. They’ll also explain the importance of cleaning and maintaining current sites. You’ll help with this by clearing weeds and overgrowth on walls and pathways, and prepare clay for mortar used to restore ancient ruins. You’ll also get your feet dirty stomping around in mud! We use the mud to paint walls and paths, and to cap walls. The mud helps preserve and restore the old constructions.
Raise awareness about cultural heritage and importance in local communities
One of the aims of this project is to further research into the ancient civilizations of South America. We do this through talks and presentations. This will help local people have a better understanding of the way people used to live. It will also allow us to share knowledge about the importance of protecting their history for the next generation.
Attend workshops and presentations to learn more about archaeology in Peru
Our staff organize regular workshops and presentations for all of our Archaeology volunteers. In these sessions, you’ll listen and learn as archaeologists talk about topics like bones, and how to reassemble ceramic artifacts. We encourage you to ask questions and take notes.
Archaeologists discover 1,500-year-old ➺ttle claws' in ancient Peruvian tomb
Archaeologists in Peru are excited after unearthing a pair of ancient metal cat’s claws from the tomb of dead nobleman.
The paws were found at the archaeological site of Huaca de la Luna or Temple of the Moon - a shrine located in the capital city of the Moche civilization, a Peruvian culture that flourished in South America between 100 and 800 AD.
The scientists who discovered the grave suggest that the claws might have been part of a ritual costume used in ceremonial combat, according to a report from El Comercia.
Participants dressed in outfits made of animal skins and the loser was sacrificed to the gods while the winner kept the garments as a mark of distinction.
The claws were found alongside the skeleton of an adult male with other artefacts – including a copper sceptre, mask and earrings – suggesting that he was “an elite personage”.
Archaeologists believe that the Moche religion featured human sacrifice prominently, with ritual battles amongst the elite used to decide the victims.
Invention, Diffusion, Migration
Three primary processes were seen as the drivers of social evolution: invention, transforming a new idea into innovations diffusion, the process of transmitting those inventions from culture to culture and migration, the actual movement of people from one region to another. Ideas (such as agriculture or metallurgy) might have been invented in one area and moved into adjacent areas through diffusion (perhaps along trade networks) or by migration.
At the end of the 19th century, there was a wild assertion of what is now considered "hyper-diffusion", that all of the innovative ideas of antiquity (farming, metallurgy, building monumental architecture) arose in Egypt and spread outward, a theory thoroughly debunked by the early 1900s. Kulturkreis never argued that all things came from Egypt, but the researchers did believe there was a limited number of centers responsible for the origin of ideas which drove the social evolutionary progress. That too has been proven false.
Peru: 150 Mummies of Ancient Unknown Civilisation Discovered in Atacama Desert [PHOTOS]
A team of archaeologists from universities in Poland, Peru and Colombia have discovered 150 mummies in the Atacama Desert belonging to an unknown culture that predate the Tiwanaku and Inca civilization by almost 500 years.
The bodies were mummified naturally by being buried directly in the sand with no stone structures, wrapped in cotton veils, reed mats or fishing nets, and radiocarbon dating shows that the oldest mummies came from 4<sup>th century AD, while the youngest mummies came from 7<sup>th century AD.
Mummies of an unknown culture found buried in the Tambo River delta. One mummy has a bow and all are wrapped in shrouds and mats. Tambo Project, University of Wrocław.
The Tiwanaku civilisation is believed to have existed between 500AD and 1,000 AD, covering much of what is Peru and Chile today.
Under Project Tambo, the team have been excavating in the Tambo River delta in the northern region of the Atacama Desert since 2008 and the first mummies were found in 2012, but it took until March 2014 for the team to make major discoveries.
A shroud covering a mummy in the Tambo River delta Project Tambo, University of Wrocław
Together with the bodies in individual graves, the archaeologists found numerous grave goods, such as weapons like bows and quivers with arrows tipped with obsidian heads, and maces with stone or copper finials.
There were also richly decorated weaving tools, jewellery made from tumbaga (a gold and copper alloy) and copper, reed withes attached to the ears of the dead and beautiful intact pottery.
According to Professor Józef Szykulski, leader of the research project from University of Wrocław, the mummies are of virtually unknown people, and the bows are a particularly interesting find that possibly symbolised power, which could mean that people buried in the Tambo River delta were nobility or the society's elite.
"Bows are extremely rare among the finds from the area of Peru. We have seen them however, in areas further south like Chile and further east in Amazonia. The issue, however, requires a deeper study," Szykulski tells IBTimes UK.
In one grave, the archaeologists even found the remains of a llama, which would mean that the animal had been brought to the region much earlier than previously thought.
"Llama burials are quite common in the pre-Columbian cultures," says Szykulski.
"We learned a lot about what equipment had been used, such as baskets and fishing nets, what these people were doing, which was agriculture and fishing, how they dressed, what ornaments they wore and even how they combed their hair."
The Polish archaeologists will be returning to Peru in October for further excavations, both in the cemetery where they found the unknown mummies, and in an adjacent cemetery where burials belonging to individuals from the Tiwanaku civilisation were found.
The Tiwanaku people were not believed to have ventured as far as the Tambo River delta, and the discovery of these tombs will help to increase understanding of pre-Columbian civilisations in Peru.
Project Tambo is a joint effort between University of Wrocław, University of Szczecin, University of Poznań, University of Silesia, the Archaeological Museum in Głogów, Universidad Católica de Santa Maria in Arequipa, Universidad Nacional in Ica, the Universidad Central in Bogota (Colombia), Jagiellonian University and the University of Łódź.